Poor Countries Push Rich Nations To Do More On Climate Change

Delegates to the U.N. climate change conference in Poland from many of the world's poorer nations are asking wealthier countries to pay compensation to the impoverished countries bearing the brunt of climate change. Melissa Block talks to Munjurul Hannan Khan, negotiator and spokesman for the Least Developed Countries Group about the tensions between rich and poor countries.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

We're going to spend the next few minutes talking about climate change and a campaign being waged by some of the world's poorest countries. U.N. climate talks are underway in Warsaw right now. And there, a group of developing nations is demanding that wealthy countries accept responsibility for global warming, provide financial support and pay for losses due to climate change.

The issue has new urgency following the death and destruction in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan. Munjurul Hannan Khan is a Bangladeshi negotiator and spokesman for what's called the Least Developed Countries group at the talks. I asked him to describe the effects of climate change in his country.

MUNJURUL HANNAN KHAN: The whole coastal area is - salinity intrusion is so high, they couldn't do their agricultural practice. They couldn't actually get their livelihood support from that area. So they're moving from coastal area to the cities. But cities are already full. So the country doesn't have any kind of space to provide them to survive.

BLOCK: Make the case for me, Mr. Khan, what is the argument by which rich countries should have to compensate developing countries, such as your own, for the losses that you've described due to climate change?

KHAN: First, they have to accept the reality. Realities on the ground that people are suffering, and the realities on the ground that we cannot do anything by - only by adaptation or only by mitigations. So there are some things called residual impacts. These residuals impacts need special attention that we are seeing called loss and damage. And we are asking for an international mechanism. That international mechanism could provide insurance. They could provide other support in order to address this issue.

BLOCK: But last month, the U.S. climate envoy, Todd Stern, shot the idea down pretty emphatically. He said this: Lectures about compensation, reparations and the like will produce nothing but antipathy in developed countries like the U.S. What's your response to that?

KHAN: I would like to invite our development partners to sit with us and to discuss this issue seriously. We don't want to debate only on the words or semicolon or comma in the text. Our group would like to see the positive outcome from the decision.

BLOCK: Todd Stern is also saying here, the fiscal reality, as he put it, of the United States and the other developed countries is not going to allow this. The money simply isn't there.

KHAN: If you would like to compare Bangladesh with the U.S.A., we are so poor. Our poor people is really trying hard to get the next meal. But in case of the developed country, it's the question of compromising the lifestyle. In our case, it's a question of survival.

BLOCK: Well, as these talks continue in Warsaw, what are the prospects, do you think, for a meaningful agreement emerging from these discussions?

KHAN: I'm hopeful that at the end of the Warsaw talk, we'll get outcome on legally binding agreement process, that we are hoping to develop a good text by 2015. The second thing, we're asking for $70 billion for three years. And by 2020, they will mobilize $100 billion for long-term financial support for the developing nations.

BLOCK: $100 billion?

KHAN: $100 billion per year from 2020.

BLOCK: Per year by 2020?

KHAN: Yeah.

BLOCK: And realistically, does that seem likely?

KHAN: I mean, if developed countries are really positive in this process and they would like to see the undeveloped countries need this kind of support, then if they considered it very positively, I'm sure that it's possible.

BLOCK: Mr. Khan, thanks so much for being with us.

KHAN: Yeah. Thank you very much for inviting me.

BLOCK: That's Munjurul Hannan Khan. He's a Bangladeshi negotiator at the U.N. climate talks in Warsaw. He's also a spokesman for the Least Developed Countries group.

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