Robinson warns against failing to address global warming


AID AGENCIES “are going to be overwhelmed” by disasters such as the monsoon floods in Pakistan last July unless progress is made in tackling the threat of climate change, former president Mary Robinson has warned.

During an international conference call yesterday for journalists in her capacity as honorary president of Oxfam International, Mrs Robinson said “short-term” economic concerns should not divert attention from the “life-and- death” issue of global warming.

“The whole of Africa is responsible for only 4 per cent of [global carbon] emissions, yet the continent may suffer most, with up to 200 million climate refugees over the coming years. We can’t afford to ignore that because of short-term concerns.”

Mrs Robinson, who is setting up a Dublin-based foundation for climate justice in January, said she expected governments represented at the UN climate change conference opening next Monday in Cancún, Mexico, to show political leadership.

“The impacts of climate change are being increasingly felt. We can’t wish it away, we can’t deny it. These are not trade talks. We are dealing with a life-and-death issue and we need to move the process forward.”

Although there was “a lot of cynicism and denial”, she believed it was possible for Cancún to make progress, “partly because expectations are not pitched so high” as they were in advance of the inconclusive Copenhagen climate summit last December.

“Picking up on the disappointment of Copenhagen, the global climate fund [for adaptation] must be addressed at Cancún and that includes fast-track finance and longer-term finance,” Mrs Robinson said. This was vital to earn the trust of developing countries.

She said there was hope that the Obama administration in the US could support the “architecture” of a global climate fund within the UN framework.

She believed that both the US and China would have important roles to play in negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, after its first phase runs out in 2012. This would have to be a legally binding agreement – a “global solution to a global problem”.

Meanwhile, the Maldives – one of the world’s most vulnerable nations in terms of climate change – is putting in place ambitious plans to become carbon-neutral and energy-independent by 2020, with the slogan: “The first to act, not the first to disappear.”

“Creating a carbon-neutral economy helps combat climate change, enhances our energy security and safeguards our future development,” said its president, Mohamed Nasheed. “If the Maldives becomes carbon-neutral, we believe other countries will want to do the same.”