Climate Change, International Policies

First impressions from Bonn: climate change hurts the poor

Originally published on Grist

Kathleen Mogelgaard is Senior Program Manager of the Population and Climate Change Program at Population Action International.

At the opening of the international climate change talks in Bonn,
Germany, today, representatives from governments around the world
shared their opinions on a newly released draft of a global climate
treaty that will be debated and (perhaps) finalized when they meet
again in Copenhagen in December.

While
representatives of the industrialized world somewhat sheepishly offered
up their countries’ meager progress in slowing the pace of their
rampant growth in emissions, representatives from the developing world
did their best to sound the alarm.

“We need to act urgently, as
the most vulnerable among us are suffering daily,” said the
representative of the G77 and China. “Climate change is the defining
challenge of our times.”

“Climate change is one of humanity’s
greatest injustices; addressing it aggressively will determine our
survival,” said the representative from the Alliance of Small Island
States. “We are concerned about efforts to downplay the science for
political expediency.”

“We should not forget that we are all in
this together,” said the representative of Togo, “and a sinking boat is
a catastrophe for all of us.”

Over the next two weeks, these
delegates, who make up the climate convention’s “Ad Hoc Working Group
on Long-term Cooperative Action,” will debate, expand, and refine the
draft text of an agreement. They will endeavor to agree on who must cut
emissions, by how much, and on what timescale. And they will discuss
how the industrialized countries will help the developing world adapt
to the climatic changes that are already here and are destined to get
much worse before they get better.

While the official country
delegations hammer out these details, those of us with NGO observer
status sit in the back of the room listening to simultaneous
translation through headsets, furiously typing notes, and exchanging
knowing glances when Australia says something disastrous but
predictable.

Throughout these two weeks, we will come together
in various strategic working groups and alliances, determining
strategies for injecting, protecting, or jettisoning specific language
in the text that relates to our various missions and goals. The
hallways outside meeting rooms resonate with animated conversations.
Reports and fact sheets fly off tables in the exhibit area. A full
schedule of fascinating side events clamors for our attention.

And we’ll use the opportunity of this gathering to network and communicate new or under-reported issues. My organization, Population Action International,
is here because we believe population issues are critical in the
climate change equation. And we believe that there are some great
population-related policies–like expanding access to reproductive
health and family-planning programs to the millions of women around the
world who want it but don’t have it–that can and should be part of a
comprehensive solution to climate change. Not many people are talking
about this. We’re working to change that–in Bonn, Copenhagen, and
beyond.

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