Climate justice: helping the most vulnerable to adapt

Reporting from COP21 in Paris, Concern's Alexander Carnwath explains why industrial countries must provide financial and technological support for the developing countries that are most affected by climate change.

‘Climate justice’ has become a familiar rallying cry in the run-up to COP21. It was all over banners and placards carried by hundreds of thousands of marchers around the world last weekend. Negotiators from developing countries are calling for a climate deal which not only protects the world from dangerous temperature rises, but addresses the historical injustice of climate change too.

Those who have done least to cause climate change are the ones suffering most from its effects. In Chad – a country with very low carbon emissions – droughts and unpredictable rainfall threaten the livelihoods of millions of people. Food shortages happen frequently as farmers struggle to cope with the changing conditions. 

Bangladesh also has little responsibility for the environmental crisis. But there, climate change means natural disasters including cyclones, storm surges and flooding are stronger and happen more often. There are many more examples in countries around the world.

Justice for the poorest

The fairest response to this problem – the one that would deliver climate justice – is clear. Industrialised countries must give developing countries the financial and technological support they need to adapt to the effects of climate change. So at COP21 we are pushing for richer countries to provide enough support for adaptation, as well as a global treaty on cutting carbon emissions.

We need to see developed countries meet their commitments to international climate funds, such as the Green Climate Fund. Six years ago, industrial nations promised that by 2020 they would provide $100 billion for developing nations to cut emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. This promise must be kept. Half the money in the Green Climate Fund should be used for adaptation and long-term resilience in developing countries.

A community plans for an emergency in the Sila Region, Chad. Photo: Dom Hunt/Concern Worldwide.
A community plans for an emergency in the Sila Region, Chad. Photo: Dom Hunt/Concern Worldwide.

Adaptation helps the most vulnerable

Adaptation can take many forms. Climate adaptation and resilience-building projects will be different in different parts of the world. But we, and many of our civil society partners, are clear that these projects must all serve the interests of the most vulnerable.

This means fully involving affected people in the planning and targeting the most vulnerable groups within communities, such as women and people with disabilities. Projects should not only focus  on dramatic headline-grabbing events such as typhoons, but also on ‘everyday risks’ – smaller, less dramatic events which combine to keep people in poverty.

Concern’s own climate adaptation projects show what can be achieved with the right support. In Chad, our Community Resilience to Acute Malnutrition programme is reducing food insecurity at the most difficult times of the year, and cutting rates of acute malnutrition. In Bangladesh, communities are making their own plans to improve their response to climate disasters. But without the right support for adaptation at COP21, projects like these will only be isolated successes – and climate justice will remain little more than a slogan.

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