, BONN, Germany, Jun 8 – A group of key UN and non-UN aid agencies attending climate change talks in Bonn have called for humanitarian impacts of climate change to be addressed in a new agreement expected to be reached in December.
The new treaty will be discussed at the crucial Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen at the end of the year to succeed the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.
“The scale of the potential humanitarian challenge presented by climate change in the future is huge,” said John Holmes, United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.
Joining forces, the 18 organisations of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) argued that the next agreement on climate change had to take the humanitarian perspective into account.
They said it was also essential for the agreement to set out a workable approach to help the world counter the impacts of extreme weather events and environmental degradation on vulnerable communities.
“This is a defining moment to ensure that the challenge is not insurmountable and human suffering is minimised,” Mr Holmes added.
The groups noted that the total number of people affected by disasters had risen sharply over the past decade with an average of 211 million people directly affected each year, nearly five times the number affected by conflict in the same period.
They also said extreme and slow onset climate events such as floods, storms, droughts, rising sea levels and desertification impacted more and more people each year, adversely affected human lives and livelihoods in many communities. The most vulnerable, included women and children already struggling with poverty, insecurity, hunger, poor health and environmental decline.
“For the first time, we have a solid indication of the scale of forced displacement as a result of sudden onset natural disasters in the context of climate change,” said NRC Secretary General Elisabeth Rasmusson.
She said climate change was also expected to dramatically affect patterns of migration and population movement.
“While migration is already a form of adaptation for some, the many millions expected to be displaced by prolonged droughts, repeated floods or storms will be especially vulnerable and require significant assistance and protection,” she said.
According to a new study by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) more than 20 million people were displaced by climate related sudden onset natural disasters in 2008 alone.