The highlight of my day was attending a session on climate justice, complete with traditional song and dance. It was hard not to be moved by the stories from Pacific Islanders representing island nations already feeling the effects of elevated sea level, increased storm frequency and severity, and salination of their drinking water. A native of the island of Tarawa, the location of the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, spoke about three basic human rights that are threatened by climate change: the right to security, water and food. Many of the islands are 2-3 m above sea level and are 100-300 m wide so when the "king tides" come, there is a need to move, but no room to go. He said it's hard to move because behind you is someone else's land and the island is so narrow and getting smaller. Pelonise Alofa of Pacific Calling Partnership performed a traditional dance and then gave a compelling speech asking for true leaders so that Copenhagen will indeed be Hopenhagen. We also heard from Patricia Corowa, an elder of Torres Strait Islands, north of Australia, and Maria Tiimon of Kiribati, who performed a traditional dance and showed a video of her recent visit to her homeland where elders asked for help from industrialized countries.
I also attended a session on connecting biodiversity and climate change. There is a new report by the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG), established by COP as a program of the Convention on Biological Diversity. They report on key links between climate change and biodiversity and the co-benefits of climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation. Ecosystems services depend on biodiversity, at genetic, species and ecosystem levels. They discussed the need to target areas that are both high carbon and high biodiversity, and to evaluate and develop policies to capture multiple benefits. Climate change mitigation should not negatively affect biodiversity (such as cutting old growth forests for biofuels). They reminded me that that UN declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity.