Earlier this year I visited Nepal and Malawi, two of the poorest countries in the world. Both are already feeling the effects of climate change, with erratic weather patterns causing flooding and drought, making it harder to grow crops and access clean, safe water. The effects of climate change risk undoing the work that we have been doing for many years to try to improve the lives of the poorest people. Copenhagen is not a window of opportunity, it is a window of necessity to act on climate change. We must not waste it.
The urgency of mitigation
The most effective form of adaptation is mitigation – this is the only way to stop the most dangerous and threatening climate impacts from becoming a reality. The actions of developed countries alone will not reduce emissions to the level required to limit global temperature increases to 2ºC. As part of an ambitious climate deal, developing countries also need to agree to reduce their emissions – and we need to support these countries to move to a low carbon development path.
Understanding the costs of adaptation
However successful we are at reducing emissions, we have already changed the climate, and we will be feeling the effects for many years. The poorest and most vulnerable countries will suffer the most. We must work with developing countries to help put climate change and adaptation at the heart of national planning. Developing countries face huge costs in adapting to climate change – but there is still much we do not know. However, we urgently need to start putting numbers on the table if we are to see ambitious adaptation support as part of a post-2012 climate change deal.
Stretching budgets too far: the importance of additionality
We have widespread agreement that developing countries need funding to help them to tackle climate change. Now we need to agree on whether this funding is in addition to existing international aid commitments. The cost of climate change were not factored into aid commitments made to help developing countries meet the MDGs, and we must not divert money from pledges already made to the poorest, such as for education, health, and water. The UK government has made a promise that no more than 10% of the money already committed to international aid can be used to tackle climate change. We will meet the rest of our fair share of the costs through new and additional finance, and we think others should do the same.