What the most vulnerable countries want from Copenhagen

In the last session of the ‘Development and Climate day’ that was organized by IIED, three high-level panelists – President Nasheed of Maldives, Hon. Batilda Burian, Tanzania’s Minister for Environment, and Hon. Charity Ngilu, Kenya’s Minister of Water and Irrigation – told the audience what the most vulnerable countries want from the Copenhagen negotiations.

President Nasheed wants the international community to “STOP TALKING”. For the last fourteen years experts have been negotiating a common ground – to no avail. He called for the global community to do start acting! President Nasheed said his country has taken a lead by declaring emissions cut that would make Maldives carbon neutral within the next 10 years. He advocated for adaptation measures that use softer, viable, and cheaper methods as hard engineering has proven expensive, hard to maintain, or just not working. He called for the most vulnerable countries to be self-reliant and proactive and for the global community to act fast or face serious challenges of survival. His final pledge, “give the money to those who need it most for survival; give knowledge where it is needed – for the sake of humanity and survival”.

Both Hon. Ngilu and Batilda said their people have suffered prolonged drought and biodiversity loss, among other things, as a result of climate change. They called for the international community to take the vulnerable countries in to account and make decisions that are inclusive, ambitious and just. Hon. Ngilu called for support in programs that would improve water storage and hence food security; reduce emissions below 1990 levels; increase renewable energy investment; and promote efficient energy use at household level. Mitigation measures urgently needed for the region include strategic water resources storage for use during droughts; cushioning of sea level rise impacts; reforestation to increase water sink/storage; rehabilitation of water catchment areas; empowerment of pastoralists to reduce conflicts and adopt agrarian means; seawater desalination; and inter-basin transfer of water.

While their countries intend to implement NAMAs, both Ministers said they need support to do so. Hon. Ngilu suggested a financial support worth 1.5% of the vulnerable countries’ GDP to the year 2015 will allow them make a smooth transition. The funding must be predictable, sustainable, transparent, new and additional to what has previously been granted. Other areas of support suggested include capacity building, development of early warning systems; community empowerment; effective communication, and research on local adaptation and mitigation measures. Both Hon. Ngilu and President Nasheed reminded, “we are not here to beg but with concrete programs that will allow us to green our countries. We are looking for partnerships aimed at making the world a better place”.

Hon. Batilda told the audience that as Tanzania has lost two islands already and may loose more, they are in support of 350 ppm or less so the country can sustain her biodiversity, heritage sites and its people. She requested those with a decision-making power, “to be noble and do what is right for the sake of our children and our grand children”.

Asked if vulnerable countries are being influenced by rich countries and about walking out of the negotiations, they insisted “we will tolerate and persist on our goals and objectives; if that does not work, we will walk out, re-strategize, and reconvene, not walk out completely”.

Earlier last week, the Environment Secretary from Kiribati reminded that, business as usual, Kiribati will be the first one to go. They too pleaded with the global community to take immediate measures that would preserve their nation. They want the global community to know the people of Kiribati do not want to leave their country. However, should that be inevitable, they will move with dignity— The country has started to train its people in different skills to that effect! This will allow the people of Kiribati to participate in the economic growth of the countries they will have moved to.