A resident of Lesotho, a sub-Saharan African country, Bruno Sekoli, could not hide his frustration with the slow progress in climate talks here.
Sekoli, the chair of the least developed countries in the Cancun talks, expressed frustration with “repeated statements” that suggested the negotiating parties had “no intention” of moving on, despite numerous studies showing increased threats of extreme weather changes unless major action were taken in the field.
“Climate change may be an economic issue [for many countries] but for the least-developed countries it is a matter of life,” he said in a media workshop held by the Climate Change Media Partnership on Friday in Cancun.
The workshop presented top negotiators, including Huang Huikang from China and Akira Yamoka from Japan. Also present was Laurence Graff, head of the international relations unit in the climate department of the European Commission to discuss progress in the Cancun talks of Nov. 29 to Dec. 10.
Developing countries favor an extension of the 1997 protocol, under which developed nations must cut greenhouse gas emissions until 2012, while many rich nations prefer a new deal that includes emerging economies led by China.
In Cancun, expectations are low after the 2009 Copenhagen summit failed to agree on a binding UN treaty.
Lesotho, a mountainous country with a highly variable climate, is said to be among those extremely vulnerable to climate change. It is also a landlocked nation categorized as among the least developed countries.
“The Cancun talks can’t be a failure because something must come out at least for the least-developed countries,” Sekoli said.
At the workshop, the four speakers showed entirely different standpoints with China accusing Japan of wanting “to kill” the Kyoto Protocol, the only international treaty requiring rich nations to slash emissions.
The Japanese representative said major developing countries such as China, Brazil and India should be on board if the world wanted to curb climate change.
Yamoka of Japan said the country wanted next year’s climate talks in Durban, South Africa, to produce a single legally binding treaty signed by all emitter countries, with both rich and developing countries committed to a target on emission cuts.
A report of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor warned inaction on climate change could kill some 5 million people — mostly children — by 2020 across the planet.
The report by DARA, a humanitarian research organization based in London, said the world was headed for nearly 1 million deaths every single year by 2030 if no action was taken to protect countries standing on the “climate brink”.
It said that about 80 percent of the total human toll of climate change exclusively concerned children in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia succumbing to malnutrition, diarrheal diseases or malaria.
Secretary of Indonesia’s taskforce on REDD, Heru Prasetyo, appeared uninterested in seeing complicated negotiations on forest issues.
“We had better take action in our own country rather than wait for the results of climate talks,” he said here after presenting Indonesia’s REDD progress at a side event in Cancun.
A number of organizations also launched new reports on climate change issues on Friday.
A report by the World Bank said it would be easier for cities to tackle climate change by launching new initiatives than governments through climate talks.
It said cities were responsible for about 80 percent of global emissions, and that many faced significant impacts of climate change.
“Many world cities, such as New York, Mexico City, Amman, or Sao Paulo are not waiting for a comprehensive and global climate deal to emerge, they are already acting on climate change,” said Andrew Steer, the World Bank’s special envoy for climate change.