What does climate change really mean for impoverished people in developing countries?

Ángel Maria Ibarra Turcios, Director of an environmental organisation in El Salvador (Progressio partner organisation UNES), tells us what the consequences will be if the Copenhagen treaty is weak:

“The problems that we already have are going to get worse. This year, for example, as a consequence of a weak period in El Niño, we have seen a shortage in rainfall of more than 15% in the country. In addition, we are losing the regular recurrence of the rains and weather patterns in general.

“So what has this meant? Losses in agriculture for poor people who grow crops in order to survive. They have lost corn, they have lost beans, they have lost sugar cane, they have lost rice, and fruit trees which are more permanent have also been affected.

“Many people in rural areas have lost the harvests that they grow to survive, and this worsens the extreme poverty that they are already living in.

“And there is also an impact in cities, not just in rural areas, as the availability of water decreases. The problem of climate change affects patterns of diseases. In our countries there are epidemics of dengue and cholera, and tuberculosis is becoming more common.

“Climate change is already having an impact on productivity, an impact on the soil, an impact on ecosystems. And in general what is happening is that the living conditions of people who already live in poverty are worsening, and therefore living in a dignified way becomes much more difficult for them.

“Unfortunately many people in countries like El Salvador are still uninformed about climate change. Indeed, in developed countries too, ordinary people are not totally informed about what climate change means and what the repercussions are. They are misinformed, and the system needs people to be misinformed, so that they do not take action.

“But people who know, farmers who live off the land, who cultivate the earth, who protect the earth, yes, they realise how their individual action, action as families, as communities, with small daily changes, can really change the global situation.

“So what we must do, firstly, is adopt an attitude of citizenship. Say ‘We shouldn’t be passive’. And we shouldn’t allow governments, large companies and rich people to decide things for us. We each of us have to take responsibility.”

Brie O’Keefe, Progressio’s Campaigns Officer, talked to Ángel Maria Ibarra Turcios  at the pre-Copenhagen climate negotiations in Barcelona

Ángel is Director of Unidad Ecològica Salvadoreña/UNES, Salvadoran Ecological Unity, an environmental organisation in El Salvador and Progressio partner.