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Philippines Disaster Refocuses Climate Attention on Low-Lying Nations

PhilippinesIt's been two weeks since typhoon Haiyan devastated Leyte and other islands in the central Philippines. Initial estimates of casualties were ten thousand. They may end up to be far fewer. The government in Manila has released new figures on the number of people dead and injured. Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported on the latest figures.

Reporter:
The natural disaster risk and management council updated its casualty report on Wednesday. It said 4,011 people had been confirmed dead and 18,557 others injured. Three thousand, three hundred and ten of the deaths were in Leyte, that's about 80 percent of the total. The island was hit hard by storm surges. Nearby Samar Island suffered 411 deaths, most of the dead of have yet to be identified. The storm caused widespread damage. Severed roads and bridges are making it difficult to get food, water, and other supplies to the survivors. Many of those injured are believed to be without adequate medical services. The Philippine government has been stepping up its relief efforts, sending in helicopters and ships. The United States, Japan, China and other countries are assisting.

 

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Typhoon Haiyan hit just as the latest international talks to slow down climate change got underway in Poland. The typhoon -- among the worst ever recorded -- may have focused the attention of conference delegates on the dangers to low-lying countries like the Philippines: threatened by more violent weather and rising sea levels brought about by climate change. Japan's NHK has the details.

Reporter:
Kiribati is a small island nation in the Pacific Ocean. By mid century, rising ocean levels could leave 80 percent of the main island under water. Many homes already vulnerable to high tides. Experts also point out a possible link between global warming and severe weather. A recent example was typhoon Haiyan. A report from the international panel of climate change assets that if countries fail to act. Average temperature of planet could rise by up to 4.8 degrees by the end of the century. The international community has agreed try to keep this temperature rise within two degrees. But officials at the UN environment program said the pay of current measures is too slow. In an emotional intervention a negotiator from the Philippines urged his counterparts from around the world to act quickly.

Yeb Sano, Climate Change Commissioner, Philippines:
We can fix this. We can stop this madness right now, right here, in the middle of this football field, and stop moving the goal post.

Reporter:
The delegate went as far as started a hunger strike to underline his commitment. Other participants to the conference have decided to join him. The purpose of this year's conference is to lay the round work for new climate agreement that regulates greenhouse gas machines beyond 2020. UN officials hope the agreement can be signed in 2015. But so far, negotiators have failed to achieve real progress. European Union and United States disagree over when countries should submit their commitments to limit greenhouse gas emission. And developing countries insist the mandatory measures should apply only to industrialized nations whom they considered historically responsible for global warming. Developing countries are also demanding that a new fund be set up to help them deal with the adverse consequences of climate change. But many industrialized nations are reluctant to contribute additional funds. Some experts are pessimistic about the prospect of an agreement before the end of the conference.

Jusen Asuka, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies:
Ministers from developed countries will be forced to propose something concrete, regarding climate finance or new climate compensation for the damage caused by climate change. Otherwise developing countries will condemn the developed countries more strongly. It may take time to get concrete positions or answers for this issue for each country.

Reporter:
Japan announced last week that it will be scaling down its self-imposed greenhouse gas reduction target. The decision drew considerable international criticism, and it may serve as a pretext for other countries not to commit to ambitious targets.

 
 

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