A front-line worker tackling poverty in Peru has talked of his ‘sadness’ at the modest progress made in the past week at climate change talks in Brussels and Poznan, warning that without stronger action from the West ‘millions of poor people will be abandoned to the escalating ravages of an unpredictable climate.’
Bruno Guemes, a skilled worker with the development charity Progressio, said that rich nations, which had caused most of the global warming through industrialisation, had a responsibility to protect the poorest communities of Peru and elsewhere around the world.
He stated: “Here in Peru, climate change is already having a devastating impact on the natural environment. In the valley of Huaral where I work, one in three people relies on small-scale farming to make a living and feed their families. But glaciers and snowcaps are melting, rains are less frequent and water resources are running dry.
“In lowland areas too, farmers such as Irene Herrera (56) of the Acos community tell me that seasons are disappearing, making it difficult to plan watering times, sowing and harvesting. Other farmers tell me that water pollution and changes in water temperature are affecting fish stocks, while they worry that climatic phenomena such as El Nino are becoming more frequent and increasingly devastating.”
In the past week European leaders in Brussels agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, based on 1990 levels. In Poznan, a halfway point in a two-year process aimed at reaching a global deal to follow the Kyoto Protocol, governments proclaimed themselves pleased with progress towards a major summit next year in Copenhagen. Developing countries at Poznan were particularly critical of the lack of money put forward to help poor countries adapt to the ravages of climate change.
Speaking from Peru, Bruno Guemes added: “People here are saddened by the fact that they are suffering the consequences of western inaction on climate change. They have little hope that richer countries will want to make the right choices if it means their own economic development is compromised.”
He went on to describe graphically the human cost of a changing climate. “In one community, people are taking decisive action in response to water shortages - they are leaving their ancestral lands. Community leader Fabian Garay told me, ‘Everybody but the old people is leaving. And in many more communities, traditional methods of farming are becoming a thing of the past. They just don’t work anymore.”
Progressio (formerly the Catholic Institute for International Relations) is an NGO working for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. It has been working on practical international development issues for more than 40 years and currently has more than 90 development workers based in 11 developing countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.