The Year From Hell

10/06/2010 02:30 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

For many people around the world, this has been a year from sheer hell as floods, droughts, fires, storms and other extreme weather events have wiped out crops and destroyed the livelihoods of some of the poorest people in the world. Military leaders have warned that these conditions pose a major threat to global security and stability. As climate change intensifies, this will only get worse.

Right now negotiators from around the globe have converged on Tianjin, China for the latest round of UN climate talks to find solutions that will help the world mitigate and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate. It's the last opportunity for negotiators to work through details in advance of the major end of year conference in Cancun, Mexico this December.

If they are to be successful, negotiators must learn from past mistakes and ensure that the people on the front lines of climate change, vulnerable populations in poor countries, are not left behind in the negotiations. Unfortunately when you look at the small amount of climate funds already being disbursed by the international community, the poorest people who need the most help to adapt to climate change are largely being bypassed.

In fact less than a tenth of climate funds disbursed to date are estimated to have been for adaptation to help poor people in developing countries who are bearing the brunt of climate impacts. This is a recipe for continuing disaster that will punish many of the most at risk populations immeasurably and begs the question will we sow the seeds of resilience now or pay the price of failure later?

The solution is to ensure that the people on the front lines in the fight against climate change have a seat at the table when the deals are being done. If vulnerable populations in poor countries continue to be shut out of the process it will be no surprise when they are overlooked once the checks are written.

That is why it is so important for negotiators to establish a global climate fund that is fairly governed, accountable and accessible to the groups, including women, who are most in harm's way. Beyond addressing the failure to get climate funds into the hands of poor people, a global climate fund is also a key ingredient for getting talks moving this year and making progress towards a binding climate deal.

The fairness of the mechanism through which climate finance flows is just as important as the finance itself. To be effective, the fund must be seen as legitimate by both developed and developing countries. That is why it must be representative, equitable, accountable, accessible, transparent and efficient. And it should ensure that at least half of the money is spent helping poor and vulnerable people, particularly women, build resilience and adapt to a changing climate.

Several key members of Congress have written a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, showing "strong support for the establishment of a new global climate fund". Negotiators should heed this call and make establishing a fund a top priority. Ultimately, success in tackling climate change depends upon it.

Oxfam has released a new report with detailed recommendations of how to set up and manage a global climate fund. See more details on this report here.