UN Climate Summit begins in the shade of Super Typhoon Haiyan

November 12, 2013

While thousands of people have been killed in the Philippines as a result of Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history, at the UN Climate Change Summit (UNFCCC) in Warsaw 195 member countries are discussing measures against climate change, but expectations are low.


Scientists have been warning for some time that the warming of the oceans caused by climate change could lead to increasingly heavier storms [1]. Super Typhoon Haiyan is a sad and bitter example However, at the climate change summit, politicians do not really feel the need to tackle the problem. This is why the Philippine government representative at the UNFCCC, Yeb Sano, decided to go on hunger strike in solidarity with the victims.

Now is the time

During the last UN climate summit in Durban, the Philippine negotiator called for action: “If not us then who, if not now then when, if not here then where“. Unfortunately, Durban yielded minimal results. This year’s history-making typhoon has led the Philippine negotiator to force  action:  he will not eat until a meaningful outcome is achieved at the conference: “In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home, and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, in all due respect Mr . President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP until a meaningful outcome is in sight.”

Not a long-term issue

At the UNFCCC, climate change is seen as a long-term issue, but for people in developing countries it is not. They experience the consequences first hand. People without irrigation or water systems, without weather insurance against agricultural damage or medicines to treat waterborne diseases such as malaria, are the victims of the ever more erratic climate patterns. Rainy and dry seasons have become unpredictable. For a farmer in Kenya or on the Indonesian island of Sumba, this means a bad or lost harvest because the family cannot afford to pump water from their fields or buy new seed.

Time for action

Hivos calls on government leaders to step up measures to reduce carbon emissions through funding for poor countries and a global climate agreement. But Hivos is also hard at work on this issue: years ago we opted for an ambitious goal of promoting 100% renewable energy worldwide.

A green future

In the new brochure in English and Spanish (see ‘Documents’ in right sidebar), Renewable Energy in the Hands of People, Hivos show not only how to achieve that goal, but also the contributions Hivos itself is making: irrigation powered by solar panels, hydropower for light in the dark and biogas to avoid harmful fumes from cookstoves. In all this, decentralised renewable energy generation is the solution, but action is needed. With the proper technology and financing, more super storms like Haiyan can be prevented.

[1] Pun I.F.,I.I. Lin and M.H. Lo (2013), Recent increase in high tropical cyclone heat potential area in the Western North Pacific Ocean, Geophys. Res. Lett., 40 ,4680–4684, doi:10.1002/grl.50548