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Environment

Countries to Meet on 'Aggressive' Climate Action Next Week

As the planet warms, an extra 125 million each year are being exposed to heat waves, the medical journal The Lancet noted this week.

That risk, and other worsening climate shocks such as hurricanes and floods, mean countries around the world are in a “mode of aggressive climate action and stepping up ambition” ahead of next week’s U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, experts told a webinar on Tuesday.

“But the main focus of the conference will still be on figuring out how to make the Paris agreement work in terms of its temperature, adaptation and finance goals,” said Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

Take action to hold the OECD & UNFCCC accountable in their agreement to address the impact of climate change on girls education.

Under the Paris climate deal, reached in 2015, countries pledged to keep the rise in average global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. They also agreed to strive for a lower 1.5 degrees of warming, to try to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

But the agreement, besides, trying to lower emissions, also includes a goal of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.”

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Saleemul Huq, director of the Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said countries could achieve the temperature goal if they quickly enough reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy.

That change, however, is happening too slowly, which means the world may need to resort to “more drastic measures” to hold down temperatures. That could include “geo-engineering” the planet through large-scale, controversial projects that aim to dim sunlight reaching the earth or or capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, Huq told a discussion organised by the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme.

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ADAPTATION NOT ENOUGH

Huq said that one of the most desired outcomes of COP23, particularly among vulnerable countries, is to see “real movement” on innovative finance for loss and damage – that is, funding to help countries deal with unavoidable climate losses.

Bangladesh, for example, which is particularly vulnerable to climate impacts such as rising seas, is considering setting up a national mechanism on loss and damage, he added.

Christina Chan, director of the resilience practice at the World Resources Institute, agreed, saying that “we can’t climate proof our way out of every disaster – even the best adaptation policies can’t reduce the risk of loss and damage from a category 5 storm.”

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“Millions of Puerto Ricans are still waiting for power to come back after storms destroyed their supergrid, while 38 million farmers across sub-Saharan Africa are grappling with food shortages after prolonged drought,” she said. Countries also face “less visible but just as devastating climate impacts” such as melting glaciers, she added.

She predicted it would be challenging to reach a consensus on how to pay for those losses at the climate conference, however.

While the negotiations inevitably focus on national commitments to action on climate change, pushes by other actors –such as cities, states and civil society – to reduce their emissions will be crucial to sustain the momentum at the talks, panel members said.

“The more radical ideas are coming from civil society,” said Huq, citing a bigger push from citizens for companies to pick up the bill for the damage they do to the planet.

“I think more governments will be willing to sign up to the ‘polluter pays’ principle in Bonn,” he added.