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Remarks at the Launch of the Global Humanitarian Forum Report, ‘The Human face of Climate Change’

Geneva, Switzerland
“By working together, recognising our common humanity and shared challenge, we can provide climate justice and a better world.”

Thank you for joining us today to launch this important report from the Global Humanitarian Forum on the human impact of climate change.

It includes the research of many institutions and the contributions of many distinguished experts – some of whom are with us today.

Let me introduce Barbara Stocking, the chief executive of Oxfam Great Britain – a member of the high level panel that helped to prepare this report and a board member of the Global Humanitarian Forum.

We are also joined by Walter Fust, the chairman of the Global Humanitarian Forum.

And by Søren Andreasen of Dalberg Global Development Advisers, which compiled the research behind this report.

They will together be able to answer your detailed questions on its findings.

But before we take your questions, I want to say a few words about why I believe this report is important.

It is a first attempt to capture the impact of climate change on human life around the world.

It helps underline that climate change is not a distant threat nor simply an environmental crisis but is already having a severe impact on millions of people around the globe.

There is, of course, a great deal more we need to know- and this report points to where further urgent research is needed.

But the picture emerging is alarming and demands attention and action.

The report’s findings indicate that the lives of hundreds of millions of people are already permanently or temporarily affected by climate change.

These figures are set to increase sharply as the extreme-weather disasters, desertification and rising sea levels, all exacerbated by climate change, intensify.

This will have serious social, political and security implications not just for the countries direct affected, but for us all.

Even now, the annual economic cost of this disruption is estimated at $125 billion.

But it is the frightening human cost, too often over-looked, which this report focuses on.

It is a cost which falls on those least responsible for climate change – and without the resources to cope.

It is not the poor of the world who are polluting our atmosphere.

The 50 least developed nations contribute less than 1% of global carbon emissions.

But it is the poorest on our planet who are being first and worst hit by the changes to our climate they are not causing.

The vast majority of victims suffering from climate change live in the world’s poorest countries.

These are the very people, for whom daily life is already a hard struggle, who are least resilient and able to respond to this crisis.

Up until now, the scope of their plight has gone largely unnoticed. It is why we are saying that the human impact of climate change is a silent crisis.

It is time we gave them a voice.

That is why the Global Humanitarian Forum, along with many other organisations around the world, is calling for a fair, global and binding agreement at Copenhagen.

We are demanding that climate justice be at the heart of any agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate justice means recognising that pollution has a cost, and that this cost must be borne by the polluter.

It requires those businesses and nations primarily responsible for the emissions causing climate change to take the lead in tackling it.

And that expertise and funds are readily made available by the richer countries to help poorer nations protect their people, adapt to the climate change already underway and grow their economies in a sustainable way.

At the moment, only a fraction of the resources needed have been provided. This is adding insult to injury.

This report makes bleak reading.

There is a danger that faced with these grim statistics and the human misery they highlight, that pessimism – even fatalism – sets in.

But while we can not underestimate the scale or urgency of the challenge, this would be to ignore our history.

Climate change is, after all, the accidental by-product of humankind’s ingenuity and drive to overcome challenges to improve our lives.

We need to harness this same commitment, vision, political will and capacity for innovation to tackle climate change and protect people from its impact.

If we do, we can not only slow down climate change, safeguard the quality of life of future generations, but do so in a way which spreads prosperity and creates opportunities.

We have the chance to move from carbon based economies to those which can grow in a sustainable way.

Climate change strategies offer a chance for developing nations to leapfrog towards efficient renewable technologies, creating jobs and raising living standards.

Indeed, with the right investment and expert help, the developing world is ideally placed to develop renewable sources such as solar and thermal power to meet world-wide concerns about energy security.

By working together, recognising our common humanity and shared challenge, we can provide climate justice and a better world.
I hope this report will help move us towards this goal.



“By working together, recognising our common humanity and shared challenge, we can provide climate justice and a better world.”