Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, Honorary President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia
By Denis McClean
DURBAN, 6 December 2011
- Parliamentarians from around the world gathered in Durban, South Africa, yesterday to press for progress in the COP17 climate change negotiations and called on the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) "to prioritize disaster risk reduction and capacity building as cross-cutting issues and to give them the utmost attention."
Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, Honorary President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia, said action on climate change had become a priority for the IPU and that parliamentarians dismayed at the lack of progress in the climate change negotiations “could not stand idly by waiting for national governments to take action.”
The veteran of the Namibian struggle for independence was speaking at the opening of a special Parliamentary Meeting on the Occasion of the UN Climate Change Conference organized by the IPU and the Parliament of South Africa.
He extended a special welcome to Margareta Wahlstrom, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, who said the relationship between Parliamentarians and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, UNISDR, goes back many years, and Parliamentarians are critically important in the struggle for greater political commitment to reducing risk and adapting to climate change in a context where disaster losses were increasing faster than growth in GDP.
She said there were abundant examples of our lack of wisdom when it comes to urban planning but most notable were the dramatic increases in populations living in disaster prone coastal belts and alongside rivers. World population growth since 1987 has been 87% but population growth in vulnerable coastal areas has been 194% and 140% in flood-prone river basins. “This says everything about where we put our economic resources and cities,” she said.
The unfortunate result of poor land zoning and planning decisions is that many countries around the world lose between 3% to 15% of their GDP annually, “monies which have an alternative use.” Parliamentarians were an important group for creating awareness of how disaster risk reduction contributes to climate change adaptation and how together they are an essential part of sustainable development.
She said this was a critical meeting and urged participants to support UNISDR’s efforts to mobilize governments around the world to collect their data losses so they are better able to asses s the economic and social impact of disasters on their country’s development and make more targeted investments to protect their development gains.
The IPU outcome document which becomes available today says that it is vital to build on the momentum from the Cancun COP16 talks last year “and ensure that the fast-start finance commitments made in Cancun are fully honored and rapidly disbursed.”
The IPU expressed its support for the UNFCCC as “the only forum for negotiations on climate change and that it is necessary to ensure that the interests of the developing countries, in particular the most vulnerable, are protected.
“We reiterate our view that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities must be the fundamental basis of any multilateral action to address climate change and must not be compromised. We reaffirm that we, as parliamentarians, will do all we can to enhance international cooperation with a view to achieving the objectives of the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol and the COP17 climate change agreements.”
They reaffirmed the “urgent need to support developing countries in implementing their adaptation plans, particularly the most vulnerable small island developing States (SIDS), the least developed countries (LDCs) and countries in Africa.
“We therefore underscore the importance of obtaining a guaranteed balance between adaptation and mitigation, the two facets of the efforts to combat climate change that are pivotal to the negotiations. We call on the Parties to prioritize disaster risk reduction and capacity-building as cross-cutting issues and to give them their utmost attention.”