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Climate Vulnerability: What you need to know

November 14, 2011

The Climate Vulnerable Forum, held in Dhaka, Bangladesh over the last two days highlights the urgency for countries to come together to share experiences of how to tackle climate change and its adverse effects.

UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon opened the Forum on Monday, where countries most vulnerable to climate change unite ahead of global talks in Durban, South Africa at the end of the month to work out a fair, equitable and legally-binding climate deal.

The talks show that the poorest, most vulnerable countries are not being passive when it comes to climate change. The Declaration of the Climate Vulnerable Forum declares these nations’ determination as low emitting countries that are acutely vulnerable to climate change, to show moral leadership on climate change through actions and words, by acting now to commence greening their economies towards achieving carbon neutrality.

Participants of the Climate Vulnerable Forum are split into four categories. These include Founding Countries and other vulnerable countries, Observer Countries, International Institutions and Actors, and Select Local and International Topic Experts and Representatives.

The first group is the most important, as they represent the voices of the people who live in nations who are disproportionately affected by climate change. The Forum provides the opportunity for them to come together and speak with one voice. They include: Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh (Incoming Chair), Barbados, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Kenya, Kiribati (Present Chair), Liberia, Maldives (First Chair), Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nepal, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Vietnam. Additional Invited Members to this group include Afghanistan, Myanmar, Gambia, Haiti, Madagascar, Nicaragua and Papua New Guinea.

Countries with Observer status include Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, DRC, European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum was set up in 2009 under the chairmanship of the Maldives and passed to Kiribati in 2010. Under Maldives leadership, the Forum published, together with DARA – an independent organization committed to improving the quality and effectiveness of aid for vulnerable populations suffering from conflict, disasters and climate change – the first Climate Vulnerability Monitor, a global report into the accelerating impact of climate change on human society.

The Climate Vulnerability Monitor is a tool built to assess the vulnerability of our world to the many effects of climate change as communities virtually everywhere are facing them – each in radically different ways. DARA and the Climate Vulnerable Forum developed the Climate Vulnerability Monitor with critical input from leading international thinkers, including Mr. R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC. It aims to help us keep watch on current and expected impacts caused by climate change and to promote understanding and debate around its growing dangers and how to deal with them. Download the Executive Summary of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010!

While the vulnerable meet in Dhaka, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is set to meet on the 14th- 17th of November and 18th – 19th of November in Kampala, Uganda to present the findings of the Special Report on “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation”. In accordance with IPCC Procedures, the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) of the Special Report will be approved line by line by governments and the underlying assessment report, which runs to several hundred pages, will be presented for acceptance. The two sessions of the IPCC are the 1st Joint Session of Working Groups I and II and the 34th Session of the IPCC.

Richard Black, Environment Correspondent with BBC, reveals that the Special Report contains “a lot more unknowns than knowns”. He adds that the draft report makes clear that lack of evidence or lack of confidence on a particular impact doesn’t mean it won’t occur; just that it’s hard to tell. His report here.

This follows Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development which states that:

In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

The concern largely centers around the fact that vulnerable countries are still not getting the kind of help that they need to adapt to the fast growing impacts of climate change. The problem is likely to be exacerbated through what the Climate Vulnerability Monitor Report calls the Climate-Development Nexus, where poverty is likely to worsen the climate impacts which in turn undermines development.

Climate-Development Nexus (Source: Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010)

Limiting the negative effects of climate change on people worldwide will therefore require more effective targeting and integrated responses. Fragile nations, Small Island Developing States, Africa, South Asia, emerging markets, advanced economies will all be affected in some way or another by climate change.

In all, climate vulnerability is a stark and very real issue of concern for all countries. While the Monitor looks broadly at Health Impact, Weather Disaster, Habitat Loss and Economic Stress, there are many other factors to take into consideration. This is a clear reminder to all of us that climate change affects every single one of us and that in the lead up to Durban, we should all stand united, voice our opinions, ask the difficult questions and make change happen. Climate suffering is global, and unless measures are taken, the next 20 years (maybe even sooner) will see explosive growth in every climate impact.

Other resources on Climate Vulnerability:

Climate Vulnerability Forum 2011 (Briefing Notes)
Climate Vulnerability Monitor (Blog)
World Resources Institute – Vulnerability and Adaptation
UNDP Technical Paper 3: Assessing Vulnerability for Climate Adaptation (** Highly recommended)
Advancing Capacity to Support Climate Change Adaptation (ACCA) – Identifying Climate Vulnerability Exposure
International Institute for Sustainable Development – Climate Change Knowledge Network – Vulnerability and Adaptation

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 15, 2011 5:34 am

    It is good to hear that “the poorest, most vulnerable countries are not being passive when it comes to climate change.” But I do wonder if there are enough financial resources to help these countries.

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