Typhoon Haiyan Sparks Sense of Urgency Over Adaptation Efforts as Climate Talks Get Underway


International negotiators have begun meeting in Poland in hopes of making progress on a global climate change agreement, even as a devastating typhoon in the Philippines triggered renewed calls for wealthier industrialized nations to help vulnerable ones adapt to the effects of climate change.

The head of the Philippines delegation, Yeb Sano, told other delegates at the Nov. 11 opening plenary that the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan, including an estimated 10,000 or more deaths in central Philippines, illustrated in stark detail why more funding is needed to help developing countries adapt to rising sea levels and other effects of global warming.

Sano said he would protest the lack of international action by fasting until there is "meaningful" progress on climate change at the United Nations summit in Warsaw, which brings together representatives from more than 190 nations from Nov. 11-22 . The Warsaw talks serve as the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 9th Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

Aiming for Agreement in 2015

Climate finance plays a key role in the negotiations that over the next two years are supposed to conclude with an agreement in Paris that would commit developed and developing nations to cut global greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2020. The U.S. and other industrialized nations have pledged $100 billion a year for climate finance beginning in 2020, but developing nations say those pledges are vague and do not address the loss and damage incurred by nations already feeling the effects of climate change.

Marcin Korolec, Poland's environment minister and president of the COP in Warsaw, told reporters at a Nov. 12 news conference that the “loss and damage issue is part of the imminent political discussion” at the summit. He said he is “confident we will have a decision … by the end of the conference next week.”

“Although the positions of different countries today are quite different [there is] room for consensus” on loss and damage as well as other climate finance issues, he said.

Decisions on 'Mechanism' Needed

Negotiators agreed at last year's climate summit in Doha, Qatar, to settle on an “international mechanism” to address loss and damage when they conclude this year's talks in Warsaw.

One template for that approach is the fledgling Green Climate Fund, which is headquartered in South Korea and overseen by a 24-member board representing various countries. International climate negotiators agreed to launch the fund at the 2010 summit in Cancun, Mexico, and it will ultimately direct the $100 billion a year promised by industrialized nations to aid developing nations in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change.