Combating climate change is a 'moral duty'

The international community must show 'unwavering solidarity' to help prevent the humanitarian disasters associated with climate change, argues Louis Michel.

By Louis Michel

02 Dec 2014

Climate change poses an unprecedented threat to the future of our planet. Equity, solidarity and responsibility are the principles that should guide our actions. It is a moral duty towards our children and grandchildren. The UN conference on climate change (COP20), which will take place from 1-12 December in Lima, Peru, offers a unique opportunity for the EU to position itself as a world leader in defending developing countries’ interests and in promoting the financing of their climate change adaptation programmes.

While the poorest and most vulnerable countries are not responsible for the effects of climate change, they are the most affected. Their efforts will go unheeded if the international community does not display an unwavering solidarity to help them adapt to these disturbances.

The agriculture and fisheries industries, which are the foremost economic activities in developing countries, are facing the heat waves, extreme droughts and floods. It is clear that climate change can cause particularly severe famines, which could lead to conflicts in developing countries.

Climate change can present demographic challenges and see shortages of drinking water, which has a devastating effect on the population.

Similarly, without global action, small island states in the Pacific are condemned to disappear. Humanitarian crises in Mauritius, Cuba, Haiti, the Philippines and elsewhere remain etched in our memories.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has said, "Adaptation is both a practical need and a moral imperative". If no significant action is taken, we will lead the world to disaster and chaos, throwing thousands of climate refugees on to the road.

"Priority should be given to a coherent, comprehensive and integrated approach of financing the fight against the climate"

Ambitious reforms must be implemented, particularly with regard to the system of trading of emission allowances. Economic growth and climate protection have to be mutually reinforcing, which means there is a need to diversify energy sources and to reduce our energy dependence.

Being an optimist, I am convinced that climate change could be an opportunity to move rapidly towards a successful economic transition in terms of innovation and research. The EU must tackle this problem head-on to contribute decisively to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The EU, as the largest official development aid (ODA) donor, has the capacity and expertise to play a leading role in developing the technologies needed to fight against this scourge, such as low carbon intensity technology. There is an opportunity to develop greater solidarity between north and south.

Strong actions are needed in the framework of the EU-Africa partnership on climate change, the global alliance against climate change which concerns particularly the least developed countries and small island developing states.

Acting efficiently requires substantial financial resources. When I became an MEP, I introduced the idea of establishing a tax income on international financial transactions to be directed not only to the ODA but also to the adaptation to climate change. Priority should be given to a coherent, comprehensive and integrated approach of financing the fight against the climate change and development programmes.

The COP 20 comes at a critical juncture. The COP 21, which is foreseen as putting forward a binding international regime for post-2020 climate action, is to be held in Paris in 2015. The negotiations for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda are being conducted and the 2015 conference on the post-Hyogo framework on disaster risk reduction is approaching.

This crucial step is an opportunity for the EU to encourage international partners and members states to face up to their responsibilities to implement and comply with the commitments made at previous COPs towards developing countries.

We all carry a heavy responsibility towards our youth. As the Peruvian minister of the environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal recently said, "The world will not accept another failure".


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