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Nations Facing Climate Destruction Warn Leaders At COP26: "Sea Levels Are Rising And Fires Are Burning"

Teddy Mugabo, chief executive officer of the Rwanda Green Fund said the country is at risk of droughts and flooding without urgent action.

5 min read

Nations severely at risk of drought, floods and rising sea water as a result of climate change have made an urgent appeal to world leaders at COP26 to act now before it’s “too late”.

Delegates from across the globe are in attendance at the 12 day summit in Glasgow, from the tiny South Pacific island Tuvalu, which faces the risk of rising sea levels, to Rwanda, where weather events leave subsistence farmers regularly teetering on the edge of survival.  

Vincent J. F Huang, who advises the Government of Tuvalu on the climate emergency, warned that the islands are "twenty to thirty years away from being submerged," despite the fact that the country produces virtually no carbon emissions from its three reef islands and six atolls.

"Even at high tide at the moment, things are being submerged," he told PoliticsHome. "It’s very dangerous right now.”

Pictured: Vincent J. F Huang, advisor for the climate emergy for the Government of Tuvalu. Credit: PoliticsHome.

"This conference is so important not just for Tuvalu but for the planet," Huang continued. "We have to reduce carbon emissions. We must have action, action, action.” 

Many countries that are acutely vulnerable to climate change have attended COP26 to lobby for a better financing model for developing nations that are fighting extreme weather events.

At the landmark COP summit in Paris in 2015, countries agreed to set up a new global carbon market system to help nations decarbonise their economies, known as Article 6, although details of how it will work are still being thrashed out at this year's event in Glasgow.

Teddy Mugabo, chief executive of the Rwanda Green Fund which funds $270 million worth of climate adaptation and mitigation projects in the country, believed there was an urgent need to find new and innovative ways of generating funding from public and private sources. 

"We can’t rely on grants and public money forever," she said.

"Under Article 6 the carbon credit market is one of the things we are all waiting for. I hope from here, COP26 will have a clear strategy and framework on how the carbon market can work.”

Pictured: Tishiko King, a Zenadth Kes/Torres Strait Island woman and organiser at Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network. Credit: PoliticsHome.

Mugabo explained that Rwanda's agriculture sector, upon which she said 80% of the population relies, was especially vulnerable to the impact of changing weather. 

"In the northern part of the country, it’s vulnerable to flooding and caused landslides," she warned. 

"People have lost their lives, property and infrastructure development.”

Citing a report on the Econommics of Climate Change by the Stockholm Environment Institute, Mugabo said Rwanda's GDP will lose 1% per-year as a result of rising global temperatures.

“Rainfall patterns have changed but the amount of rainfall that would fall in one month could fall in one day. It’s getting worse,” she added. 

“Can you imagine sea level rise? Can you imagine the threat of what that would be like? That worries me.

"I don’t think people think about how scary this would be if it did happen," she said.

Pictured: Pastor Ray Minniecon, a descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation, the Gurang Gurang nation and the South Sea Islander people.  Credit: PoliticsHome.

Tishiko King, a Zenadth Kes/Torres Strait Islander woman was part of a group of climate change protesters speaking outside the Austrialian pavilion at the COP26 event today. 

“For so long there has been first nation voices missing from these discussions and key conversations. The urgency is now," she said. 

“With our sea levels rising in the Torres Straits and fires burning across our country, limited water accessibility, first nations people are being impacted now and the time for action now.”

The UK has committed to reaching net zero by 2050, but some of the most polluting nations, incluidng India and China are significantly behind, with commitments of 2070 and 2060 respectively. 

“2050 is not enough we need serious change this decade,” King added. 

Ray Minniecon, a community pastor with St. John’s Anglican Church in Glebe, near Sydney, Australia, also spoke at the demonstration. 

He said Aboriginal people should have a 'seat at the table' when Australia is involved in climate talks because of their knowledge of the country and the solutions they have to offer. 

“We looked after our country for for hundreds of years then invaders came in and in 200 years they wrecked the place," he explained. 

"Our country is being destroyed, while we’re just sitting in it. It’s just not right.”

They were also joined by Rikki Dank, a Gudanji/Wakaja woman from Borroloola a remote community in the Northern Territory Australia. She said she had travelled to COP26 to make a stand against the gas fracking taking place in the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory.  

Mikko Ollikainen, head of the Adaptation Fund, a UN based fund to help developing countries try and withstand the impact of climate change said the global adaptation needs are enormous, and only a fraction of them are being financed.

Ollikainen also believed the reform of funding models for work taclking climate change was a key part of the success from COP26.

"Many vulnerable countries are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic at the same time as the urgency of climate change is increasing," he continued. 

"But this year presents an opportunity to build back a more sustainable, resilient, green global society.

"We often see the same vulnerable countries impacted disproportionately by both climate change and the pandemic." 

Ollikainen added that this year’s COP summit includes a top goal of enhancing adaptation ambition and action, so the fund hopes to see more financial contributors by the end of the event.

Since 2010, the Adaptation Fund has committed US$ 850 million to projects and programmes across 100 countries, including 19 small island developing states and 33 least developed countries.

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