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As more than 160 countries come together to sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement, taking a critical step towards its implementation, Oxfam calls on governments to continue to confront climate change collectively and turn their commitments into action, while strengthening their current pledges and agreeing to higher finance levels.
Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: "The signing of the Paris agreement today marks a critical step forward towards building a more resilient, low-carbon future. But there is still much unfinished business left from Paris on adapting to the dangerous impacts of climate change. If all of today's public climate adaptation finance were to be divided among the world's 1.5 billion smallholder farmers in developing counties, they would get around $3 each a year to cope with climate change."
Countries need to urgently ratchet up their ambition towards climate action as the provisions in the Paris agreement, which takes effect in 2020, are not enough to avoid a pathway towards a 3degC world and does not ensure the provision of adequate funding to ensure millions of vulnerable people can prepare for and respond to increasing climate chaos. Climate adaptation costs will hit up over $500 billion per year by 2050, even if global temperatures are limited to 2degC.
Oxfam estimates approximately 60 million people will face hunger, disease and water shortages this year because of record global temperatures, droughts and erratic rains in 2014 and 2015, compounded by the development of one of the most powerful El Ninos on record.
Increasing climate chaos, like El Ninos and Super El Ninos, could pose a serious threat to the stability of the global food system and increase humanitarian emergencies at a time when resources and capacity are already under enormous strain.
"The El Nino food crisis shows what happens when we fail to invest adequately in preventative measures and in building the resilience of those most vulnerable," continued Byanyima. "Countries need to step up to the plate and fulfill their promise to significantly increase adaptation finance commitments by COP22 in Marrakesh."
More members of the private sector also need to scale up pledges to decrease their carbon footprint and publicly champion a fair and ambitious deal. While some companies made climate policy commitments around COP21, it's crucial more raise their climate ambition and continue to pressure governments to act.
"The private sector is responsible for a very significant part of the world's carbon emissions. Companies need to work with their suppliers to change practices, and adopt business models that ensure a low carbon economy and build resilience in the supply-chain," said Byanyima.
Oxfam International is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. We are working across regions in about 70 countries, with thousands of partners, and allies, supporting communities to build better lives for themselves, grow resilience and protect lives and livelihoods also in times of crisis.
"We are currently experiencing and causing the Sixth Extinction—the mass extinction of species across the planet," said the head of NatureServe, which also found a third of plants nationwide are under threat.
Underscoring the need for humanity to overhaul its relationship with nature, 34% of plants species and 40% of animal species across the United States are at risk of extinction while 41% of U.S. ecosystems could collapse, according to an analysis published Monday by the nonprofit NatureServe.
"For 50 years, the NatureServe Network has been collecting the information necessary to understand biodiversity imperilment in the United States. This new analysis of that data, a first in 20 years, makes crystal clear the urgency of that work," said the group's vice president for data and methods, Regan Smyth.
"It's suicidal of us to pretend that business as usual is more important than safeguarding the natural world we all depend on."
"Two-fifths of our ecosystems are in trouble. Freshwater invertebrates and many pollinators, the foundation of a healthy, functional planet, are in precipitous decline," she pointed out. "Understanding and addressing these risks is critical if we are to forestall devastating consequences for the biodiversity that humanity needs to survive."
Noting that roughly a third of plants are in danger, the report—Biodiversity in Focus: United States Edition—explains that "this is an alarming general finding, but certain taxa face even greater threats. For example, 48% of cactus species are at risk of extinction, while around 200 tree species (about 20%) are at risk of extinction."
"Of the hundreds of grass species that form our nation's great prairies and marshes, about 19% are at risk of vanishing forever," the document states. "Preventing plant extinction is essential to maintaining ecosystem function and the services that wildlife and people rely upon."
\u201c\ud83d\udea8 NEW REPORT \ud83d\udea8 A new analysis from NatureServe reveals that over one-third of biodiversity in the United States is at risk of extinction. Read the report at:\nhttps://t.co/TceTuw3xgY\n\n#biodiversityinfocus\u201d— NatureServe (@NatureServe) 1675696459
As for animals, the analysis says that "as a group, species associated with fresh water, including amphibians, snails, mussels, crayfish, and many aquatic insects, have the highest percentage of at-risk species, highlighting the importance of conservation strategies to protect freshwater ecosystems."
"Among pollinators, bees are particularly threatened, with 37% of assessed species at risk," the report continues. "The conservation needs of these, and other invertebrate species, are often overlooked, yet many invertebrates are integral to maintaining the ecological functions of freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems."
Ecosystems across the country face potential "range-wide collapse due to extensive threats such as land-cover conversion," the publication warns. "Tropical ecosystems in the U.S. are all under substantial risk, but account for relatively small proportions in number and area."
"Temperate grasslands, boreal grasslands, and shrublands stand out among highly threatened ecosystems that extend over vast areas of the country, with 51% of the 78 grassland types known to be at risk of range-wide collapse," the report adds. "Temperate forests, boreal forests, and woodlands have also experienced multiple pressures, leading to an at-risk status for 40% of the 107 types of native U.S. forests."
