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At Lima Talks, Nations Worst Hit by Global Warming Say Climate Aid Isn’t Charity, But Reparations

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Convening in Lima, Peru, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference is in its second and final week of talks. Negotiators from 190 nations are working on a global deal to limit climate change, due to be agreed on in Paris next year. Just last week the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization said 2014 is on track to be the hottest on record, or at least among the very warmest. Including this year, 14 of the 15 hottest years on record will have been in the 21st century. Deep divisions remain between developed and developing nations on how much the world’s largest polluters should cut emissions and how much they should help poorer nations deal with climate change. We are joined by two guests: Lidy Nacpil of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, and Saleemul Huq, a Bangladeshi climate scientist who is advising the bloc of least developed countries in the climate negotiations.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from the U.N. climate summit in Lima, Peru. It’s the second week of the 20th COP—that’s Conference of Parties. To talk more about these climate talks, we’re joined here by Dr. Saleemul Huq, a climate scientist from Bangladesh who works at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London. He’s also the director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh. He’s the adviser for the bloc of least developed countries in the climate negotiations. Lidy Nacpil is still with us, convener of the Philippine Movement for Climate justice and many other groups.

And, Dr. Saleemul Huq, we welcome you to Democracy Now!, welcome you back, as we’ve had you each year as we covered these climate summits. Can you summarize what has happened so far in this climate summit? Peru has not been talked about as much as next year, which will be a binding summit. So what’s happening here at the U.N. climate summit?

SALEEMUL HUQ: Well, this is a stepping stone on the road to Paris next year, where we hope to have a new deal which will replace the previous Kyoto Protocol that we had many years ago. We are hoping that in Lima we will put in place all the elements that we need in such a deal. This is the last chance to get in whatever people want to get into it. Once we leave Lima, we won’t be able to put anything else in it, so there’s a lot of arguments about what stays in and what doesn’t get in. From the developing countries’ side, we need good actions, strong actions, on the developed countries to reduce their emissions and pay up the money that they promised. From our side, we also want action on adaptation, and a very contentious issue—

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “adaptation”?

SALEEMUL HUQ: It’s helping the poorest countries, like the Philippines and Bangladesh, to adapt to the impacts of climate change. We are seeing them now, as we see right now in Manila.

AMY GOODMAN: How is Bangladesh affected?

SALEEMUL HUQ: Bangladesh is very badly affected by floods and typhoons over the years, similar to the ones that we’re seeing in the Philippines.

AMY GOODMAN: You also recently were in Kenya.

SALEEMUL HUQ: That’s right. I was in Kenya a week ago, and they have had the massive drought in the northern part of the country, with millions of people now displaced because of that. So the effects of climate change in the poor countries is real, is happening. People are being affected. Under the climate change negotiations, rich countries have promised to assist with finance. They’ve given some, but nowhere near the amount that they promised.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about adaptation and also this issue of loss and damage, which I think Yeb Saño very much came to personify, sort of one figure representing the Filipino people and beyond?

SALEEMUL HUQ: Absolutely. So, the impacts of climate change are now very, very clear. The Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC, which has just come out, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of scientists, which Dr. Pachauri presented here, is very, very clear about the science. Climate is changing, it’s human-induced, and that we need to take action, and the window for taking action is closing very fast. Impacts are occurring as we speak, mostly in poor countries, but even rich countries. The drought in California in the United States is an example.

And we need to deal with that by adaptation, by preparing ourselves to deal with the impacts of climate change. But we’re not going to be able to deal with everything. There are things that are beyond adaptation and, unfortunately, beyond our ability to mitigate now. And there will be losses and damage occurring inevitably. Last year in Warsaw, that was an issue that came up. We agreed on a Warsaw international mechanism. The fight here in Lima is whether we need to put that into the Paris agreement. Developing countries want it to be there; developed countries are fighting very strongly not to include it.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to comments made by the head of the China delegation at the climate talks. Su Wei said the pledges made by rich countries to a green fund to help poor nations cope with global warming are, quote, “far from adequate.” This is some of what he had to say.

