Ramesh Babu, EFICOR’s Director Programmes works in partnership with Tearfund in India and is currently at the UN climate change talks in Paris. He has one question on his mind: how do we get an agreement that works for the very poorest people in the world?
There are over 30,000 people charging around the organised chaos that is the negotiating rooms of Le Bourget in Paris all trying to close a global climate deal in the next few hours. I have come with one question in mind: how do we get an agreement here in Paris that works for the very poorest people in the world? Earlier this week I heard from Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who has the unenviable task of pulling all of this together into a deal by the weekend. She said we need an agreement which “meets national and local needs, keeps scientific integrity, and promotes prosperity for all”. It is her words “for all” that resonate most strongly with me.
My country India is both a contributor and a victim of climate change. We are the world’s fourth largest carbon emitter. But we are also the world’s second most populous country and over 30 per cent of our population do not yet have access to electricity, essential for development. My work with Tearfund partner, EFICOR means day in day out I am working alongside the very poorest people in my country who are hit first and hardest by climate change.
We have 7,500 kilometres of coast line (including island territories) with 73 coastal districts and are therefore highly susceptible to rising sea levels. Some 16 per cent of our country, ten states, are in the Himalayas where climate change is causing landslides and glacial melt. In the last three years we have seen terrible floods in Uttarakhand, Cyclone Phailin devastate Orissa, flooding in Uttar Pradesh as a result of glacial melt, flooding in Kashmir and now the worst flooding in Chennai for 114 years where 280 people have died and nearly 70 per cent of the city is affected. At the same time there are 302 out of 676 districts declared officially in drought and we had unprecedented heat waves this year. Climate change is affecting us seriously, there is food insecurity, water stress, sinking livelihood opportunities, forcing people to leave their places and migrate. I have witnessed distress migration, human trafficking and farmer suicides from our communities where we are working. It is always the poorest who bear the brunt of such climate catastrophe.
So what I want to see is a ray of hope for the poor communities of India that I work with coming from the talks in Paris. We need an ambitious, legally binding, durable and just deal. That means an agreement to limit global average temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels or less than that, which will save us from the worst impacts of climate change. I am hopeful that we can get a good deal here because of the emissions cuts each nation has offered to make before coming to Paris. Together these would reduce warming from four degrees to 2.7 degrees. That would not be all we need, but would be a great start we can build on in the next few years to finally get us to 1.5.
Can this conference be of real use for the future? To get to a good result nations need to stop blaming each other and all work together. If we don’t act now future generations will hold us all responsible. The destiny of the communities I work with will be decided in the next few hours. The conference has entered a critical phase, the climax of the talks. Please join me in praying for all who are making these huge decisions.