Agreement reached at the UN climate conference in Durban this month has been welcomed by former Irish President Mary Robinson.
Dr Robinson said she is relieved the hard-won agreement is legally binding on the 194 countries rather than being a voluntary agreement.
“Now, we must ensure that the necessary political will is mobilised to meet this deadline and to increase the ambition of emissions reductions targets in order to protect the most vulnerable people whose most basic rights to food, water and health are undermined by the impacts of climate change,” she said in a statement.
Negotiations will be carried out by 2015 and implemented from 2020 focusing on finance and development of technology as well as social information according to documents released after the conference.
Other key areas agreed upon include a second period of five-year commitment to the Kyoto Protocol from 2013 and the implementation of “a package to support developing nations” agreed in Cancun last year.
However, a statement from the conference organisers also noted “Governments acknowledged the urgent concern that the current sum of pledges to cut emissions both from developed and developing countries is not high enough to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.”
This is in spite of larger developing nations including China and India accepting emission targets which they had previously been excluded from under the terms of Kyoto.
Dr Robinson, president of the Mary Robinson Climate Justice Foundation (MRFCJ) had travelled to the conference to promote the concept of climate justice.
Climate Justice and Food Security
Speaking earlier in Dublin on the topic of “Climate Justice and Food Security” (speech, podcast) she said the poor and the vulnerable who are often forced to live in marginal areas are those most affected by climate change.
“The more recent scenes from the Horn of Africa brought home the terrible vulnerability of the people living there to weather and climate shocks,” she said.
“It reinforced the imperative of sustaining efforts and attention on food and nutrition security, and the urgency of tackling the problem.”
Dr Robinson told the audience at the joint Trinity and University College Dublin lecture that food prices are predicted to continue rising even as much agricultural land in many African countries will be lost due to climate change.
These changes are especially negative for women in developing countries according to Dr Robinson as she said “between 60 and 80 per cent of food … is produced by women who own less than two per cent of all land in Africa”.
“Agriculture, particularly rain-fed agriculture, is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Changes in the planting season and difficulties in preparing grazing or water for livestock are already challenges that farmers and herders face,” she said.
Looking to next year, she said there are “clear parallels” between the Durban COP17 conference and the UN EarthSummit 2012 to be held in Brazil. Finding a way to link the financial potential of the green economy to fighting climate change is vital according to Dr Robinson.
Oxfam and Greenpeace disappointed by Durban
The Durban Platform doesn’t go far enough towards preventing climate change according to NGOs working in the area.
“Unless countries ratchet up their emissions cuts urgently, we could still be in store for a ten-year timeout on the action we need to stay under two degrees,” said Oxfam’s director of advocacy, Celine Charveriat.
Ms Charveriat said the proposed implementation of the Green Climate Fund – as agreed on in Cancun last year – will not succeed without “concrete and reliable sources of money”.
She suggested taxes on financial transactions or on emissions from shipping as ways to fund tackling the effects of climate change including decreasing crop yields and rising food prices.
Environmental group Greenpeace were also disappointed by the talks according to international executive director Kumi Naidoo.
Placing the blame for this perceived failure on the United States, Mr Naidoo said “a vital get-out clause” could prevent full implementation of the deal.
“If that loophole is exploited it could be a disaster. And the deal is due to be implemented 'from 2020' leaving almost no room for increasing the depth of carbon cuts in this decade when scientists say we need emissions to peak," he said.
The Dublin lecture by Mary Robinson was jointly organsised by Trinity College Dublin's Trinity International Development Initiative (TIDI) and University College Dublin's Human Development Initiative (HDI).