Typhoon Haiyan must be a wake-up call at UN climate talks if we are to save lives in the future, warn aid agencies

Published: 17th November 2013

Members of the UK's Disaster Emergencies Committee (DEC) are warning governments meeting at the UN climate talks in Warsaw that the devastating super typhoon that struck the Philippines is a glimpse of the future if urgent action is not taken.

Their call was joined by actor David Harewood, who has campaigned on climate change for several years.

He said: “More and more, extreme weather and its effects are being seen in every country around the world. When these events happen more frequently and with greater force, they form a pattern that points strongly towards climate change. There's no more time to waste: the lives of millions of people all over the world are being impacted by the changing climate right now. It is time for us to stand together and demand action for our planet, for people living in the Philippines, and - most of all - for the generations yet to come."

Overall, the Philippines is one of the most affected countries from extreme weather. In 2012, the country suffered the most fatalities from extreme weather events and was ranked the second most affected from climatic-disasters in the same year just days before super typhoon Haiyan savaged the country (1). The 14 members of the DEC are working to deliver life-saving aid to the millions affected by the typhoon, which recorded unprecedented wind speeds of up to 200 miles an hour, flattening swathes of the country and claiming thousands of lives.

Aid agencies Christian Aid, CAFOD, CARE International, Oxfam GB and Tearfund say ministers meeting this week in Warsaw must act urgently because climate change is likely to make extreme weather events like Typhoon Haiyan more common in the future. This will cause more humanitarian emergencies and put more people at risk.

Climate models forecast that typhoons could become more powerful and that weather-related events around the world will be more extreme and frequent. The aid agencies say governments meeting in Warsaw must deliver more climate finance, drastically cut global emissions and establish a Loss and Damage mechanism which would obligate developed countries to help those that are increasingly losing lives and livelihoods to the effects of climate change.This would avoid the unnecessary cost of lives and money in the future. The losses from Typhoon Haiyan are expected to amount to several billion pounds.

Oxfam GB’s Head of Advocacy Max Lawson said: “This should be a wake-up call for negotiators who have been sleepwalking through a process fraught with delay and indecision. The images we have seen from the Philippines are a reminder that climate change is not about numbers and process, but a growing reality for poor people who desperately need support to protect themselves and build safer futures.”

Scientists confirmed earlier this year that climate change is happening now, human activity is overwhelmingly responsible for causing it, and that the world is not acting fast enough to slow the pace of its affects.

Tearfund’s Advocacy Director Paul Cook said: “There's no doubt that weather patterns are changing quickly and unpredictably. People who are living in poverty are disproportionately affected by floods, droughts and storms, even though they are responsible for fewer carbon emissions than the rest of us.  We must take responsibility for this ridiculous disparity.”

CAFOD's Head of Advocacy, Neil Thorns, said: "We need to see a response from the delegates in Warsaw to match that of the overwhelming response of the public to this devastating tragedy. It is not fair, it is not just and it cannot go on that those living in poor and vulnerable communities, such as in the Philippines, are being affected now whilst governments fail to steer us to a better future based on our shared responsibility to care for our planet now and for future generations."

Mohamed Adow, Senior Climate Adviser at Christian Aid said: “The people of the Philippines, like millions of others around the world, will remain at the mercy of a changing climate unless we act on the findings of overwhelming scientific evidence and get a global deal on cutting carbon emissions. We must free these climate captives by choosing clean energy over dirty energy. Let this be the wake-up call for politicians to act.”

Geoffrey Dennis, Chief Executive of CARE International UK said: “People affected by disasters like Typhoon Haiyan have done the least to contribute to the dangerous greenhouse gas emissions which drive climate change - yet they are now living on the front line of climate impacts. Governments need to act urgently to curb emissions, help the world’s poorest people adapt to climate change and set up an international mechanism to deal with the devastating loss and damage which is already occurring. There is no excuse for further inaction or delay.”

The DEC launched an emergency appeal on Tuesday November 12 in response to Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines on November 8. The appeal raised £30 million in the first three days, which is helping the 14 committee members deliver life-saving emergency aid to those who need it most.

(1) Global Climate Risk Index 2014, German Watch: The Philippines was ranked the seventh worst affected country by extreme weather events between 1993-2012. The countries affected most in 2012 were Haiti, then the Philippines and Pakistan. The Philippines was hit by Typhoon Bopha in December 2012, claiming 1,400 lives, topping the list for the most human casualties of the year for the second year in a row.

Delegates from 195 countries are currently in Warsaw for the annual UN climate talks, which are taking place 11- 22 November. Read why Oxfam is there.

We need to see a response from the delegates in Warsaw to match that of the overwhelming response of the public to this devastating tragedy.
Neil Thorns
CAFOD's Head of Advocacy,

Notes to editors

  • The DEC brings 14 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis: ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Care International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Plan UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision; all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly.
  • In the UK, donations can be made at any high street bank and at post office counters.
  • In the UK, to donate £5 by text send the word SUPPORT to 70000.  The full £5 will go to the DEC Philippines Typhoon Appeal. Donors must be 16 years or over and have the bill payer’s permission. Texts are free and donations will be added to the bill.
  • Donations can be made at www.dec.org.uk or 0370 60 60 900

Contact information

For more information or interviews contact:
Lucy Brinicombe, Oxfam media team, 07786 110054 / lbrinicombe@oxfam.org.uk or
DEC Press Office: 020 7387 0200 or 07930 999014 (out of office)

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