Rich countries block progress at climate talks

International Institute for Environment and Development says rich countries aren’t carrying through on their promises

The UN climate change negotiations that end today in Bangkok have largely failed to deliver any substantive progress on targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or the transfer of technology and finance from rich to poorer nations for adaptation and mitigation, leading to serious questions about the political commitment of the industrialised nations.

“Last month, President Obama, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other leaders of industrialised nations all lined up to say how committed they were to tackling climate change and reaching an effective agreement on how to do this when UN negotiations end in Copenhagen in December,” says Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development and a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“This gave the world high expectations for the international negotiation session that has run for the past two weeks in Bangkok,” says Huq. “But it seems like the negotiators from industrialised nations either didn’t follow their leaders’ speeches or haven’t been received any new instructions because in virtually every aspect of the talks there has been minimal progress of any substance.”

  • The G77/China group of 132 developing nations says that the EU is trying to “divide and conquer” the developing nations and detract attention from their own broken promises.
  • There was virtually no progress on new targets for developed nations that are party to the Kyoto Protocol to cut their emissions, despite them being legally bound to agree new targets.
  • The G77/China accuse the United States and European Union stand accused of trying to kill of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legal agreement that commits any nations to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. The EU as a party to the protocol is legally bound to agree new targets for a post-2012 period.
  • In the negotiations focusing on ways to tackle climate change by reducing deforestation , the European Union has removed a provision that would protect against the conversion of natural forests to plantations, threatening impact for biodiversity and forest-dependent people.
  • Only Norway, by announcing that it would increase its pledge to cut emissions by 40% of their 1990 level by the year 2020. This is an increase from their earlier pledge of a 30% cut.

“One area of hope is that countries are now reaching agreement that adaptation is essential to protect people and economies in the developing nations,” says Huq. “Negotiators made some good progress on adaptation to climate change, assuming that money will be available to do it. But the big questions still to be answered are: how much money will developed nations provide and how will it be chanelled to make adaptation a reality.”

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change binds rich countries such as the United States and European Union member states to provide funding to developing nations to adapt to and mitigate climate change.