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Lack of leadership undermines progress towards a global climate deal

The glaring lack of leadership and ambition displayed by rich countries at the United Nations climate change summit could gravely undermine progress towards a crucial new global climate deal, says international development agency Christian Aid.

At no stage in talks in Poznan, Poland about the new climate deal did developed nations indicate just how far they are prepared to go in cutting emissions. They refused to say anything more than they would ’consider’ cuts of 24 - 40 per cent – using language they agreed a year ago in Bali. 

Nor did they indicate how much money, or how much technology, they are prepared to give to developing countries to help them adapt to the impact of climate change, and pursue low carbon development.

Nelson Muffuh, a senior Christian Aid climate change adviser, said: 'The levels of leadership and ambition that have been shown are grossly inadequate. Lack of progress at Poznan must cast serious doubts as to whether rich and industrialised countries are seriously committed to achieving an adequate and equitable new climate change deal next year.

‘Failure to address key issues at Poznan is going to make the job of arriving at a fair deal in Copenhagen in a year’s time twice as hard.’

Mr Muffuh was particularly critical of the impact of  a parallel summit of European leaders in Brussels that cut much of the substance out of a European Union (EU) plan to tackle climate change. He said this had seriously undermined the ambition of the Poznan talks.

Although there was agreement in Brussels that cuts of 20 per cent over 1990 levels would be introduced by 2020, numerous economic sectors will be able to off-set their carbon emissions by buying credits from abroad, while heavy industry in Eastern Europe will be given carbon credits for free.

Mr Muffuh said: ‘The UK and other EU member states have in the past claimed climate leadership.  We call on Gordon Brown to urge the EU to quickly move to a cut of at least 40 per cent in its emissions next year to show the EU can regain its position as an ambitious actor on climate change.

 'Failure to reach a deal at the next UN summit in Copenhagen in December 2009 would raise the very real possibility that in 2012 we will enter a period when there are no binding carbon emission limits in place. That would be a disaster.

‘The Countdown to Copenhagen has begun. The clock is ticking with the hopes of the world depending on what emerges there. The Poznan talks as a prelude offer very little encouragement.’

Christian Aid says there will be no agreement if richer countries refuse to show leadership over cutting their own emissions, and refuse to shoulder the cost of helping the developing world develop in a carbon clean way and adapt to climate change. It is poorer countries who have the least responsibility for causing climate change who are bearing the brunt of its impact.

Christian Aid and other climate change campaign groups had hoped that rich nations would put on the table at Poznan the level of cuts they are prepared to make, and start talking about where funds to help developing countries would come from, how they would be governed and where they would be spent. They were disappointed on all counts. 

The lack of progress at the UN summit, said Mr Muffuh, overshadowed two positive outcomes from Poznan. A programme of talks in the run up to Copenhagen was agreed, and the Adaptation Fund, set up to help poorer countries deal with climate change, will now become operational.

‘We always knew the summit would be more about process than substance,’ said Mr Muffuh. ‘And it’s good that the long overdue Adaptation Fund is to become a reality. But even with these two developments, it can hardly be called a success.’

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For more press information please contact Andrew Hogg on +44 (0) 7872350534 

Notes to Editors:

  1. 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.

  2. Christian Aid’s new report on climate change, Setting the Bar High at Poznan, was written by Alison Doig, its senior adviser on climate change. http://christianaid.org.uk/images/poznan-report.pdf
    The conference opening in Poznan on Monday, 1st December runs until Saturday, 13 December. It is the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

  3. Calculations by Christian Aid's partners EcoEquity show that if all industrialised countries cut their emissions by only 20 per cent, in line with the emerging EU agreement, this could lead the world towards a devastating global temperature rise of more than 3oC.EcoEquity’s calculations are based on the EU package of measures on climate change, which will be debated by the European Parliament next week.  

  4. EcoEquity’s model calculates how atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide would change if all industrialised countries (Annex 1 countries under the UNFCCC) took on similar annual emissions reductions as those in the EU climate change package. The model then calculates a range of values for how global average temperatures would be affected by those levels of atmospheric CO2, by 2100. Even with cuts of 30 per cent, the resulting carbon in the atmosphere would result in a global temperature rise of between 2C and 3C. With cuts of only 20 per cent, there will be an even larger rise.

  5. With change of 3oC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that global food production will decline, with the greatest reductions in the tropics. In parts of Africa, crop yields could be reduced by 50 per cent, greatly increasing the risk of hunger. Freshwater will be scarce for to three billion people worldwide, in both rural areas and some of the world’s megacities, such as Lima and Calcutta. Health will be affected through increased malnutrition, diarrhea and malaria. Millions of people will be at risk of coastal flooding, with disastrous consequences for many small island states.  Natural disasters such as hurricanes and drought will become far more common place and unpredictable across much of the developing world.

  6. In Europe such temperatures will increase inland flash flooding and coastal flooding, as well as increase the health risks due to heat waves and increased forest fires.

  7. Christian Aid is a member of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition - the UK's largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change.

  8. Together with faith-based development agencies in a number of other European countries, Christian Aid has launched a new climate justice campaign called Countdown to Copenhagen. www.countdowntocopenhagen.com