Countries hit hardest by climate change voice criticism amid crises

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The climate talks in Paris are likely to see heavy criticism from developing countries, which say industrialized nations are the main culprits of global warming, but do not want to help its hardest-hit victims cope with the consequences.

The climate talks in Paris are likely to see heavy criticism from developing countries, which say industrialized nations are the main culprits of global warming, but do not want to help its hardest-hit victims cope with the consequences.

Molatedi, South Africa (dpa) – In South Africa’s Molatedi dam, which supplies water to Botswana in the north, a farmer from a nearby village heaves one of his last surviving bulls out of the sludge.

“This is the worst drought I have seen in my lifetime,” Tefelo Mekgwe says. Around him, carcasses of cattle and donkeys rot in the sun.

The dam level has sunk to 5 per cent, and South Africa has had to cut supplies to Botswana.

It is not clear how much climate change has to do with the massive drought hitting southern Africa. But “it gives a good sense of how vulnerable we are to climate risk,” said Emma Archer van Garderen, a climate expert at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

When 196 countries meet in Paris to approve a new climate agreement by December 11, poor countries want the deal to legally oblige rich nations to provide funds to help them adapt to global warming and convert to renewable energy.

Otherwise, they fear, industrialized countries will not honour a 2009 informal pledge to provide 100 billion dollars annually from 2020 onwards. That is in addition to a 10-billion-dollar Green Climate Fund administered by the UN that is already more than half funded.

“Developing countries must be given the money under the UN as a legal obligation, and not in the guise of charity,” said Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, South Africa’s delegate who will speak on behalf of more than 130 developing countries and China.

The 100 billion dollars “should have been flowing by now,” Mxakato-Diseko told dpa.

Mxakato-Diseko has been one of the strongest voices calling for climate justice – a sentiment echoed by many countries around the globe, which often finds expression in calls for more robust funding.

“The issue is equity and justice,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, underscoring unequal paths of development for nations that industrialized early. Many developing countries say rich nations caused the emissions problem since the onset of industrialization around 1850, and should therefore pay for the consequences.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, another outspoken critic who hosted an alternative climate conference in Bolivia after the fracas at Copenhagen in 2009, has blamed northern capitalism for global warming. Bolivia has experienced extreme glacial melt due to warming temperatures.

“Mother Earth or Pachamama is life, she is like our sister, she is our mother. For capitalism, she is an object,” Morales said. He called for a tribunal to try climate offenders and a change in lifestyles to restore “the relationship between life and Mother Earth.”

“When you look at the economies of the United Kingdom, United States, Europe, you understand it. The infrastructure they have built. This is what has brought us to where we are,” Mxakato-Diseko explained.

Industrialized countries, which house one-seventh of the global population, have emitted about 70 per cent of the cumulative greenhouse emissions produced since 1950, according to the research group World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Mary Robinson Foundation, which advocates justice for those vulnerable to climate change.

But if developing countries’ emissions increase at the current rate, they will make up more than 70 per cent of global emissions in two decades, the WRI report said. The issue has led industrialized countries to counter that places like India – now the third-largest producer of greenhouse gases after China and the US – are becoming major producers of the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming.

At the same time, poorer countries are already the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change – in terms of experiencing, in many cases, its worst effects while also battling tight budgets on multiple fronts.

Africa is expected to be most affected, but Asia is not far behind, with 1 billion people there facing lower agricultural production and dwindling water supplies, the WRI report said. Rising temperatures, humidity and rainfall also favour diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever.

“We experience the full spectrum of climate change. We have seen flooding in Mozambique. We are waiting for rain in South Africa,” Mxakato-Diseko said.

At a climate conference in October, she accused industrialized countries of “apartheid,” saying many of the proposals of developing countries had been excluded from a draft text of the deal to be sealed in Paris. The criticism seemed to foreshadow what will likely be a fierce battle at the climate summit.

“I’m not sure there will be definitive outcomes from these talks,” said climate expert Coleen Vogel from Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University. “There may be independent commitments from different countries, but a definitive … agreement will take time.”

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