Global deal on climate – an overwhelming task

The entrance to the COP21 conference centre in Paris

It’s easy to get overwhelmed here in Paris.

In Paris during these first two weeks of December, the world is attempting to agree a climate deal to limit carbon emissions, slow global warming and reduce its devastating effects. This is the global agreement which will replace the Kyoto Protocol under which current carbon reduction commitments end in 2020.

The significance of these two weeks on whether or not the world will be able to tackle climate change is immense.

I am here with CARE colleagues from north and south making sure that the voices of those we work with are heard at this global platform, and that this global agreement will help them deal with climate change they are facing now and will face in the future.

With over 45,000 participants representing 195 different countries, including almost 1,600 environmental and development organisations, in a 45-acre conference site – every day becomes overwhelming.

  • Overwhelmed by the thousands of women and men speaking out about their homes being destroyed by dangerous floods, or food crops ruined by season after season of no rain.
  • Overwhelmed by the hundreds of meetings taking place every day late into the night, with country negotiators trying to hammer out a global climate deal.
  • Overwhelmed by the balance of ‘red lines’ and ‘real-politik’ by individual governments and negotiating blocs, arguing and trading off to ensure each sentence in the 48-page document serves their own country’s interests.
  • Overwhelmed by the amount of media coverage and publicity from all over the world covering this global event, a continual stream of press conferences and media interviews.
  • Overwhelmed by the effort we as CARE are doing to influence our governments to make sure the deal is fair to those who are most affected by climate change but have contributed the least to its causes.

Women we support are already facing the sharp end of climate change – such as Nana, a 28-year old farmer in Niger who had been affected by repeated drought and has to forage for food to feed her children when her crops fail. And Carmen, a 23 year-old Peruvian woman who had to endure inhumane working conditions as a housemaid, because less water in her rural village meant her family struggled to grow crops and she had to move to the city to support her family.

CARE’s projects in these communities have helped these women find better ways to deal with the impacts of climate change, and improve their lives, those of their families and communities.

It may seem a far distance between Nana and Carmen in the south and these high-level negotiators, government officials and ministers at a global conference in Paris. But if successful, this climate deal will set us in the right direction to reduce the severity of impacts they face through a clear target for reducing emissions, and provide reliable commitments for support and funding to help their countries and others deal with these impacts.

Securing a global agreement may seem an overwhelming task, but we’ve got to do it. For the women and communities having to survive in a harshly changing climate, theirs is a much more overwhelming task.

By Sheri Lim, Climate Change & Resilience Team Leader, CARE International UK

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.