Protecting the ants from the elephants

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Protecting the ants from the elephants

By Milan Gandhi


The Pacific island of Kiribati is one of the countries that will have most problems from climate change. (Dep. of Foreign Aid and Affairs under a Creative Commons Licence)

Humans will soon have to face the hottest 30-year period on Earth in 1,400 years. The new international climate change agreement must do something about stopping more global warming and also protecting the world from the effects of very bad fires, storms, floods and more.

Teburoro Tito, who used to be President of the Pacific island of Kiribati, said: ‘It’s like the ants making a home on a leaf floating on a pond. And the elephants drink from the pond and make the water too rough. The problem isn’t what the ants do. The problem is how to make the elephants more gentle.’

The elephants have not been gentle. Recently, Kiribati bought land in Fiji because of the risk that their land will be under water soon, because the ocean is rising.

For the people with the worst effects of global warming – because the industrialized world has not stopped using fossil fuels – it is not enough to only stop more global warming. They need help adapting to climate change. And this must be the central point of the international climate talks.

At the UN Climate Conference in Lima this month, the central point of the talks are the promises each country will make, or ‘INDCs’ (‘intended nationally determined contributions’).

INDCs are promises that countries will make so that, together, the world will limit the rise of the global average temperature. When the INDCs are finished, they will be the base of a new global, legal agreement about climate change. This will be ready before the UN Climate Conference in Paris next year.

Some people think that the INDC of a rich country should have two things: very good targets to cut CO2 emissions; and many promises of money to help poor countries adapt and prepare for the effects of climate change.

Other people, particularly from the developed countries, think INDCs should not include stopping climate change (‘mitigation’). They think the developing countries should help in a small way, not depending on aid money. They don’t want to lose the main aim, of stopping climate change, in a mixture of many other things that are ‘not so important’. The United States (one of the countries who don’t think INDCs should include stopping climate change) said at the UN recently ‘INDCs are not the only game in town’.

If we bring all the adaptation together through all countries’ INDCs, this might make it more probable that the countries with most effects from climate change get enough support from the rich countries (who create the climate change). But we should not allow countries to promise to pay for adaptations and not pay to stop climate change; if they do one and not the other, this will have a lot of very serious effects.

Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank President, said ‘Dramatic climate changes and weather extremes are already affecting millions of people around the world, damaging crops and coastlines and putting water security at risk.’

A solution that does not include both mitigation and adaptation will not be enough. We must protect the ants from the elephants.

Milan Gandhi is a student of the University of Queensland and is at the 2014 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).