Climate talks stalemate threatens global agreement

Posted: 12 June 2009

Delegates at the latest United Nations climate talks in Bonn agreed that they disagree on almost all crucial issues, after another long round of negotiations about the future of our planet ended, with little progress on the substantial issues. As a result, rich countries risk wrecking vitally important international talks on a climate agreement to be held in December, say conservation and aid agencies.

"They have failed to commit to dramatic curbs in their greenhouse emissions, or recognise the scale of funding poor countries urgently need to cope with the impacts of global warming," says Christian Aid.

There are now just six months to go until the critical UN summit in Copenhagen, at which a new climate deal must be agreed to come into force when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends.

"It is a bit like a classroom with bad students. They hope somehow they can get through by hiding behind their classmates, a little bit of tricks, hoping the teacher will not notice," said Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF's Global Climate Initiative. "Only that the consequences here are different. Not only you stay behind but you drag the whole world down with you."

While scientists agree that the pace of devastating climate change is accelerating and bring new evidence showing that natural disasters caused by rising temperatures will hit the poorest and most vulnerable, rich nations have failed to make any sacrifices and concessions.

"We see no political breakthrough. Instead, delegates are just preparing themselves for battles to be fought at later meetings. They set out their positions more clearly, which is helpful, but they don't resolve any of the difficult issues. We're losing time," Carstensen added.

Despite some progress on details, which was helped by the fact that delegates were finally working on a draft text put forward by the UN, no country seemed to be willing to make a first step. There was no real leader who stood up to show others that it can be done. Countries were hiding one behind the other.

"Delegates sit in conference rooms and hope that the world will sort itself out somehow, that the disasters will not happen, that people are not going to suffer, that all these problems will go away somehow. But they are wrong,"Carstensen said.

No money on the table

If we are to avoid runaway climate change the developed world will have t go further, WWF said. While science shows that rich nations must bring their emissions down by 25-40 per cent by 2020 to bring us on track to stay below the dangerous 2°C warming, states are still sticking to far too low levels of ambition.

According to WWF estimates, adding up the commitments from developed countries so far takes us to reductions at around 10 per cent by 2020, possibly a bit more. It is far less than we need to solve the climate crisis.

"There is no money on the table from the polluting nations to cover the costs of climate change," Carstensen said. "Without that finance it's unreasonable and unlikely that developing countries will agree to deliver their part of a deal."

World leaders have a chance to make climate change a priority at the upcoming meeting of the G8 group in Italy. Conservation groups and scientists called on them to shift their priorities and concentrate on long-term targets rather than on short-term political gains.

"Rich countries, the EU and the US have to make a step. It is time to show true leadership. History is going to judge these people and only those who are willing to go the extra mile, can gain something later on," said WWF.

Strong targets or catastrophe

Echoing these views Friends of the Earth said the world faces certain catastrophic climate change unless rich countries end their steadfast opposition to setting strong and credible carbon reduction targets.

In a statement it said: "The science says rich countries must cut their emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020 at home - and provide the required finance and technology support for developing countries to tackle climate change.

"But despite being officially required to set these new targets by next Wednesday (17 June 2009), most rich countries are stalling. Japan tabled an emissions reduction target of 8 per cent below 1990 levels and the EU is sticking to its 2020 target of 20 per cent emissions reduction. Meanwhile, Obama's US administration is still talking about 0 per cent reductions on 1990 levels by 2020.

"At the same time the UK is pushing for an expansion of dodgy 'offsetting' deals where rich countries pay for projects abroad instead of taking real action at home. Friends of the Earth research released earlier this month showed that offsetting fails to cut emissions and in some cases even increases them."

Delegations from around the world repeatedly warned developed countries that their refusal to set their own adequate targets is preventing any progress in other aspects of the negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).