By Busani Bafana
The influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC - this week published its Synthesis Report for the Fifth Assessment on the science of climate change, confirming the phenomenon is real and here to stay.
The 40-page synthesis report released in Copenhagen on Nov. 1 is a poser for the climate change negotiations towards a binding agreement expected to be ready in Peru for signing in Paris.
But are policy makers listening who what scientists are saying, one question and others that Busani Bafana put to Harjeet Singh, Actionaid's International Coordinator for Climate change and Disaster Reduction.
Busani: Are you convinced that the findings of the IPCC set the right tone towards a new, hopefully binding agreement in Peru or Paris?
Harjeet: This report is the most comprehensive, scrutinised and authoritative assessment of scientific literature ever produced. And the message that has come out really highlights a number of key issues for the upcoming climate negotiations in Peru and Paris.
In recognising that it is the people who have done the least to cause the problem who suffer most from climate change, the report sends a strong signal that solutions need to recognise this injustice, and be based on fairness and equity.
It acknowledges that adaptation has been treated as the poor cousin of mitigation, and has not been paid the same level of attention for policies and finance, and this urgently needs to change. In fact, it represents a key breakthrough in highlighting the absolute urgency and priority of adaptation action. But it also confirms what many countries have been saying: that has been a major gap between what is needed and the funds made available for adaptation so far.
The report is also significant in the way that it recognises that there are limits to adaptation. This sends another important signal to UN climate negotiators taking place in Lima next month, and in Paris next year, because it warns that some communities will face such severe and irreversible impacts that they simply will not be able to adapt to climate change.
This means that solutions based on justice, fairness and equity require rich countries to give finance to affected countries through the UN's Loss and Damage Mechanism, the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund.
Given the huddling still going on marked by lack of commitment by developed countries to cutting emissions, are you convinced that we have the right mechanism to address the issue of 'Loss and Damage'?
The right mechanism for loss and damage has been put in place, as it was one of the key issues agreed in Warsaw last year. Countries now need to make sure that this has sufficient money and political backing to address the issue comprehensively, as it goes beyond finance.
In recognising the limits to adaptation, the IPCC gives a strong signal on the issue of loss and damage. In fact, a clear mechanism for loss and damage has the potential to further encourage mitigation ambition.
In fact, what progress has the world made towards a draft text for discussions at Lima and what format do you foresee this text taking?
The climate talks have now become very focused on country level targets on numbers around emission reduction and finance, and also progress towards adaptation. The time for rhetoric and blame game has gone.
If Lima ends without a draft text or rather a weak one, what is the next course of action and what does this means for Paris?
All countries are keen to come out of Lima with a draft text that they can then discuss over the next year. The IPCC report will have sent the strongest possible message to the countries that are dragging their feet, as it shows a stark contrast between the path of action and the consequences of inaction.
The good news is that the report really highlights that climate action is no longer an economic burden, but an attractive option with enormous benefits.
People around the world, and especially in Africa, are already feeling the consequences of climate change, so politically it would be too risky for politicians to return from Lima empty-handed. But a weak agreement could be even more dangerous than no agreement at all, because it could lock the planet into inadequate action and increasing disasters for the next decades. We absolutely need ambition, as well as fairness and equity for the poor, to be the basis of the new climate deal.