Climate change talks must deliver following record year of extreme weather

Published: 29th November 2010

Negotiators should begin UN climate talks with far more urgency and resolve following a year of weather-related disasters, record temperatures, flooding and rising sea levels, international agency Oxfam said today.

Weather-related disasters have devastated the lives and livelihoods of poor people during 2010. The UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, will be held from 29 November to 10 December.

A new Oxfam report “More than ever: climate talks that work for those that need them most”, says that 21,000 people died due to weather-related disasters in the first nine months of 2010 – more than twice the number for the whole of 2009. This year is on course to experience more extreme-weather events than the ten-year average of 770. It is one of the hottest years ever recorded with Pakistan logging 53.7°C – the highest ever in Asia.

Report author Tim Gore of Oxfam said: “This year has seen massive suffering and loss due to extreme weather disasters. This is likely to get worse as climate change tightens its grip. The human impacts of climate change in 2010 send a powerful reminder why progress in Cancun is more urgent than ever.”

A Climate Fund to help the hardest hit

While climate change cannot be held responsible for a specific weather-related disaster, climate models indicate that the weather extremes of this year are likely to get worse due to climate change. Therefore people who are already vulnerable are likely to be at even greater risk.

The Pakistan floods affected more than 20 million people, submerging about a fifth of the country, claiming 2,000 lives and causing $9.7 billion in damage. Summer temperatures in Russia exceeded the long-term average by 7.8°C, doubling the daily death rate in Moscow to 700 and causing fires that destroyed 26 per cent of the country’s wheat crop. Russia banned grain exports as a result and soon after world grain prices increased, affecting poor people particularly.

In Cancun, Oxfam is calling for a fair Climate Fund so that money can get to those who need it most and can use it best. This fund should prioritize women because they are vital in helping communities to adapt successfully to climate impacts.

$1 on adaptation could save $60 in damages

Countries should identify new ways to raise the billions of dollars needed, such as putting levies on unregulated international aviation and shipping emissions and agreeing on a Financial Transaction Tax on banks. The sooner the money is delivered, the cheaper it will be to tackle climate change. Estimates suggest that every dollar spent on adaptation could save $60 in damages.

It is crucial that countries must make their informal pledges to cut or control emissions part of the formal negotiations. They should agree to increase these pledges enough so that global warming is kept below 1.5°C. They must use the Cancun talks to clear the path toward a comprehensive, fair and legally binding global deal.

Gore said: “Now is not the time to walk away from the UN. It is the only forum where the world can decide on an effective global response to an unfolding global crisis. The UN process has helped to generate international pressure in the past few years. This has pushed countries to initiate their own domestic policy, set targets they otherwise would not have done, and start to address the adaptation needs of poor and vulnerable communities.

“Cancun will not deliver everything that a global response to climate change should be. But it can deliver outcomes that will benefit poor people. One of the most important achievements would be a fair climate fund because this would also help to re-build trust and put the talks back on track.”

Read more

Download the report: More than ever: climate talks that work for those that need them most

Read our Climate Change blog

Take action: Get behind the Climate Fund

The human impacts of climate change in 2010 send a powerful reminder why progress in Cancun is more urgent than ever.
Tim Gore
Climate Change advisor for Oxfam

Contact information

Footage, pictures and case studies of communities in Pakistan and around the globe who have been impacted by more extreme and erratic weather events is available for download from:

The Oxfam media team will be in Cancun from Saturday 26 November – Sunday 12 December.

  • Lucy Brinicombe: +44 7786 110054 or +521 99 81 59 48 96 or
  • Ben Grossman-Cohen: +1202-629-6018 or +521 99 81 59 35 21 or
  • Violeta Leon: +521 99 81 03 66 89 or
  • Magali Rubino: +33 630 4666 or +521 99 81 59 47 42 or