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Don't let climate talks end in deadlock

Rich nations urgently need to prove that they are serious about tackling global warming if developing countries are to be persuaded to cut carbon emissions too, Christian Aid is warning on the eve of the latest round of United Nations climate change talks.

One important signal would be to start in earnest the transfer of technologies from rich countries to poor to help them fight the affects of climate change.

The transfers, which should also include financial assistance, should be carried out in a ‘measurable, verifiable and reportable’ fashion to engender trust, says the international development agency.

It is concerned that otherwise, negotiations will become quickly deadlocked. Following the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Bali in December, the UN released position papers from many of the countries that took part.

They revealed a number of points of conflict, most prominent of which were the demands from the industrialised world that developing nations commit themselves to cutting carbon, that were countered by emerging economies saying the lead has to be taken by richer countries.

The UNFCCC meets again tomorrow (Monday) in Bangkok to set the agenda for talks over the next two years towards a new climate change agreement starting in 2012 when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires.

Christian Aid climate change policy specialist Andrew Pendleton says: “Recent scientific observations and new work by highly respected institutes such as NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center point to global warming happening faster and with more extreme consequences than even last year’s UN climate science report suggested.

‘We are deeply concerned about the plight of the world’s poorest communities, where people are highly vulnerable to climatic changes, and already suffering its consequences.

‘It is time for the richer countries to commit themselves to taking unilateral action. Climate change is a global emergency and the world simply does not have time for deadlocked negotiations.’

Pendleton warns that none of the action that is currently being envisaged – not even the UK’s groundbreaking climate bill – will be sufficient to keep global temperature rises below the critical 2 degree Celsius level beyond which catastrophic changes are predicted.

He says that greenhouse gas emissions worldwide must stop rising no later than 2015 and decline by around 5 per cent per year thereafter, with the global economy operating on virtually no carbon emissions by the middle of the century.

‘What we do now is what matters because every additional tonne of carbon dioxide that we emit takes us a step closer to irreversible climate change,’ he said.

‘The costs should be borne by those who can afford it and have contributed most to the problem in terms of emissions and not by poor people who now have to focus their efforts on surviving the changes that are already happening.

‘This can be worked out easily and with transparency and should form the basis of an agreement that is signed in Copenhagen in 2009.’

Christian Aid is calling on the countries meeting in Bangkok to agree a five step emergency programme:

1. Negotiators should agree a way of calculating different countries’ responsibility for climate change and their ability to pay to cut emissions.

2. Industrialised countries should each enact national legislation to limit emissions to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 in advance of a 2009 agreement.

3. Governments in industrialised countries should also take urgent steps to regulate against new sources of emissions, such as coal-fired power plants.

4. Developing countries should write corresponding climate change plans showing how they would deal with climate impacts and limit their own emissions

5. According to the agreed ‘responsibility and capability’ index of countries, those in a position to pay for emissions cuts should do so both at home and in countries less able to pay, by funding sustainable development initiatives and transferring technology in a measurable, verifiable and reportable way.  

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For more press information, please contact Andrew Hogg on +44 (0) 207 523 2058

Notes to Editors:

Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in more than 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.
Christian Aid supports I Count, the campaign of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition which brings together over 70 organisations, from environment, development charities to unions, faith and women's groups.
I Count backs a Climate Change Bill which commits the UK to at least 80% reduction in CO2 by 2050. Lobby your local MP and make the Climate Change Bill count www.icount.org.uk.