The director of the Catholic Aid agency CAFOD, has said that the greed that underpins many developed countries’ economies and personal lifestyles is pushing the world’s poorest to the edge of existence.
Chris Bain said that emissions-heavy lifestyles, government policy and industrial practices in rich countries are changing the composition of the atmosphere with potentially catastrophic outcomes that will hit those living in poverty first and worst.
"The massive over-consumption of rich nations is having a direct affect on the climate in the developing world. Many of the world’s poorest are already living with a changing climate which is driving their precarious lives to a level of vulnerability that is unacceptable.
"While we in the UK are being encouraged to spend our way out of recession, millions of poor people are trying to keep themselves alive in areas of desperately degraded land while trying to cope with climatic extremes."
"Working with a coalition of Catholic agencies, CAFOD’s new campaign will bring UK Catholics together with more than 1.3bn Catholics from all over the world. Together we will call on global leaders to negotiate a just and equitable agreement at this year’s UN climate change talks in Copenhagen."
CAFOD and its supporters are also calling on the UK government to take the lead amongst EU countries in this crucial year leading up to Copenhagen, the outcomes of which could determine the fate of millions of people around the world.
Chris Bain added: "Developing countries bear the brunt of climate change and yet have done the least to cause it. It is time for all of us to live simply and in solidarity with the world’s poorest and this year could be the best chance we have to halt the devastating impacts of climate change on them. We must call on our governments to protect the most vulnerable people in the world – it is vital for their survival."
Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, is speaking at CAFOD’s Climate Justice campaign launch in London today.
He said: "Climate change is the result of human behaviour and we must all take responsibility for our actions by taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint.
"The UK target to cut emissions by 80% by 2050 will set us on the right path. However, it's only through getting a robust global agreement in Copenhagen that we can truly tackle dangerous climate change in a way that is fair to this planet and to communities across the world. And I am determined to pursue that ambition."
Changes in climate are already affecting people’s lives across the world. In Cambodia, irregular rainfall is affecting rice cultivation; women have to spend more of their valuable time fetching water due to shortages during the dry season, whilst increased flooding during the wet season is leading to environmental and social damage. At the same time vast swathes of Cambodia's forests are rapidly disappearing due to illegal logging driven by demand for products in developed countries.
Climate expert Lay Sophea works with on CAFOD forestry and indigenous rights projects in Cambodia, and has witnessed the impact recent changes in climate have been having on poor communities.
Lay Sophea said: "Global temperatures are rising, rainfall patterns are changing, natural disasters are increasing, and our communities are experiencing the consequences. We are here in solidarity with CAFOD and the launch of their campaign. And we hope we can raise awareness about how our country is being affected severely by changes in climate and urge people in the UK and across the world to work together to fight climate change."
CAFOD is calling for a UN deal that will help people to flourish in developing countries by supporting their right to sustainable development. Since the poorest have done the least to cause climate change, they shouldn’t be the ones who pay the price, say campaigners. They also want a deal that provides necessary support for developing countries – hit first and hardest by climate change – to adapt to the impacts of extreme weather. This includes money, additional aid for adaptation and clean, green technology. Finally they are calling for measures to tackle the root causes of the problem by cutting emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Industrialised countries must commit to 30-40 per cent cuts, based on 1990 levels, by 2020, they say.