It’s now or never…

People who have relied on the seasons to grow their crops and graze their animals have had the rug pulled from under them in the past decade as the effects of climate change have increased in both frequency and intensity.  These people are going hungry, unable to make ends meet financially with nothing to sell on and without enough to properly sustain their immediate community.

Whilst people in the UK and other Western states complain about the price of petrol or bread or their heating, their counterparts in Africa, South East Asia, South and Central America and the Pacific Islands are struggling just to get through each day. They do not need to hear world leaders saying that it will be impossible to make a decision on combating climate change in Copenhagen next month.

 At the end of October, I went to an international conference in Stockholm organised by the EU to discuss, debate and define the hopes of member states and their partners in developing countries regarding global decisions about tackling climate change. I was lucky enough to go because of a grant from DFID and BOND. 

The atmosphere at these European Development Days was one of optimistic determination. The event was packed with people from developed and developing countries alike – it was a wonderful mix of cultures.  Time and time again, climate change was cited as the biggest challenge facing the global community today. It is inextricably linked to so many other ‘problem areas’ of international concern, including health, poverty and employment.  And support for a legally binding decision in Copenhagen was not in short supply. Given more than three quarters of the planet is inhabited by people in developing countries, it’s not hard to guess that the vast majority of the planet’s inhabitants now want decisions that would hold leaders of the world to account over dealing with the inflictions of climate change.

At the European Development Days, many people spoke as if this was a given-  as if the hard work and technicalities of a climate change agreement would be thrashed out over the next few weeks before materialising into a real and effective deal.  Those people were not ill‐informed or naïve, but the very people who live in areas becoming unrecognisable and uninhabitable due to the changing climate. They know of the perils, ignoring climate change lead to and are probably also in the best position to acknowledge that the problems are too great to be solved in one go by one nation alone.   They also live in hope.

 In the recent climate change negotiations in Barcelona, critics of the Kyoto treaty, who suggested it did not go far enough warned against “A toothless agreement…that would be more about posturing than progress.” Meanwhile it was widely reported that “World leaders may need another six to twelve months to reach a legally binding deal.” 

The time for pessimistic grumblings and delay tactics is surely far behind us!  Like many others I believe there is still a way to get some meaningful decisions from Copenhagen – world leaders need to hear that and that’s why I’ll be marching with thousands of others at the Wave on the 5th December.

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