It’s “crunch time” here in Paris as the deadline for an historic climate agreement is now just just hours away. With release of the latest draft text this afternoon, the issues of loss and damage and adaptation remain among the core points left for ministers to hammer out by Friday.
In a speech on Wednesday afternoon, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States will double its climate finance for adaptation to $800 million by 2020. The money will be used to help the world’s most vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. As Kerry explained in his speech, it is a “moral responsibility to adapt and prepare for those impacts and enable the most vulnerable among us to do the same.
“There are countries – we know – for which climate change is an existential threat today,” Secretary Kerry said. “For them, this isn’t a matter of annexes or peak years – it’s a matter of life and death. Yesterday I met with leaders from the island states – the small island states – who expressed their legitimate concerns that the sea will swallow their nations. And the fact of the matter is that most of these countries have contributed nothing, or next to nothing, … to the problem in the first place.”
Leaders from across the civil spectrum praised Kerry’s comments, suggesting that an ambitious and fair deal in Paris is still very much on the table. Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), said: “Secretary Kerry sounded the right notes on urgency and the need for much greater ambition in coming to grips with the climate crisis,”
“The prize of an ambitious, comprehensive and effective long-term climate agreement is within our grasp,” Meyer continued, “if compromises can be found on the remaining crunch issues. Secretary Kerry has long been a leader on the climate issue, and his leadership will be needed more than ever over the remaining days of the climate talks here in Paris.”
Faith leaders emphasized that an ambitious global commitment to climate adaptation aligns with our values as a nation and as civilized human beings.
“Increasing our commitment to protect the most vulnerable is the right thing to do,” said Rev. Fletcher Harper of GreenFaith. “[It is] deeply consistent with our moral values. Faith communities support this. We’ll let Congress know we support it. And, we’ll push for continuing, increasing support for this vital cause.”
National security expert and Iraq war veteran Jon Powers made the connection between climate change and national security, saying a commitment to adaptation will “increase our national security by ensuring the populations at risk of becoming future threats have the resources needed to address both the root causes and also the consequences of climate change.”
“It is important that we not squander this opportunity to design climate adaptation financing to do the most possible to help societies steer clear of the climate-triggered humanitarian crises that now plague our world. Getting enough money on the table is only part of the solution. Directing that money in support of safe adaptation pathways is just as crucial.”
Still on track
Kerry’s announcement helps send the signal needed as ministers engage on the hardest, yet most essential, elements of a fair and ambitious Paris Outcome. That we have come this far and all eyes remain on the prize is cause for optimism.
As Rachel Cletus, lead economist and climate policy manager with the Climate and Energy program for UCS, told TriplePundit this morning, “By this time in Copenhagen (at COP15), things had already gone off the rails.”
We are still on track. And Kerry’s pledge today for increased climate adaptation funding helps us move forward.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia, under creative commons license