Have you heard the joke about the drowning man? You know the one in which a man is stuck on his rooftop during a flood and prays to God who first sends a rowing boat, then a motor boat and finally a helicopter to save him……..*
In terms of the climate talks in Bangkok which have just finished on 5 September they will probably go down in history as being the motor boat. However, the next set of climate talks in Doha beginning on 26 November will definately be the helicopter.
So what have the talks in Bangkok achieved? Commentators are divided from the United Nations who have, predictably, praised the talks as making “concrete progress” to the Bangkok Post who have said they have made no progress at all and ended in “stalemate”. The NGOs here represented by Climate Action Network International believe they have made technical progress which could pave the way for an extension of the Kyoto protocol up to 2020 at Doha but that there are still a large number of unresolved issues on the table. These include the level of cuts different countries are willing to adopt, who is going to pay for climate change and whether the world can agree a new legally binding agreement post 2020. In other words the Bangkok talks have kept hope on climate change afloat – just.
I’ve been attending the talks on behalf of Practical Action and promoting our event at the next climate talks in Doha on 28 November called “Learning the lessons from flooding in climate adaptation”. It reflects the fact that for many vulnerable people around the world in flood prone countries like Thailand, Philippines and Bangladesh, it is not a case of trying to stop climate change but living with it now.
Adaptation is an issue that has been little on the agenda in Bangkok but needs to urgently be in Doha. Many of the delegates Ive spoken to here over the last week agree that climate adaptation must go up the UN’s agenda and there needs to be a much better balance when it comes to funding (currently only about 10% of climate finance is spent on adaptation). To do this they have formed an Adaptation Committee which is due to meet for the first time immediately after the talks in Bangkok. A big part of their work will be to mandate countries to draw up National Adaptation Plans, both for developed and developing nations.
Nationally the UK should be in a good position to do this, having formed an adaptation sub-committee of its own following the passing of the Climate Change Act in 2008. Their latest report, published in July, on the affects of flooding and water scarcity, makes fascinating reading. Other developing countries will need more help in drawing up plans but the critical issue, like so many issues to do with climate change, will be who will pay for implementation of the plans.
At the moment for developing countries that funding is due to come from the Green Climate Fund. However, at present the GCF doesnt even have a bank account, let alone a means of distributing money. One of the key success criteria for the Doha talks will therefore be that developed countries including the UK make rapid progress in committing the $100 billion a year they have promised the fund by 2020 and ensuring that at least half goes on climate adaptation.
* A man was stuck on his rooftop during a flood. Despairing of any help he started praying to God. Soon a man in a rowing boat came by and shouted “Jump in, I can save you. The stranded man shouted back, “No, thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.” So the rowing boat went by. Then a motor boat came by and the driver shouted “Jump in, I can save you.” “No thanks” shouted back the man ” I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.” So the motor boat went by.
Finally a helicopter came and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.” The stranded man again declined, convinced God would save him. So the helicopter reluctantly flew away. Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. In the next life he finally met God and angrily exclaimed “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. Why?” God replied, “I sent you a rowing boat, a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”
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