NatureServe president and CEO Sean T. O'Brien stressed that "we are currently experiencing and causing the Sixth Extinction—the mass extinction of species across the planet. NatureServe's data highlight where the threats are right here at home."
"The plants, animals, and ecosystems found in our state, tribal, and federal lands are key components of our cultural and natural heritage," he said. "We should be proud of the biodiversity in our backyard and should prioritize protecting what is here, now."
The report is just the latest to emphasize the growing threat to various species. Others include the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, updated in December during a summit in Montreal that ultimately produced what many experts and advocates agree is a "weak" global framework to protect biodiversity.
The IUCN update revealed "a perfect storm of unsustainable human activity decimating marine life around the globe," Bruno Oberle, the group's director general, said at the time. He warned that "we urgently need to address the linked climate and biodiversity crises, with profound changes to our economic systems, or we risk losing the crucial benefits the oceans provide us with."
The NatureServe analysis provoked similar demands for action. As Reutersreported:
Vivian Negron-Ortiz, the president of the Botanical Society of America and a botanist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who was not involved in the NatureServe report, said there is still a lot scientists do not know and have not yet discovered about biodiversity in the United States, and that NatureServe's data helped illuminate that darkness.
More than anything, she sees the new data as a call to action.
"This report shows the need for the public to help prevent the disappearance of many of our plant species," she said. "The public can help by finding and engaging with local organizations that are actively working to protect wild places and conserve rare species."
Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement Monday that "this grim assessment adds to the mountain of science showing that we're creating an extinction crisis."
"It's suicidal of us to pretend that business as usual is more important than safeguarding the natural world we all depend on," Curry declared, spotlighting some potential solutions including the Extinction Prevention Act and Recovering America's Wildlife Act.
"Grassland loss is the biggest U.S. environmental disaster that gets the least attention," she said. "Conversion of grasslands to suburban sprawl and pesticide-intensive agriculture is a primary reason we've lost 3 billion birds and why we could lose monarch butterflies and vital pollinators."
"By taking nature for granted we've pushed natural systems to the brink of collapse," Curry continued. "We've been so neglectful for so long, but we can create a different world that doesn't exploit nature and vulnerable human communities for never-ending sprawl and consumption."
"We will not let Shell silence us," vowed one of demonstrators. "The world needs to hear about Shell's ongoing plans to further heat up the planet, increasing climate devastation without paying a cent towards rebuilding the carnage."
Undeterred by a court order threatening heavy fines or even two years behind bars, a pair of Greenpeace activists on Monday joined four other protesters aboard a shipcarrying a Shell oil platform into the North Sea in order to demand the company stop expanding fossil fuel production around the world.
On Monday morning, the Greenpeace France-chartered trimaran Merida and two small boats approached the White Marlin heavy-lift vessel, which is transporting Shell's 34,000-ton floating production storage and offloading vessel to the Penguins oil field near the Shetland Islands off northeast of Scotland. According to Energy Voice, it's Shell's first new manned installation in the U.K. North Sea in 30 years.
Monday's action follows the delivery Friday of an injunction stipulating that the four activists who climbed aboard the Shell platform last week must seek an agreement with the White Marlin's captain to safely disembark, and that the two Greenpeace boats—the U.K.-flagged Sea Beaver and Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise—must stay at least 500 feet away from the White Marlin.
"We will not let Shell silence us," Greenpeace climber Silja Zimmerman, Greenpeace—who boarded the White Marlin with Pascal Havez—vowed Monday in a statement. "The world needs to hear about Shell's ongoing plans to further heat up the planet, increasing climate devastation without paying a cent towards rebuilding the carnage we're seeing. And we have bad news for Shell: People everywhere are rising up in resistance because we no longer accept reliance on fossil fuel companies that are making our lives worse."
\u201c\ud83d\udea8 BREAKING: Shell has tried to SILENCE @Greenpeace\u2019s peaceful protest at sea with legal threats.\n\nSHELL FAILED. \n\nClimbers from Germany and France have joined the activists currently occupying Shell\u2019s oil platform on its way to the North Sea.\u270a\n\n#MakeShellPay\u201d— Greenpeace UK (@Greenpeace UK) 1675689101
According to Greenpeace:
The platform which six activists are now occupying is a key piece of oil and gas production equipment that will enable Shell to unlock eight new wells in the Penguins field in the North Sea. Burning all of the oil and gas from the field redevelopment would create 45 million tons of CO2—more than the entire annual emissions of Norway.
"We're living with increasingly sweltering summers, a lack of rain is destroying forests and affecting farmers, and with expensive energy bills it's getting harder and harder to put food on the table," Zimmerman said. "Whole workforces and entire communities are exposed to the boom-and-bust of volatile oil and gas markets. And in Germany, floods in 2021 killed 180 people, with reconstruction costs of €30 billion."
"Enough is enough," she added. "Shell must stop drilling, and start paying."
