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Climate change: Will Cancun deliver a better future for children?

2010 has been a year of disasters. It has shattered the views of the sceptics and provided stark evidence for climate change.

There is an increasingly strong evidence from the climate scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) that climate change is indeed happening and is the biggest environmental, political, and social challenge this world has seen.

The floods in Pakistan, Russian wildfires, the droughts in Niger, mudslides in China, and hurricanes in the Atlantic all bear testimony to the growing threat of climate change engulfing the poorest and the most vulnerable communities.

The worst victims of climate change are children – children who have done nothing to deserve such a life and such a future.

For a truly fair, equitable and effective solution to climate change, it is absolutely key that children are engaged as part of the answer.

Save the Children’s latest paper Right to a Future: Climate Change Negotiations must be accountable to children highlights how climate change poses a serious threat to child survival.

It presents practical examples of the much-needed linkages between climate change and wider issues such as child survival, health, social protection, livelihoods, education and disaster risk reduction, providing momentum on climate change discussions.

It’s a few days to go before the COP16 meeting at Cancun kicks off and the clock is ticking – 192 country representatives will gather at the Mexican Caribbean to discuss the future of this planet’s children. 

After the Copenhagen fiasco, everyone is looking to Cancun to restore a bit of the lost legitimacy and credibility of the global negotiation process and sow some seeds of optimism and trust.

While Copenhagen was a classic case of overpromise and underdelivery, many of us earnestly hope that the reverse will happen in Cancun, and that there will be overdelivery on the underpromises made so far.  

The Copenhagen Accord was the only saving grace for COP 15. It set out a commitment to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degree Celsius, and a commitment to find fast-start finance of 30 billion USD until 2012.

There is also a commitment of long-term finance of 100 billion USD  to be found between 2012 -2020. While these commitments were mildly reassuring at some level, there remains a lack of clarity on the “how?” question.

In my view, there are four main decisions that need to come out of Cancun to make the investment of time and resources worthwhile. We need this progress to ensure that the climate change agenda moves forward and overcomes its current paralysis . 

The delegates at Cancun need to deliver:

  1. A legally binding agreement on the limitation  of greenhouse gas emissions by both developing and developed countries.
  2. A follow-up on the pledge to fast-track finance by the G20 and signatories of the Kyoto Protocol. Those countries which have not pledged yet need to come forward and do so, and those who have pledged less than initially agreed upon must meet their full commitments to rebuild trust and a sense of fairness.
  3. A pledge that both short and the long-term finance is new and additional, and delivers a balance of funding for both adaptation and mitigation, with equal significance. Adaptation needs to embed the Hyogo Framework for Action principles of disaster risk reduction, and a focus on solutions such as early warning systems.
  4. An agreement between developing and developed countries on the governance processes for the fast-start financing, the Green Fund and the Adaptation Fund. And ensure transparency and accountability so clear baselines are agreed and there is clarity on monitoring and reporting – to ensure what is agreed upon is indeed what is delivered.

The implications of the agreements in Cancun on the future of our children cannot be overemphasised – climate change threatens to reverse any progress on the Millennium Development Goals made in the last decade.

As we discuss the overall political expectations from the Cancun process, let us not forget we are treading on the future of innocent children who will bear the impact of every decision we take or do not take.

They need to be involved and engaged at every step and their voices and experiences be heard as we move forward in evolving a consensus on this serious global challenge.

I go to Cancun with a sense of nervous excitement and a hope that the children of today will have a better chance to survive and thrive in a future of their own design.

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