Next 48 hours 'absolutely critical' for world’s poor

By agency reporter
December 16, 2009

As world leaders arrive in Copenhagen, environmental and human rights groups representing thousands of people from some of the world’s poorest countries have issued an appeal calling for a strong climate deal which prioritises the needs of developing nations and expressed their “alarm” at the potential failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.

In a letter published in today's Guardian newspaper, more than 20 grassroots organisations from four continents who work with the agency Progressio, write: "As representatives of people from the developing world who are most affected by climate change, we are still fighting to ensure our voices are heard in Copenhagen. We are alarmed about the potential failure of the talks."

The letter continues: "We urgently hope that in the few days left, Copenhagen changes the status quo which continues to damage the natural world. We hope that the global north recognises its ecological debt to the world's impoverished peoples; that it begins to repair our villages and ecosystems and reaches substantial agreements to ensure greenhouse gas emissions are curbed. Enough funds should be provided to southern countries to support this socio-environmental restoration: the climate debt to the world's poor must be settled."

Hailing from countries as diverse as Malawi and East Timor, El Salvador and Zimbabwe, senior directors of the organisations - which include the Salvadoran Ecological Union and Environment Africa - urge world leaders not to forget people in developing countries who are already experiencing the destructive effects of climate change, as they meet to thrash out the text of the pivotal new agreement.

"It is these people, who have not contaminated the planet, who hold the solutions in their hands", the letter says. "It is the rural farmers, indigenous, and the poor people of the world that can teach us how to sustain life on the planet through learning from and living in harmony with nature."

It concludes: "If Copenhagen achieves nothing, the resulting delay in securing a vital climate agreement will be a terrible sentence for all human beings and the planet."

Progressio’s Advocacy Manager, Tim Aldred, said: "The next 48 hours are absolutely critical for the world’s poor. Representatives from many of the communities we work with around the world are calling for strong and immediate action on climate change. World leaders cannot afford to ignore their voices. If they do, and if they fail to act, leaders will be doing so in full knowledge of the deplorable consequences that await the 1 billion worldwide living in extreme poverty. The poor and marginalised will be hit hardest and fastest by the consequences of global warming."

He continued: "So far we have heard many fine words from governments. But unless we see serious movement soon on the critical areas of finance for poor countries and the early cuts in emissions dictated by all scientific opinion, these words will be no more than hollow spin."

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