Blaming developing countries, poor excuse for climate copmlacency

13/10/2009 07:37

Climate negotiations stuck: US becoming key obstacle on the road to Copenhagen

BANGKOK-  The rift between rich and poor countries has intensified because rich countries have not put serious money on the table to help poor countries adapt to the escalating impacts of climate change and develop on a low-carbon pathway, international aid agency Oxfam said in response to the UN climate negotiations in Bangkok.

Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director, Barry Coates, said a continued lack of political will from rich country leaders also meant the emissions reduction targets are well below the level called for by climate scientists, as well as being below the goal of keeping global temperature rise below 2ºC that governments themselves have agreed to. The current offers, including New Zealand’s, will fail to safeguard the world’s poorest people from predicted climate change.

“The millions of people facing worsening floods, droughts and failed harvests will be the real losers if the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, and increasingly New Zealand continue to block the UN negotiations,” Coates said.

At the Bangkok talks, New Zealand received the dubious distinction of the Fossil of the Day award, given to those countries playing a blocking role in negotiations, not once, but twice. The first was when New Zealand negotiators said that the country could backtrack on its already meagre emissions reduction target of 10-20 per cent cuts by 2020 if the outcome of UN negotiations does not meet its conditions. The second award came when New Zealand admitted that its targets were based mainly on not reducing its own emissions, but by paying other countries to do so. Up to 70 per cent of emissions reductions are intended to come through buying international offsets.

“New Zealand is fortunate to have capable and respected negotiators. However, they are being used to secure a cheap deal for New Zealand rather than contributing to a global agreement for the benefit of all of us,” said Coates. “It is like the tragedy of the commons, where New Zealand is putting its self interest above the common interest. If there is not an ambitious deal in Copenhagen, we all suffer.”

The poorest, most vulnerable countries now face an impossible choice as they look ahead to Copenhagen – to accept an agreement that fails to reduce the life-or-death risks they face, or to hold out for a safe and fair deal but risk walking away from Copenhagen empty-handed.

“It is grossly unfair to force poor countries to choose between no deal and a suicide pact,” Coates said.

Developing countries came to Bangkok willing to negotiate. China is a world leader in renewable energy investment, has committed to reduce emissions in line with its economic growth path, and has offered support to help developing countries, including small island states and African nations, adapt to the impacts of climate change. Last week Indonesia joined India, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and other developing countries in committing to deep cuts below business as usual.

“The millions of people facing worsening floods, droughts and failed harvests will be the real losers if the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, and increasingly New Zealand continue to block the UN negotiations,” Coates said.

For developing countries, another disturbing development in Bangkok has been a hardening of rich country positions on the issue of finance: some countries are now openly calling for climate finance should come from existing aid budgets.

“Aid must be increased, not diverted,” Coates said. “If promised aid increases are plundered for climate purposes, it could mean that 8.6 million fewer people have access to HIV and AIDS treatment, 75 million fewer children will be in school, and 4.5 million more children die than would otherwise be the case,” he said.

Coates said rich countries at the Bangkok talks were asking poor countries to contribute financially to climate finance, which is not in line with the UN climate convention and does not recognise that rich nations caused the climate change problem.

“After eight negotiating sessions since Bali, rich countries still refuse to contribute their fair share of the global effort required to avert disaster,” Coates said. “New Zealand and other developed countries continue the charade by getting everyone together and claiming they are ready to negotiate. However, all they keep doing is talking about what everyone else needs to do, but offering virtually nothing themselves.

“It is time that the New Zealand Government made it clear that we are prepared to contribute new funds to make this agreement happen,” Coates concluded.

- Oxfam