After disasters, governments urged to listen at Warsaw climate talks

(Photo: LWF / Sean Hawkey)Some of the Lutheran World Federation delegation at the UN climate change conference COP19: (From left) Pranita Biswasi from India, Raquel Kleber from Brazil, Rose Stephens-Booker from the United States and Piotrek Sztwiertnia from Poland on November 13, 2013.

Aid agencies have pleaded for action on climate, charging that the latest killer typhoon that hit the Philippines shows need for action.

Some church leaders have taken to fasting to draw attention to the cause as the talks enter their last days.

The United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity, Virginia Dandan, also joined the call for governments last week to make concrete funding commitments to tackle the effects of climate change.

But a pattern of key governments wilting on climate change at such talks appeared on the horizon at the international COP19 talks in Warsaw, Poland from November 11 to 22.

On Friday Japan, the third largest single economy in the world, announced in negotiations it was to change its voluntary pledge emissions target from a 25 per cent emission cut on 1990 levels to a 3.1 per cent increase on 1990 levels by 2020.

"This move by Japan could have a devastating impact on the tone of discussion here in Warsaw," said Naoyuki Yamagishi, leader of WWF Japan's climate and energy group in a media statement at the climate talks.

"It could further accelerate the race to the bottom among other developed countries when the world needs decisive and immediate actions to 'raise' ambition, not to 'lower' ambition."


The US aircraft carrier USS George Washington sent mercy flights into the typhoon-stricken Philippines on Friday taking food and vital supplies for survivors pleading for help in a maelstrom of wreckage and bodies a week after the disaster struck.

The Lutheran World Federation delegation to the U.N. climate change conference in Warsaw said it was fasting to try to egg leaders on to face up to changes needed to lower gas emissions detrimental to the climate.

The Warsaw talks are the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) under the United Nations Framework for climate change being held in Warsaw.

After the rousing speech of Yeb Saño, representative of the Philippines in the UN climate change conference COP 19 on Monday, the Lutheran World Federation delegation to the conference said it would be fasting.

The LWF delegation to the UN climate change conference said its members would each fast for one day to highlight the need for a meaningful outcome to the climate change negotiations and in solidarity with victims of extreme weather events, particularly after typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

"Our fast is in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable who are disproportionately affected by extreme weather events. These events are increasing in frequency and intensity with climate change.

"We are all members of the one body of Christ, and "'If one member suffers, all suffer together with it'" the LWF said in a statement citing Paul's letter to the Corinthians in the Bible (1 Cor 12:26).

Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the 70-million-strong LWF, joined the fast Friday while accompanying the Lutheran group's delegation at Warsaw.

"We call on other members of the Lutheran communion to voluntarily join with us in this fasting, for any one day during the conference which finishes on 22 November," the LWF said.


Junge noted that severe climate events are increasing in frequency and severity with climate change and that several LWF Churches have experienced severe climate events in the last year.

He referred to a visit to the United States after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy one year earlier in 2012 in which he said, "there is no church so big, so old, and so well-resourced that it would not heavily depend on the love, care and solidarity of others.

"Conversely, there is no church so small, so young and with so scarce resources that it does not have gifts to share with others."

Junge also referred to the dry southwestern African country Namibia which is facing one of its word droughts ever this year forcing many people to reduce their meals to one a day, relying more on neighbours, sending children to relatives who are able to feed them, and living off pensions received by elderly relatives.

There was also Cyclone Phailin, the severest storm to strike India's eastern coastline in 14 years disrupted the lives of nearly 14 million people in the disaster-prone region.

Britain's Disasters Emergency Committee has urged countries to take urgent action on climate change, as the U.N. talks enter their second week, the BBC reported Sunday.

The committee comprise 14 aid agencies and said Typhoon Haiyan is a glimpse of the future for millions who will be at risk from extreme weather.

That is why it said the meeting in Warsaw should agree to rapidly cut carbon emissions.

But negotiators say such action is unlikely as a global deal is not expected until 2015.

The British agencies joined others in arguing that extreme weather events such as Typhoon Haiyan follow a growing pattern of threat that points strongly towards climate change.

The BBC report quoted Neil Thorns from the Catholic aid agency Cafod as saying, "We need to see a response from the delegates in Warsaw to match that of the overwhelming response of the public to this devastating tragedy.

"It is not fair, it is not just and it cannot go on that those living in poor and vulnerable communities, such as in the Philippines, are being affected now whilst governments fail to steer us to a better future based on our shared responsibility to care for our planet now and for future generations."

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