\u201cICYMI: \u201cThat Shell is investing in new oil and gas is absolutely criminal.\u201d - Usnea, Greenpeace US activist.\n\nJoin Usnea by signing this petition to #EndFossilCrimes \u27a1\ufe0f https://t.co/sdokuM38Hv\n\n#ClimateJustice #MakeShellPay\u201d— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) 1675681996
Activist Hussein Ali Ghandour, who is from Lebanon, said aboard the Merida that "I come from the driest region of the world that is warming twice as fast as the global average."
"Across the Middle East and North Africa, droughts, raging forest fires, flash floods, and other climate disasters are now part of our daily realities, aggravating our social and economic woes," he stated. "It is big polluters like Shell that bear the historic responsibility for this loss and damage. The climate justice clock is ticking and polluters must stop developing new fossil fuel projects and pay for the decades of devastation they have caused around the world."
\u201c\ud83d\udea8 BREAKING: Greenpeace activists have OCCUPIED a Shell platform en route to the North Sea!\n\nThey have a message for the oil giant - Stop Drilling. Start Paying.\n\nShoutout to these brave activists \ud83d\udc4f\ud83d\udc4f\u201d— Greenpeace UK (@Greenpeace UK) 1675181034
Another Greenpeace activist, Noa Helffer, said: "We know the climate crisis is hitting hardest in countries that are the least to blame; and in Europe we stand in solidarity. Growing up in Italy, we saw waist-high flooding sometimes, and conversely, there's been times where it didn't rain for months, and farmers were left with only dried leaves."
Greenpeace's North Sea protest came as Shell reported its profits more than doubled in 2022 to a record $40 billion.
"Shell's profits are our loss," Helffer said. "It's time to make polluters pay."
"They aren't just fighting for themselves—they're fighting for the NHS," said the Enough Is Enough campaign.
Condemning the United Kingdom's Conservative-controlled government for putting "patients at risk" by refusing to pay nurses fairly and forcing healthcare providers out of the profession, tens of thousands of nurses and ambulance workers joined forces on Monday to stage the largest work stoppage in the history of the venerated National Health Service.
The workers, who along with teachers and other public and private sector employees have gone on several strikes separately over the past several months, are calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's government to return to the bargaining table with unions including the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Unite, and GMB and negotiate higher wages and better working conditions.
The unions initially called for a pay raise of 5% above inflation, which stood at 9.2% in December, but were offered a raise of just 4.75% on average. The nation's 14 health unions have rejected the Tories' calls for them to accept the offer.
Hospital executives have also called on the government to reopen negotiations for their workers, who earn less than £30,000 ($36,000) per year in the case of newly qualified nurses. Paramedics take home salaries in the low £30,000 range, while specialist nurses earn roughly £45,000.
Ahead of Monday's strike, 100,000 members of the RCN signed an open letter warning that years of low pay have driven tens of thousands of nurses to leave the profession, including 25,000 over the last year—contributing to long waits for care and harming patient safety.
"The NHS is the bedrock of modern Britain," said the nurses. "And it is crumbling. Nursing staff make up more than half of the NHS workforce, and they are pushed beyond their limits. Care is not safe and the public pays the price. On behalf of the nursing profession, I implore you to see sense. Protect nursing to protect the public."
A number of signs on picket lines across Britain on Monday alluded to patient safety.
\u201cUp the striking ambulance workers! \ud83d\ude91\n\n\ud83d\udcf8 @GMBCampaigns picket line in Gateshead today\u201d— Enough is Enough (@Enough is Enough) 1675689572
Officials in Sunak's government have focused on the disruption to healthcare the strikes could cause, with Health Minister Steve Barclay saying, "Strikes by ambulance and nursing unions this week will inevitably cause further delays for patients who already face longer waits due to the Covid backlogs."
One striking worker on a picket line in London held a sign reading, "Strikes are meant to be disruptive."
Not all ambulance workers are going on strike at the same time and emergency calls are still being answered, France24 reported, and about a third of nurses in the U.K. will not be on strike this week.
RCN nurses will continue their strike on Tuesday, while ambulance workers will stage a second work stoppage on Friday and physiotherapists plan to walk out on Thursday.
"They aren't just fighting for themselves—they're fighting for the NHS," said the Enough Is Enough campaign, a grassroots movement in the U.K. that has been leading the call for the government to address the cost-of-living crisis in the country and demanding Sunak's government "tax the rich" to ensure fair wages for workers.
\u201cSupport your local nurses! \ud83d\udc4a\n\nThousands of nurses are on strike across England today.\n\nThey aren\u2019t just fighting for themselves \u2013 they\u2019re fighting for the NHS.\n\nFind a picket line near you: https://t.co/wm7nkfgPyP\u201d— Enough is Enough (@Enough is Enough) 1675671085
About 500,000 U.K. workers, largely in the public sector, have held walkouts since last summer. Last week about 300,000 educators went on strike with the support of 59% of Britons despite the fact that the walkout forced an estimated 85% of schools to close.
Last month, a poll by The Observer found that about 57% of people supported the planned strike by nurses and 52% were in favor of ambulance workers walking out to demand fair pay.