Yesterday it was the turn of the European parliament to host a climate hearing. A massive building complex made up of endless corridors, lifts and stairways, all busy with people in smart looking suits marching from one meeting room to the next.
The particular room that we were in was full, with about two hundred people turning up to hear our climate witnesses speak. They were talking to the EU politicians who are responsible for negotiating a climate change treaty at the UN Summit in Copenhagen. The next few weeks are vital as the member states of the EU come together to agree their position for the summit.
We’d brought ordinary people from India, Bangladesh, Mali and South Africa straight to the heart of European decision making. By having a meeting like this with politicians from the European Union we are cutting downthe space that exists between our officials and the millions of people that they represent and millions of people in communities far away, who have their lives changed by the decisions that they make.
Our climate witnesses spoke with honesty and sincerity. Let’s hope that when the European delgates spoke of doing all they can to get a fair and safe deal, that they were doing the same.
Forita opened the hearing with her sad and poignant story. Everyone sat attentively as she told us about how her husband had been forced to leave their village and seek work in the city, as a Rickshaw driver.
The main issue driving the men from their families and their villages to find work in the towns in Bangladesh is the rising sea levels. This means that the rivers – that her community depends upon for fishing – are becoming salinated to the point where sharks have been found living in them.
As the water becomes contaminated and fish stocks deplete, making a living is increasingly difficult. Two years after her husband left he got sick and couldn’t afford a doctor. Tragically he died and she is left looking after their two daughters.
This is just one of the testimonies that we heard. But what was clear is that in communities around the world climate change threatens to reverse development gains. All of the people who spoke to the European parliament were clear that they don’t want to be seen as victims. They weren’t here to beg. They wanted support to find ways of coping with their changing environment.
As the 27 member countries of the EU decides on a common position before Copenhagen, let’s hope that they agree a fair deal that cuts emissions and that they offer communities the support tthey need to cope with the changes that climate change is forcing on them.