SU WEI: The objective for the 2020 is the provision of $100 billion per year by 2020, so $10 billion is just one-tenth of that objective, and yet we do not have any clear roadmap or clear picture of meeting that target by 2020. Of course, the $10 billion is not for a year even. It applies to the initial capitalization of the GCF, so that’s why I said that maybe it’s far from adequate. And it would be ranging from three to four years, but so, that’s still a large gap between the—towards the 2020 targets of $100 billion per year.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the head of the China delegation at the climate talks, Su Wei. Talk about this Global Climate Fund and also the role of China and the U.S., Dr. Saleemul Huq. They have just made a deal. I want to get your comment on that, as well.

SALEEMUL HUQ: Well, the rich countries have, a few years ago—in fact, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced this in Copenhagen many years ago—promised $100 billion a year from 2020 to help the developing countries tackle climate change. At the moment, the funds that have been pledged just about reach $10 billion out of $100 [billion], so they’re at 10 percent or less and a long way to go. And I think that’s what the Chinese head of delegation was referring to.

In terms of the large picture of what the U.S. and China have recently announced, that is certainly a very, very good sign. The U.S. president and the Chinese president have both announced action on climate change, which is very different from what we had seen in Copenhagen.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to that moment, because that was extremely dramatic, that moment in Copenhagen when the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, announced—what was it? $100 billion would be put into the Global Climate Fund in 2020.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: The United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, this was extremely significant at the time, because President Obama—because of the role the United States had played—and maybe you can explain that, Dr. Huq—fiercely criticized for, in a sense, torpedoing these talks, and yet this very grandiose announcement about the Green Climate Fund.

SALEEMUL HUQ: Absolutely. It was a very welcome announcement from the United States—on behalf of rich countries. They weren’t going to do $100 billion themselves; it was all the rich countries putting the money in together. And it wasn’t going to start now; it’s going to start in 2020. So, there are some caveats in that, but it was very significant. At the moment, in Lima, we are seeing we have to start pledging into that fund. Until Lima, there’s been no money in that fund, the Green Climate Fund, which was set up at that time. Right now, as of today, we’ve just about reached very close to $10 billion in pledges, not just reached 10 yet. Hopefully, in Lima, we’ll cross the $10 billion mark, and we can start using those money, particularly for the poor countries to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change that I mentioned already. But at the same time, we have a long way to go to get to 100 from 10.

AMY GOODMAN: There are many in the United States, particularly Republicans in Congress, saying, “I mean, we just can’t afford this.” Would you call it altruism, U.S. helping poorer countries deal with climate change?

SALEEMUL HUQ: This is nothing to do with altruism. This is to do with reparations from polluters. The United States has risen as an economic power based on emissions over the last 150 years that have caused the damage that we are now seeing. They recognize that, and they have taken on the obligation to help the poorer victims of the impacts of climate change that is caused by human-induced pollution. This is a pollution treaty, and it’s about polluters and victims of pollution.

AMY GOODMAN: How does the U.S. compare to China, and what do you think of the deal President Obama just announced?

SALEEMUL HUQ: At the moment, the Chinese—the country of China has overtaken the United States as the biggest emitter. So the two of them together are the biggest emitters. Almost half emissions, global emissions, come from these two countries. And they have a big responsibility, which they are shouldering. So they are taking action. The problem is they’re not taking enough action.

AMY GOODMAN: And the fact, in the deal between China and the United States, Republicans are raising, attacking President Obama, saying China says it will peak before it goes down and that the U.S. is just committing to going down?

SALEEMUL HUQ: Well, that’s an obligation that was agreed a long time ago, that the rich countries, being responsible for the majority of the cumulative greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, should take action first, and developing countries should be given some time to go up before they come down. China has now made a commitment that they will come down. They hadn’t done that before, so that’s significant. But they will still be going up for a little while before they start coming down with their emissions. Ultimately, we have to get to zero emissions, whether we like it or not, if we want to tackle this problem.

AMY GOODMAN: Lidy Nacpil, you were shaking your head vigorously.

LIDY NACPIL: Well, we were talking about finance, and, yes, it was significant, I would agree, but then we also have to say it’s significantly short of what is needed. And when we talk about finance needed for loss and damage, we’re not just talking about finance that will actually compensate for loss and damage. We have to talk about finance that will prevent loss and damage from becoming greater. And that has something to do with finance for mitigation actions in the South, which should not be seen as finance to help the South. It’s finance to help the North fulfill its mitigation obligations. And because they have accumulated such huge excesses of emissions, it’s no longer enough to do it domestically, even with extreme domestic actions. We in the South have to take on part of that, part of their obligations in the North. And for that, finance has to be delivered. So, it cannot be seen as assistance to the South. It should be seen as the South assisting the North to fulfill its obligations. So, in Lima, it certainly is very important to insist that even when we talk about mitigation agreement—

AMY GOODMAN: “Mitigation,” again, meaning?

LIDY NACPIL: Meaning reduction of emissions. Mitigation agreement has to include finance. And that is what they’re so much against.

AMY GOODMAN: A U.N. report released ahead of the climate talks in Lima urged governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2100, saying global warming was now causing more heat extremes, downpours, acidifying the oceans and pushing up sea levels. Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, warned of the long-term consequences of inaction at the climate summit.

RAJENDRA PACHAURI: If we do nothing, then by the end of the century you can see the substantial decrease in yields that would take place. And with a growing population and higher incomes, you can imagine food scarcity and food security and the whole issue of starvation and hunger become very large threats.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel Prize-winning organization of scientists. Dr. Saleemul Huq, talk about the significance of the report they put out just before the Lima summit and what it predicts.

SALEEMUL HUQ: The IPCC, which is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has produced its fifth report now, just a few months ago. And as Dr. Pachauri just said, it is showing us that things have got a lot worse. Our window of opportunity to take action has been reduced, and we need to be taking urgent action both on adaptation as well as on mitigation. One of the things that we in our organization are pushing for is what we call “zero-zero.” We need to go to zero emissions, and we need to go to zero poverty. We need to link the two. And if we want to solve this problem, we can’t do one without the other. We’re going to have to do both of them, and we have to do them as fast as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: Are there any surprises expected? I mean, I believe just near here today there will be an action around what’s happening in the Philippines and what people can do about it, Lidy Nacpil.

LIDY NACPIL: Well, in terms of surprises from the talks, we hope there will be surprises for the better, that in fact that the developed country governments will give in to our demand to widen the coverage of the agreement. But we’re also hoping that there will be more actions, because those kinds of actions is required from us, from the civil society, so that we can have enough pressure on these governments.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Dr. Saleemul Huq, what you expect to see by the end of this conference, leading up to Paris next year?

SALEEMUL HUQ: We expect the negotiators and the governments who are here to come up with a good package that, on the one hand, is adequate to solve the problem. An inadequate package is simply not going to be acceptable. On the other hand, they should also galvanize and build on the momentum that is happening around the world in taking actions. So, we’re not sitting and waiting for the Lima negotiators to come to a deal. People all over the world are actually doing things on the ground. And we need that to be supported and enhanced.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, the connection between disease and climate change?

SALEEMUL HUQ: This is one of the most important impacts of climate change. I mentioned the droughts in Kenya, which is affecting many, many people. The floods that we’re now seeing in Manila and the Philippines are going to leave a lot of health burden on the country, you know, the spreading of diarrheal diseases with the waters that get contaminated. And then, in the long term, there is malnutrition associated with the lack of food, that Dr. Pachauri mentioned. So, the health impacts on human beings, whether they’re in poor countries or even in rich countries like the United States, is going to be something that we’re all going to have to worry about.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we are going to leave it there, and I thank you very much for being with us. Dr. Saleemul Huq is a climate scientist at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, also director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh. He’s advising the bloc of least developed countries in the climate negotiations here in Peru. And Lidy Nacpil is convener of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Asia coordinator of Jubilee South, vice president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition of the Philippines, also serves on the board of and coordinates the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

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