Patricia rages on while climate change negotiations stumble | Dizzanne Billy

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By Dizzanne Billy

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday October 23, 2015 – The world would be better off if some records weren’t broken.

We woke up this morning to the startling news that the strongest hurricane ever recorded was raging through Mexico’s Pacific coast. Hurricane Patricia has now taken over from Super Typhoon Haiyan, which battered the Philippines in 2013 killing approximately 10,000 people. Patricia is a beast, packing an unrivaled 200 mph (320 kph).

While those who stand to be gravely affected by Patricia’s thunderous landfall rush to prepare, the curtains are closing on the peacock display in Bonn; the final lap of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP).

We are depending on the COP21 in Paris to bring about an international climate agreement that will, among other things, see governments acting toward significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and eventual full decarbonisation. However, the weak language in relation to loss and damage coupled with continuous power play is doing absolutely nothing to help the victims of climate change – victims who have contributed the least to the growth of the climate change monster.

Dominica is still picking up the pieces after the deadliest and most intense natural disaster to hit the country in recent history, Tropical Storm Erika, and the Philippines recently experienced unprecedented flooding, landslides, and destruction at the hands of Typhoon Koppu. Naturally, this news may evoke a sense of empathy.

We are not asking for sympathy, we are demanding action.

One of the most disruptive and contentious topics at the COPs of the past, loss and damage needs to be addressed with equity at the forefront. During the Bonn negotiations, developing countries protested the dismissal of loss and damage as an important issue. Most developed countries, namely the U.S., Australia, and Canada have been the most caustic advocates against the materialization of a mechanism to address loss and damage.  G77 + China stated that “not talking about loss and damage is equal to climate denial.” Indeed, it is unacceptable.

Money is the crux of the matter. Big emitters recognize that financial compensation will rack up a large bill, one that no one wants to pay. As a result, climate change effects intensify, people continue to die, and industrialized countries remain rigidly opposed to facing their sins.

See, the thing is, financial compensation hints at liability, something which countries rather stay away from accepting. However, Erika, Patricia, Koppu, and all their relatives wait on no one.

Today we are witnessing the effects of climate change and tomorrow they will be worsen.  Denying responsibility will not save lives and refusing to give loss and damage the attention it needs in COP21 will deal the cards in favour of the largest polluters.

According to official reports, Patricia’s eye is expected to move onshore tonight in the Mexican state of Jalisco, which includes the city of Puerto Vallarta, vacationing location for the rich and famous.

Negotiators hold the lives of so many in their hands and now is not the time to stumble.

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Dizzanne Billy is President of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) in Trinidad and Tobago, where she works in the areas of education and public awareness with regard to environment and development issues. She is a climate tracker with Adopt-A-Negotiator and a young advocate for climate change action.