Herman Rosa Chávez, El Salvador’s Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), gave this stirring speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference held from November 28th to December 11th in Durban, South Africa. To see the original speech in Spanish, click here.
Herman Rosa Chávez, Ministro de El Salvador de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (MARN), dio este fuerte discurso en la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre Cambio Climático, que se celebro del 28 de noviembre hasta el 11 de diciembre en Durban, Sudáfrica. Para ver el discurso original en español, clique aqui.
Speech by Herman Rosa Chávez Minister of Environment and Natural Resources in the High Level Segment of the COP17/MOP7 Durban, December 8, 2011
Mr. President, your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Our climate system has been severely disrupted and many countries are paying a high and only growing price because of it.
Mr. President, allow me to illustrate what is happening in my own country with a graph – which is being distributed – that shows how, over the past 50 years we went from being hit by one extreme hydrometeorological event per decade in the 1960s and 1970s, to nine in the last ten years.
The Tropical Depression 12E that struck El Salvador two months ago was the last in this terrible and destructive sequence. For ten days, it dumped up to 1.5 meters of rain. Among other effects, we experienced landslides, flooding of one-tenth of our territory, and huge losses of infrastructure and agriculture.
While in comparison to previous events, we did manage to reduce the number of lives lost due to a fairly strengthened civil protection system, 40 people still died. Moreover, we could not avoid the economic losses that totaled $ 840 million – 4% of our GDP.
Our country received a little over $ 6 million in emergency assistance, and my government is grateful for the solidarity of the United Nations, our regional banks, Norway, Taiwan, Switzerland, Canada, USA, Korea, Spain, Japan, and Brazil among others.
We were especially moved by Guatemala, who was also affected by Tropical Depression 12E, but nevertheless decided to share with us some of the emergency relief that their country had received.
It is precisely this spirit of solidarity and shared responsibility that we have to bring to our negotiations here in Durban. Do not make the mistake of thinking that there are currently other crises that are more important than the disruption of our climate system. We can all make a difference here in Durban. Thank you, Ms. President, for the respect you have shown to all of us, listening to all of our voices and not just those that seem to be more important. The truth is that we are all important here in Durban.
Mr. President, we often hear that we need to achieve a ‘balanced package’ of decisions. But what does this mean for the people who are already so affected by global climate change that they are seeing their hopes for a better future be cancelled by our persistent collective inability?
I believe that there are at least three essential elements in this balanced package:
First of all, we need to make very clear and specific decisions about funding. All vulnerable countries need funding to support their actions for urgent adaptation. That is why we must decide here the immediate operationalization of the Green Climate Fund, with all of the essential elements that we have been discussing under the leadership of this Presidency, including a significant initial capitalization so that we will not be starting with an empty shell.
A significant expansion of our adaption efforts and related resources is the second essential element of the balanced package. If we don’t do it, the losses and damage will increase much more in the near future and many of our countries will face increasing threats to their stability. Massive internal displacement and emigration would be an almost certain result.
The third essential element has to do with the serious mitigation commitments that are required from developed countries and principal emitters, as this is essential to moderate the growing destabilization of the global climate system. Even so, we must make sure that they are fully respected.
We must assure the right to an equitable access to sustainable development and the principle of historic responsibilities.
Mr. President, even though our contribution to global emissions is negligible, we want to contribute, too, by seeking synergies between adaptation and mitigation, as in the case of our National Program for the Restoration of Ecosystems and Landscapes that we hope to put into action next year.
This initiative, if it meets sufficient external support, will transform our degraded landscapes and agriculture, increasing our ability to adapt to phenomenal climatic extremes. We will try to achieve this through the massive expansion of agro-forestry systems and sustainable agriculture. In this manner, we will be able to improve biodiversity, while at the same time capturing carbon in the ground, vegetation, and trees. This model of “mitigation based on adaption” is also the base of our REDD+ program, thus it is what makes sense for our needs and circumstances.
Mr. President, you can count on our support. Under your knowing guidance, we hope that the Final Document of Durban will send a powerful message of hope to our people who have been disappointed for so long. We cannot and we must not disappoint them again.