Rich countries leave poor to pick up the tab at Bonn climate talks: FoE

Posted: 20 June 2011

Climate campaigners have  raised the alarm at the direction of the UN climate negotiations as the latest round of talks came to an end in Germany last week.

Speaking after the talks closed on Friday, Dr. Sivan Kartha of the Stockholm Environment Institute outlined the current 'gap' between emission reduction pledges and possible 'safe limits' of emissions of global-warming causing gases.

"In the race to stop climate change which will destroy homes, crops, and entire lives across the world, it is developing countries that are first out of the blocks. It is developing countries that have made pledges that add up with the science. Developed countries seem to be skulking away, trying to avoid picking up the tab for the pollution they've caused." Chair of the panel, Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate at UK Friends of the Earth said.

He was joined by senior analyst Kate Horner of Friends of the Earth (US), Susanne Hammel campaigner with Young Friends of the Earth Europe, and Michele Maynard of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.

Frimmersdorf coal-fired power plant
Frimmersdorf coal-fired (lignite) power plant, near Grevenbroich in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany. According to a WWF study, this power plant is the second worst climate polluter in Europe. Photo © Andrew KERR/ WWF-Canon

"If developed countries don't increase their reduction targets to 40% by 2020 without offsets they are risking 5C of warming and a planetary emergency." Mr Rehman said.

"You can't negotiate with science. You can't negotiate with the Earth's natural limits. At the moment emission reduction pledges take us far over those limits. This data shows that there is a huge gap between what is needed to be done and what is being done," said Dr. Sivan Kartha.

"Some of that gap has been met by credible commitments from developing countries but developed countries' promises are such that, with the current accounting loopholes on the table, developed countries' emissions could actually increase when they should be rapidly declining. That is dangerous for the climate, and poisonous for the negotiations."

Progress blocked by US

"The United States continues to block progress on the most important issues in these talks. Not only do they refuse to negotiate their alarmingly insufficient pollution reduction target, this week the US refused to discuss how they will meet financial pledges they have already made," said Kate Horner, senior analyst at Friends of the Earth (US).

"Blocking discussion of long-term finance is a serious blow to the already fragile negotiations and imperils the lives of those who are already suffering the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. Perhaps the biggest contribution the US government could make to these talks would be to cut the carbon of sending people to negotiations who refuse to negotiate." Ms Horner added.

EU should take the lead

Susanne Hammel campaigning with "Push Europe" and Young Friends of the Earth Europe Young Europeans are pushing the EU to take the lead again - to unblock the talks by agreeing to the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and by raising their emission reduction target to at least 40% domestic cuts by 2020. If the EU doesn't do this we don't know how we'll look our friends in Africa and other countries in the Global South in the eye. We know the EU can stop playing poker with our future and make the right moves now." said.

South Africa and Durban


"This week the Mexican Government finally revealed the "new methodologies" they used to create the Cancun decision - it certainly wasn't done by consulting countries - but instead was concocted in backrooms and put on the table as a take it or leave it offer. That process is the reason we've had so many problems with 'agenda' issues at talks this year. Countries are trying to work off a document they didn't help create, and didn't have time to deliberate on properly." Michele Maynard, Policy and Advocacy Officer of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) said.

"To get the talks back on track in South Africa, African civil society is calling on the South African Government to have an open, democratic and accountable process. That means saying when, where and who they are meeting and how they will let the people actually impacted by climate change have their say. This is all the more urgent as we hear that New Zealand and the US are driving the introduction of 'soil carbon' markets into the negotiations. These markets are false solution that will only fuel the land-grab in Africa and seriously undermine the ability of poor Africans to feed themselves." Ms Maynard added.

In a statement reflecting on two weeks of UN climate negotiations, Ambassador Jorge Arguello of Argentina, Chairman of the Group of 77 and China (G77) said: "The intense negotiations have allowed us to move forward on specifics, which is no doubt positive. Nevertheless, the chance to reach a successful outcome in Durban to consolidate and stengthen the climate change framework still depends on the level of political will that Parties can show. The Group of 77 and China will continue to work in an open and constructive manner to create the political conditions necessary."