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Wide representation from Chennai at UN climate change conference

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Green hopes: Chennai delegates to the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen hand over a statement of expectations to Chennai Mayor M. Subramanian at the British Deputy High Commission in Chennai on Tuesday.
Green hopes: Chennai delegates to the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen hand over a statement of expectations to Chennai Mayor M. Subramanian at the British Deputy High Commission in Chennai on Tuesday.

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: From academics and researchers to students and activists, the city of Chennai will have a diverse representation at the UN climate change talks, being held in Copenhagen this month.

On Wednesday, a group of ten delegates from the city handed over a list of their expectations for the State to Mayor M. Subramanian, who will take part in the World Mayors conference to be held at the summit.

“We acknowledge that…the State and regional governments have a crucial role in confronting this challenge and promoting sustainable development, as they are closest to field realities,” read the joint statement.

“The national government should recognise the role of cities and local government in the implementation of the National Climate Strategies and Action Plan.”

The delegates identified agriculture, health, transport and energy as high-priority areas for the city and State governments to focus on. They offered support in promoting low-carbon action, addressing climate change impacts and creating awareness. This may be the first time ever that all the delegates attending a major climate conference from a particular region have gathered to deliver a common message, despite the differences of their backgrounds and the interests they represent, said Mike Nithavrianakis, British Deputy High Commissioner, who hosted the gathering.

The Mayor also accepted an Indian Youth Climate Network agenda statement from youth delegates. “The youth must have a strong voice in Copenhagen,” said IYCN delegate and Anna University student Saleem Khan. “We must have a say about our own future…We can pressurise the politicians to deliver a deal.”

Even younger stakeholders – children – were represented, by John Devaram of SPEECH, Madurai, which facilitated a research study by children in southern Tamil Nadu. Representing the voices of 10,000 children, the results of that study argue for a greater protection for children affected by climate change. Five children will also attend the summit, said Dr. Devaram. Other delegates threw light on their own focus areas. “I can’t emphasise enough the importance of research scaled down to the State and regional level…Good research is the building block of action,” said A. Arivudai Nambi, who heads the climate change adaptation team at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation. “We need more research not only in climate science, but also on the social and economic aspects.”

“Climate exiles”

One of the major socio-economic impacts of climate change could be a large number of refugees and “climate exiles” driven off islands and delta areas to inland regions and nearby countries. Sujatha Byravan of IFMR and Sudhir Chellarajan of IIT-Madras will present a paper in Copenhagen on the topic. “The 1951 Refugee Convention only recognises political refugees,” says Dr. Byravan. “We need a new international treaty for climate refugees.”

Anna University environment professor R. Nagendran added that research efforts need to identify what could be done for and by the common man. The activist community was represented by Sowmiya Anbumani and R. Arul of Pasumai Thaayagam. “We share the goal of an ambitious, fair and effective deal at Copenhagen… What we have now is a highly ambitious, moderately fair and very ineffective deal,” said Ms. Anbumani, saying that the summit’s outcome must take historical responsibilities into account.

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