Saturday, October 17, 2009

Changing seasons in India. Telling the EU to act on climate change.

A view from inside the EU parliament. Credit: Stack coordinator

The climate witnesses looked nervous as they took to the podium. It wasn’t surprising considering that in front of them were two hundred or so people, inside the grand building of the European parliament.

The parliament building is pretty overwhelming for anyone who goes inside it for the first time. Endless corridors, lifts and stairways, all busy with people in smart looking suits marching from one meeting room to the next. But Mohit was here for an important reason and had no need to be nervous.

He gave a very personal account of how climate change has altered people’s lives in Tallikhiya village, Uttar Pradesh. Farmers there are struggling as the seasons begin to merge. Winters are getting warmer and monsoons are becoming more intense, they’re also lasting for shorter periods of time.

This makes knowing when to plant crops increasingly difficult. All of which matters a lot when you’re a small-scale farmer. If a crops are planted at the wrong time or are washed away, it has devastating consequences.

What struck me most was when he said that they used to know when the seasons were changing by which birds were in the sky. This would help them to know when to plant crops, or when to prepare for the harvest.

Life would go in cycles and while there would be the odd drought, or particularly heavy monsoon, the people could cope. As extreme weather events become more frequent, the people of Mohit’s community are struggling.

Then it was the turn of the EU politicians to speak. Artur Runge-Metzger is the EU chief negotiator on climate change. He said that he “wants the EU to take a leadership role in Copenhagen and convince others to take things forward.”

Over the next few weeks the EU is set to agree their position for the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen. His warm words will mean nothing if they don’t agree a position that leads to a fair and safe deal at Copenhagen.

By bringing people like Mohit to politicians from the European Union we are cutting down the space that exists between our officials and the millions of people that are affected by their decisions. As we hear more and more stories of lives being turned upside down as the weather changes, it’s clear that time is running out for the planet and the poorest people who live on it.

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