12/09/2010 05:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Crisis in Cancún

This post was co-authored by Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of NAACP and Reverend Richard Cizik, president of New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

While TV pundits and politicians continue to debate the existence of climate change, the impacts of the crisis continue to worsen, threatening the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people across the world. As representatives from over 190 countries meet in Cancún this week to determine how to address the climate crisis, the US has the opportunity to step up its leadership and shore up its plans to help.

Constituents and staff of the NAACP will be in Cancún to ensure that the experiences and risks faced by marginalized communities in the US are considered in the deliberations, while also identifying common interests with developing nations who share a need to halt the progression of climate change and address the impacts. Additionally, many different religious communities, evangelicals included, such as the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, are in Cancún to draw attention to the plight of the poor and marginalized who are being impacted negatively by climate change.

If sea levels continue to rise, the Maldives could be the first nation to disappear entirely; their country sits just 4.9 feet above sea level and rising waters could threaten their very existence. Across Africa, changing weather patterns and erratic rainfall are making farming more and more difficult, contributing to food crisis and famines in country after country. Communities in the United States are not spared of these impacts including increasing food prices and affecting availability of nutritious foods in the US where African American communities and other communities of color already disproportionately experience elevated hunger rates.

At a climate summit in Copenhagen one year ago, developed countries, including the US, pledged to deliver $100 billion per year by 2020 to help poor countries transition to clean energy economies and adapt to the impacts of climate change. This money would be used by at-risk nations to build storm-resistant homes, hospitals and flood shelters and helping farmers grow and store food in the face of extreme weather and rising tides.

The US commitment to funding for adaptation has been undermined by Congress' failure to pass comprehensive climate legislation. Even with these massive obstacles before us, we must continue to work with President Obama's administration and supportive leaders in the House and Senate to develop and implement creative ways to meet meet and exceed the US's stated commitment with new option including public finance.

While new funding is critically important, so, too, is the mechanism to deliver these funds. In Cancún, the US should also support the establishment of an independent global climate fund that will ensure transparency and accountability and allow at-risk communities direct access to funding and participation in decision-making at all levels of the funding process.

The outcomes in Cancun are of critical concern to the faith and civil rights communities -- those who serve traditionally marginalized groups and people. Bad environmental decisions will result in lost cultures and devastated livelihoods particularly among those who have done least to create the crisis, at home and abroad. Support and leadership from the US is urgently needed in Cancún and beyond.