'Ondoy damage shows need to act on climate change'
Storm becomes a focus of U.N. climate talks
BANGKOK - The Philippines urged rich nations at U.N. climate talks on Wednesday to toughen emissions cuts, saying the typhoon that hit the country this week was a taste of future effects of climate change on poor nations.
Typhoon Ketsana (RP local name: Ondoy) killed 246 people and triggered widespread flooding in the capital Manila.
The storm, which has also killed 32 in Vietnam, dumped a month's worth of rain in 24 hours in Manila, overwhelming rescue services.
Residents have been scathing in their criticism of the government's disaster response in the crowded city of 15 million where sewers are notoriously blocked by rubbish.
The storm has become a focus of marathon climate talks in Bangkok this week, with developing nations and green groups saying it is an example of the type of climate disaster poor nations could face in a warmer world.
"Ketsana is clearly a manifestation of the consequences of global inaction in addressing the immediate impacts of creeping climate change," chief Philippine climate negotiator Heherson Alvarez told reporters.
He said rich nations must act urgently "to moderate these storms and spare the whole world from the impoverishing and devasting impacts of climate change".
Delegates from about 180 countries are meeting in the Thai capital trying to narrow differences on emissions reduction targets, climate finance and transfer of clean-energy technology before a December deadline to seal a tougher pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
"Unless we have deep and early cuts -- we have asked for cuts of 30 to 40 percent -- it will continue to deliver these destructive typhoons," he said.
The U.N. climate panel says rich nations need to cut their emissions by 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to help limit the rise in planet-warming carbon dioxide levels. Pledges by most rich nations to date fall below that recommendation.
Developing countries are demanding rich nations pay for steps to help them adapt to predicted rising seas, increases in the intensity of storms, greater extremes of floods and droughts and changing river flows from melting glaciers.
They say rich nations are responsible for the bulk of mankind's greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere over the past two centuries and largely to blame for climate change impacts to date.
"What happened in the Philippines is a terrible warning of what we might be experiencing in the future if action is not taken immediately," said Kim Carstensen, head of conservation group WWF's global climate initiative.
"The tragic events in the Philippines are a reminder for all negotiators here in Bangkok," he added.
Alvarez said the government was caught off-guard.
"It was an unusual event because the velocity of the storm was fairly mild compared to the aggressive storms that we have been experiencing."
About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines annually and Alvarez said wind speeds have increased over the past 30 years.
"It's been ranging initially about 30 years ago, 100 kilometre-per-hour storms. It's been growing in aggressiveness from 100 to 150 and of late, the storms have been close to 200 kilometre per hour."
Despite the relatively mild velocity of Ketsana it carried heavy rains. Experts say more intense rains are an expected effect of global warming.