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U.S. Hinders Progress at Climate Talks

World Wildlife Fund Global

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Director General, Jim Leape, made the following statements Dec. 5 on where the negotiations stand and where countries must move from here:

“We’re not done here. This process is too important given its inclusion of the most vulnerable countries to let the actions of a few governments impede progress. The fact that we will ultimately need a fair, ambitious and binding agreement to tackle the threat of climate change has and will not change.

“Here in Durban, we need agreement around a package that includes the creation of the Green Climate Fund and a work plan to get some money into it. And we need to secure a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.

“What this process is not delivering is ambition on emissions reductions. In fact, there is not a single scenario on the table right now that allows us to avoid catastrophic climate change. And that is not the fault of the process. It is the fault of governments.

“Before we came to Durban, we were talking about a post-2012 climate change regime, and now because of the U.S. and a few other countries, we’re talking about a post-2020 regime. But if we have no ambition on emission reductions and a timeline aimed at 2020 for implementation, we could end up legally bound to a 4 degree world. And that would be catastrophic.

“It is striking that as the U.S. hinders progress here, it is acting against its own self- interest. Just this past year, 47 of the 50 United States were forced to declare a state of emergency in response to climate-related weather disasters. Fourteen of these disasters cost over a billion dollars each.

“So while politicians continue to bicker around the edges of the negotiations, we will be looking for leaders to engage on the real issues here. We NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are here to address the urgent threat of climate change and ensure a future world where there is enough food, water and energy for all. Might be good to ask governments why they’re here.”

What WWF wants out of negotiators in Durban:

  • The Cancun agreements must be implemented.
  • Must commit to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Lay the foundation for negotiating a legally binding global agreement that includes all countries by 2015.
  • Create the Global Climate Fund and let the money flow.
  • Use the opportunity of COP (Conference of the Parties) 17 to increase ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

For more about WWF’s expectations and other media resources, click here.

For more information, click here.

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"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

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"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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