Reaction to the Climate Talks in Cancun

Reaction to the Climate Talks in Cancun

Friends of the Earth U.S.
December 11, 2010

Nick Berning, +52 (1) 998 108 0375, [email protected]
Karen Orenstein, +52 (1) 998 143 1414, [email protected]
Kate Horner, +52 (1) 998 137 3144, [email protected]
Kelly Trout (in the U.S.), 202-222-0722, [email protected]


CANCUN, MEXICO — Friends of the Earth U.S. had the following response to the close of UN climate negotiations in Cancun:

Climate change is the greatest threat the human community has faced. The texts considered tonight are a wholly inadequate response, though they make progress in some areas.

The texts fall radically short on the crucial question — curbing climate pollution. Their embrace of the “pledge-based” paradigm, with rich countries polluting however much they like, could lead to a future in which temperatures rise by up to nine degrees [Fahrenheit], according to a recent UN analysis. This would devastate human civilization and the natural world. Impacts would be distributed unequally and unjustly.

The texts come nowhere close to providing sufficient funding to developing countries to help them transition to clean economies and respond to climate change impacts. Such funding, known as climate finance, is not assistance: rich countries owe compensation to poor countries because the rich have polluted more than their fair share of atmospheric space.

While parts of these texts are deeply disappointing, real progress has also been made. Friends of the Earth U.S. has spent much of the past year campaigning for the establishment of a global climate fund to facilitate the delivery of climate finance. While the fund established in this text is imperfect — for example, its trustee will be the World Bank — its creation does represent real momentum and potential. Structures for supporting adaptation to climate change impacts were also included in the text.

The UN remains key to humanity’s collective response to this global crisis and it is important that the multilateral process is moving forward. However, the UN can only be as strong as the parties that compose it. We were unable to achieve needed progress in Cancun because of the opposition of the rich countries that are primarily responsible for climate pollution — top among them the United States. Political change is urgently needed in these countries.

That’s why what happened on the streets outside of the negotiations over the last two weeks is so important. The people, movements and civil society groups that produced the People’s Agreement of Cochabamba were present on the outside in Cancun, and they spoke out forcefully from a principled, moral position and demanded real progress and just policies that respect peoples’ rights.

As Americans, we lament the fact that our President, Barack Obama, failed to follow through on his promise to be a leader in solving this problem. His deputies have threatened and bullied other countries into accepting the pledge-based paradigm, while the President himself has largely ignored climate change.

And as citizens of the world, we must recognize the heroic leadership provided by developing countries on the front lines of climate change, most notably that of Bolivia, in the negotiations. We thank Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ambassador Pablo Solon for their leadership. At every turn, Bolivia has been a forceful and courageous advocate for what’s actually needed, standing in stark contrast to the rich countries that have abdicated their responsibility to future generations and selfishly pursued short-term convenience.

We must now look to 2011. The texts approved here cannot be allowed to be the high water mark of the international community’s response to this crisis. Much stronger outcomes — with the establishment of a binding, equitable, science-based, aggregate emission target for developed countries — are needed next year in Durban.

The texts produced today call into question the future of the Kyoto Protocol and its process for setting aggregate and individual country targets, as well as how appropriate levels of climate finance can be generated. Many rich countries tried to assassinate the Kyoto Protocol here, and it is now on life support. We continue to demand the establishment of a second round of developed country emissions reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, and these commitments must be made in Durban. We also demand that rich countries provide climate finance that is commensurate with the need and with justice.

Friends of the Earth U.S. will continue to contribute to the growth of the climate and social justice movements. We will continue to fight for concrete changes at the domestic level — in terms of both politics and policy — that compel the United States to play a more constructive role. We hope this leads to the fair and effective outcomes we did not achieve in Cancun.

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