Reflections from COP20, Day 10

Atayi Babs, Pan-African Media Alliance for Climate Change

Upon entering the COP20 conference venue on Wednesday, I was met by over one hundred delegates from countries around the world, including leading representatives of the African civil society under the aegis of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), who stood together for two minutes of silence to show solidarity with the people of the Philippines who are suffering in the wake of Typhoon Hagupit. 

At the venue, civil society representatives called on Ministers who arrived early this week to make progress towards a mechanism that effectively addresses Loss and Damage from climate impacts. Vulnerable countries like the Philippines are already counting the costs, with last year’s Typhoon Haiyan leaving more than 7,000 dead or missing. 

"We stand in solidarity with the Philipines today because we are one," Robert Chimambo of PACJA declared. "Africa is in the same vulnerable boat with Philippines and that is why we are calling on those with historical responsibility and capacity to act now, or we sink together in this titanic" Chimambo added.

Maria Theresa Nera-Lauron from IBON international in the Philippines said that her country does not want sympathy but action in solidarity. "You cannot talk about sympathy, while at the same time putting us on a path to more devastation – a path that will result in more severe weather events, more severe Bophas and Haiyans and Hagupits. We refuse to become a poster child for devastation and climate impacts. We in the Philippines are not drowning. We are not dying. We are fighting. We are fighting, and we need you to fight with us." 

Delegates arriving at the conference centre on Wednesday were greeted with images from the aftermath of these storms, to remind them that climate vulnerable communities need to see urgent progress in Lima. Despite this, some countries, including the UK and the USA, are actually undermining efforts in negotiations to develop a comprehensive Loss and Damage mechanism that would provide support for countries already suffering climate impacts that are 'locked-in.'

Responding to the show of solidarity, Dewy Sacayan of the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute said “we thank you for your sympathy, but we need more. We need real action to put us on the path to a safe climate future. We have had enough. My family back home are already telling me grim stories about Hagupit. When I went to Tacloban after Haiyan to lead relief work, I saw things that I will never forget. My people have had three unseasonal typhoons in three years."

Cristina Dalla Torre and Sara Cattani, Youth Press Agency

Yesterday was International Mountain Day.

Mountains cover 27 per cent of the planet and are where 12 per cent of the world’s population lives. However, mountains today are exposed to a phenomenon of depopulation in favour of an increasing rate of urbanisation. We have to consider that mountains are not only a natural ecosystem, but also a cultural one. People living in the mountains have created their own identity, customs, traditions, ways of producing and economical systems in a very close relationship to nature, particularly compared to an urban context. Therefore the effects of climate change, such as glaciers melting, increases in temperature and more intense precipitation, are issues that these mountain dwellers have to cope with in their everyday lives.

We all know that mountains are main sources of water and contain a quarter of the world’s biodiversity. But at the same time, each mountain system has its own specific characteristics in terms of different ecosystems, cultures and societies. Although a global response for acting towards climate change is needed, a good way to protect these specific territories is through regional cooperation. An example of this is the institution of the Alpine Convention in Europe, which aims at being the channel of communication of different countries composing the alpine puzzle, as mentioned by Doris Leuthard, Deputy Prime Minister of Switzerland, at the lunch time side event on mountains and water – from understanding to action.

Mountain territories can be laboratories of innovation; starting from the cultural and natural heritage that they already possess. Therefore, it is important to combine resources to create opportunities of personal and community development for the populations settled in those contexts.