Climate summit in Peru :
Focus on emission reduction targets
As the host of the upcoming climate summit, Peru has much to share
with the wider world on the challenges it faces due to changing climate.
Peru can drive climate
urgency and action, especially by bridging between developing
and developed countries as it is considered a leading actor on
climate change. In 2008, it was the first developing country to
voluntary pledge reduction of deforestation of primary forests
to zero by 2021.
Peru will host the UN-sponsored Conference of Parties (COP) climate
talks this December. The world’s peak climate conference, the COP is an
annual event first held in Berlin in 1995, leading to provisional
developments such as the Kyoto Protocol.
Peru is also a country increasingly affected by the consequences of
climate change. A study published by the United Nations Development
Project said: “Peru has been ranked third globally in terms of risk to
climate related disasters.”
Already, as the glacial run-off dwindles, water reserves in Lima (a
coastal desert city totally dependent on mountain water) are coming
under growing pressure.
A study on drinking water by the US-based National Academy of
Sciences found: “About one in four Lima residents have no water service,
and the city already struggles to provide for them.”
The water shortages are replicated in Peru’s regional centres west of
the Andes, leaving one-third of the rural population without access to
Despite the rapid growth in Peru’s GDP over the past decade, the
water situation is getting worse. The burgeoning mining sector is
placing further demands on fresh water supplies already depleted by
global warming effects.
The Peruvian coast, where 70% of the country’s 30 million inhabitants
live, has only 2% of the country's fresh water supplies. Without flows
from the high mountains that rise dramatically from the coastal plain,
much of the coast would be uninhabitable.
Although Peru has contributed very little to the carbon emissions
that have led to a dramatic rise in global temperatures, like many
'developing' nations around the world, it finds itself in the front line
of the emerging climate crisis.
This point is dramatically underscored by the rate at which Peru’s
high-altitude ice reserves are dwindling to apparent extinction.
The Andean region as a whole possesses 99% of the world’s tropical
glaciers, with Peru accounting for 70% of this total.
For millennia, the glaciers have provided water for sustainable
agriculture in the high Andes, where rainfall is unreliable.
They underpinned the rise of a succession of advanced cultures such
as the Wari and Inca.
The people of the Andes have long regarded the mountains and glaciers
as sacred god beings. Every year, the holy ice is revered in a string of
religious rituals whose origin long pre-dates the arrival of
But the distances the pilgrims have to walk to reach the ice fields
grow ever larger. Stone shrines, originally built at the base of
seemingly eternal ice walls, now stand at considerable distances from
the glacial boundary.
As documented in a TIME-published photo essay by Andrew McLeish, “The
church and main campsite in the Sinakara Valley (the site of one such
ice pilgrimage) were originally at the foot of the glacier. Now they are
more than a mile away.”
Bare, denuded valleys now dominate the landscape, particularly in
regions below 5000 metres of altitude.
Anecdotal evidence such as this correlates with most meticulous
scientific studies. The glaciers of the Andes are all seemingly in
inexorable retreat, as numerous peer-reviewed investigations have shown
since observations began in the 1970s.
A recent multi-authored study published by the European Geosciences
Union concluded that, “In terms of changes in surface area and length…
glacier retreat in the tropical Andes over the last three decades is
unprecedented since the maximum extension of the Little Ice Age.”
On average, Peru’s glaciers have lost between one-fifth and one-third
of their surface area since 1970. Rates of depletion are predicted to
increase in the coming decade, with some projections estimating that
most of Peru’s glaciers will disappear completely by 2025. Given the
importance of glacial water in the agricultural cycle, it does not take
much imagination to discern the potentially catastrophic consequences of
The Ancash region of central Peru is home to the Tamara family,
typical of many who have farmed these lands for generations.
“I've lived here ever since I was born, and there used to be tonnes
or rain and hail, and it wasn't hot”, 50-year-old Luis Ernesto Tamara
told Oxfam investigators. “Now the climate has changed far too much.
That's why there isn't as much production about 90% less. We used to
have tall potato plants, but now they're small.
“And we didn't use fertiliser, but now we rely on it. It doesn't
matter how well we work our land, we need to use fertiliser and it's
extremely expensive.” His father, Leoncio Tamara, added: “But suddenly
there won't be any snow on the mountain. The water will go with it.
Maybe in 20 years, from what I hear."
“We used to have snow slides every day, but now nothing. The snow
used to come to this level, but no more. There are no more avalanches,
no more snow,” he said.Another family member, Olga Tamara Morales said,
“Before, when we irrigate the land, it would last two weeks, now it only
lasts four days because the sun is so strong. So we need more water.
“Water used to come from Huascaran, but now it's becoming less. The
snow on Huascaran is only up above, and each day it goes further up.
Huascaran is dying because of the heat.”
Officially, this year’s COP is being billed by the UN Framework
Convention on Climate Change as the forum where the nations of the world
will sit down in earnest to thrash out a proto-agreement to be signed in
2015 on legally binding emissions reduction targets.
– Third World Network Features