The Climate Change Talks in Warsaw and the Devastating Typhoons and Tropical Cyclones “The Case of the Philippines and Puntland State of Somalia”

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burci_20100529_1By: Buri M. Hamza

bhamza@hotmail.com

The 19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP19) is currently convened in Warsaw, Poland against a backdrop of devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and by the tropical cyclones in the Puntland State of Somalia. Even though the impacts of these disasters cannot conclusively be linked to global warming from a scientific perspective; however, Typhoon Haiyan, which is reported to have killed at least 4000 people and left over 600,000 homeless in the Philippines overshadows the current UN climate change talks. Scientists may also still contend that the link between man-made global warming and hurricane activity is yet to be established. However, rising sea levels brought about by greenhouse gas emissions have made low-lying nations more vulnerable to storms.

It is reported that the Philippines negotiator at the Conference, prompted by the destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in his country, reminded his fellow delegates that unless something is done about the greenhouse gas emissions, which are warming the planet, the world will brace for more hurricanes and typhoons. He has also called on the developed countries to step up their emissions cuts and their pledges of financing to help the developing countries cope with the rising seas and other impacts of the climate change. He went on to plead for more emergency measures for the hardest hit areas in his country, which are experiencing severe shortages in food, water, medicines, and other basic necessities.

Assuming that Somalia is also represented at the Conference, its delegates at the talks are yet to implore for an emergency assistance for the parts of Somalia that have been struck by the impacts of the tropical cyclones. The extreme weather events currently devastating both the Philippines and Somalia are tied to global warming and all the delegates at the Conference believe that the typhoons will increase in intensity and frequency if climate change is left unchecked. Somalia has acceded to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and to the Kyoto Protocol in 2009 and 2010, respectively. And following these accessions, Somalia participated in the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COPs), and in the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th sessions of the Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMPs), convened in Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, and Doha, respectively. We are assuming that Somalia is attending COP 19 and CMP9 currently taking place in Warsaw, Poland.

And if turns out that Somalia is in fact represented at the current Warsaw Conference, its delegates will be expected to deliver and plead for help given the fact that the devastation that is now unfolding in the State of Puntland, because of the impacts of cyclones, has led to death and other disasters. It is reported that the hardest hit areas are being inaccessible. The infrastructures have been severely affected, and the blocked roads and damaged airports are impeding relief efforts. The full scale of the disaster may not be apparent yet, but it is feared that the impacts would induce further impoverishment, increased health problems and profound consequences on the people’s livelihoods.

We call on the Federal Government of Somalia and the authorities in Puntland and Somaliland to also declare a “state of national calamity” and implore for more emergency assistance from the international community to cope with the aftermath of the devastation brought about by these cyclones. The scale of the destruction caused by the Typhoon Haiyan may overshadow the disaster in Somalia, but the devastation in the State of Puntland and parts of Somaliland cannot be ignored. Massive relief efforts are immediately needed. Food, water, medicines, and shelters must be immediately delivered to the people affected by these natural disasters.

Because Somalia is now a Party to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, and is classified as one of the countries that are “given special consideration by the Convention because of its limited capacity to respond to climate change and adapt to its adverse effects,” it should take the necessary measures to secure the funding that is allocated for the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – the financial mechanism of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). The funding and the expertise made available can help the country respond to its urgent and immediate needs to adapt to the climate change. Adaptation to climate change is vital in order to reduce vulnerability and build resilience.

And as the floods and storms that have struck Puntland and parts of Somaliland are climate-related, Somalia should take actions under the UNFCCC to establish a system for early warning on floods caused by global warming. Somalia should also embark on the preparation of its National Communications under the UNFCCC in order to meet its reporting requirement as a Party pursuant to Article 12.1 and 4.1 of the Climate Change Convention. The core elements of the National Communications encompass, among other important details, information on vulnerability assessment and adaptation, and the measures that are needed to be taken to mitigate impacts of climate change.

As our people in the State of Puntland and parts of Somaliland are bracing for more destructions because of the heavy rains and storms, we hope that our call for a massive relief efforts for the affected populations will not be unheeded. Aid in the Philippines has been arriving slowly and the survivors of the Typhoon Haiyan are becoming increasingly desperate. We call on the UN relief agencies and aid organizations not to let the survivors of Puntland and parts of Somaliland down and avert any delay in the delivery of the most basic needs to the hardest hit areas.
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Hon. Buri M. Hamza is an MP in the House of the People of the Federal Republic of Somalia (bhamza@hotmail.com)