U.S. Holds Climate Negotiations Hostage


Rich industrialized countries offer little hope for just climate agreement in Copenhagen

BONN, GERMANY—Throughout the United Nations climate talks ending today in Bonn, the United States blocked measures that would move negotiations forward, according to Friends of the Earth.

Rather than show global leadership, the Obama administration failed to live up to its responsibility as the world’s largest historical greenhouse gas polluter. This strategy damages prospects for a just, equitable, and effective outcome at the key UN conference planned in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December of this year.

“The election of President Obama created tremendous hope worldwide that the U.S. would finally play a leadership role in solving the climate crisis that—more than any other nation on Earth—it is responsible for causing. Unfortunately for the future of people and the planet, the Obama administration position at these UN negotiations sounds frighteningly similar to that of administration of George Bush,” said Karen Orenstein of Friends of the Earth U.S.

In particular, Friends of the Earth said the U.S. delegation failed to commit to greenhouse gas emission reduction targets that would account for its fair share of necessary global reductions. The U.S. also failed to commit to providing sufficient financial support to developing countries as they address climate impacts and transition to cleaner economies.

Domestic greenhouse gas emission reductions by industrialized countries of at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020—with no offsetting—are needed for a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic global climate change, many experts have said.

The U.S. administration, however, is still talking about zero percent reductions by 2020, compared to the 1990 baseline. Japan proposed a dangerously low emissions reduction target during the Bonn talks of eight percent below 1990 levels. The European Union remained unimpressive with its inadequate 2020 target of 20 percent below the 1990 baseline (30 percent if other industrialized countries commit to similar efforts). Considering that the EU is set to “offset” over half of its commitments, these already too-weak EU targets will be even further watered down.

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.

The Alliance of Small Island States called on developed countries to commit to stronger greenhouse gas reduction targets so that global temperature rise stays below 1.5ºC. Bolivia demanded repayment of the developed world’s climate debt. El Salvador and Paraguay stood strong to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

Alarmingly, industrialized countries failed in Bonn to agree to the substantial transfer of money and technology cooperation needed to enable developing countries to tackle climate change.

“Industrialized countries need to assume their historical responsibility and pay back their climate debt. Developing countries must stay strong in calling for climate justice. By ignoring calls to repay their climate debt and hindering progress in these talks, rich countries are jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of millions of people,” said Meena Raman, Honorary Secretary of Friends of the Earth Malaysia.

Industrialized nations owe developing countries a “climate debt” for excessive greenhouse gas pollution over the past 200 years and to compensate for the damage that pollution has caused and will cause.* Rich, industrialized countries account for some 20 percent of the world’s population but are responsible for around three-quarters of historical greenhouse gas emissions. But developed countries have so far refused to repay this debt and have continued to block progress in the negotiations.

Note to editors:

* For more information on climate debt, read the Third World Network briefing paper: http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/climate/briefings/Bonn03/TWN.BPjune2009.bonn.02.doc

Friends of the Earth (www.foe.org) is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world.