Relating Climate Change to Poverty 'Vital', Says Head of Catholic Relief Network

The leader of a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service groups says it is "vital" for humanitarian organizations to relate climate change to the issue of poverty and to address the factors that make people vulnerable to climate change.

"Climate change exacerbates existing vulnerabilities," says Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight, who will be speaking at this week's Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva.

The two-day forum, which concludes Wednesday, has drawn concerned leaders from around the world who wish to formulate a response to the human impact of climate change.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2009 is a crucial year in the international effort to address climate change.

In December, national government delegations who agreed to shape an ambitious international response to climate change in 2007 will be meeting for an end-of-the-year summit in Copenhagen, where they will seek to agree on a post-2012 climate agreement that will replace the current Kyoto protocol.

Earlier this month, the delegations concluded their second round of negotiations, completing the first rough sketch of a new global warming agreement.

According to some scientists, industrialized nations must cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 to prevent climate disasters, such as coastal flooding from rising sea levels, severe weather events, and variations in rainfall and temperatures that will affect agriculture and wipe out species of plants and animals.

Under the current Kyoto Protocol, 37 industrial countries are required to cut emissions a total 5 percent from 1990 by 2012. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature calculated that the current declarations from wealthy countries amount to a total emissions cut of just 10 percent by 2020.

During this week's forum, Caritas' Knight is expected to tell concerned leaders that the effects of climate change will be felt the most by the poorest who lack the resources to protect themselves. She will also call for a deal at climate change talks in Copenhagen this December to lower greenhouse gas emissions and provide the aid necessary for developing countries to adapt to severe weather caused by climate change.

"The unpalatable truth is that there will be a price to be paid for a solution to climate change. And that price will have to be paid by the ordinary people of the developed world, who have benefitted from the growth and development that is causing climate change," Knight plans to say, according to Caritas. "This means, quite simply, that high consumers will have to accept a reduced standard of living."

Earlier this month, U.K.-based Christian Aid said rich countries risk "wrecking" key U.N. talks on climate change, having "failed to commit to dramatic curbs in their greenhouse emissions, or recognize the scale of funding poor countries urgently need to cope with the impacts of global warming."

"'Without real progress on commitments by the rich world, the negotiations will collapse," commented Nelson Muffuh, Christian Aid's senior climate advocate.

"They must come back to the next round of talks willing to act and to agree to ambitious, quantified financial support for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, as well as technology transfer," Muffuh added.

U.N. climate delegates are currently looking forward to the next round of talks in August, when the roughly 200-page second draft is expected to be whittled down to a more manageable size following decisions by political leaders.

World leaders, meanwhile, will meet several times later this year, beginning with a Group of Eight summit in July, with climate change on the agenda.

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