Friends of the Earth International

November 23, 2012

UN climate talks: Urgent progress still not in sight

DOHA, QATAR, November 23, 2012 — While delegates from around the world prepare to meet for the annual United Nations climate talks in Doha next week, Friends of the Earth International expressed strong concerns over the continued lack of progress by developed countries which are supposed to take the lead to stop climate devastation and avoid catastrophic climate change.1

The UN climate talks, ongoing now for 20 years, have made little progress in delivering concrete climate action and are now heading backwards. Most recently they agreed 2015 as the date to launch a new treaty to deal with climate action which probably won’t come into force until 2020.2

And many governments look set to attend the talks in Doha to promote a further weakening of the framework for global emissions reductions, while at home they continue to support the expansion of false solutions to the climate crisis.

Global emissions need to peak around 2015 if we are to have a decent chance of bringing emissions down to safe levels in time to prevent a further worsening of the earth’s climate and avoid the unprecedented destruction, insecurity and suffering that catastrophic, irreversible climate change would cause.

Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Friends of the Earth International climate justice coordinator, said:

“From the carnage wrought by Hurricane Sandy to the devastating flooding in Nigeria, the impacts of climate change are now evident for all to see, and alarmingly more frequent. Carbon dioxide levels have reached a record high, setting us on track for a terrifying 6 degrees of warming. Unfortunately developed countries, led by the United States, are accelerating the demolition of the world’s international framework for fair and urgent climate action. And most governments continue to support and advance the very policies that are driving the climate crisis, from dirty fossil fuel extraction of oil, gas and coal to carbon trading, agrofuels, large-scale industrial agriculture and ‘green desert’ plantations.”

The United States, Australia, Canada and Japan continue to be the main players dragging their feet and undermining progress in the UN talks. Europe has pledged an emissions target which will allow its emissions to continue to grow, and continues to push for the expansion of carbon trading, a dangerous scam which only benefits corporations and financial elites. Meanwhile these and other countries are supporting false solutions to the climate crisis and ignoring the voices of people resisting the imposition of destructive projects and the land grabs, displacement and environmental destruction that they cause.

The power of vested interests and multinational corporations and their influence over government policies and UN processes remains at the heart of the ongoing failure of the talks and their recent further unraveling.3 Tackling their influence is essential to unlocking the deadlock, and will unleash multiple other positive impacts like releasing for public benefit the hundreds of billions of dollars in public subsidies to dirty fossil fuel corporations.

Asad Rehman, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland said: “Friends of the Earth International is urging governments attending Doha to finally wake up to the reality of the climate crisis and make urgent progress on the foundations of fair and ambitious climate action: emissions cuts in line with science and equity; adequate public finance to support climate action in the developing world; progress on technology transfer; and an end to carbon trading. All are needed to drive forward the transformation of our economies, deliver real sustainable energy and food alternatives, and tackle emissions while improving health and wellbeing for everyone. We are nearly out of time. Without urgent progress governments will face a total loss of confidence in their ability to act in the interests of people and the environment.”

For more information

Asad Rehman, climate campaigner, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (in Doha): +44 7956 210332

Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Friends of the Earth International climate justice coordinator: +44 7912 406510


1 Developed (Annex I) countries are responsible for three quarters of historic emissions despite only hosting 15% of the world’s population. Because of their historical responsibility for climate change they have a moral and legal obligation under the climate convention to cut their emissions first and fastest and to provide adequate public finance for climate action by developing countries.

2 Last year at COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, instead of making progress on implementing the existing negotiating roadmap agreed in Bali in 2007, parties agreed to launch a whole new round of negotiations on an agreement to cover climate action. The Durban Platform (ADP) will commence negotiations in Doha and is due to finish its work by 2015. There is a very high risk that the Durban Platform will delay action on emissions for another ten years, lock in low ambition, undermine the principles of equity and justice in the global climate framework, and further deregulate the framework, leading to a system even weaker and less effective than the Kyoto Protocol. At COP 18 in Doha countries are supposed to be finalising the targets for developed country emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period; making progress on climate finance and comparable emissions reductions targets for the United States (which is not party to the Kyoto Protocol); and commencing negotiations on the Durban Platform.

3 400 global civil society organizations and social movements have denounced corporate capture as a root cause of failing environmental multilateral negotiations. Clear demands were presented to the UN earlier this year to help put an end to the excessive and harmful influence of corporations over processes like the UN climate talks. So far the UN did not issue a public response. Friends of the Earth International’s report on the corporate capture of the UN is available at:

Friends of the Earth International is demanding:

  • Urgent, binding and deep emissions cuts by developed countries in line with science and equity
  • Provision by developed countries of adequate climate finance and technology transfer to developing countries for sustainable development and adaptation to climate impact
  • An end to carbon trading and offsetting
  • A top-down framework for future climate action which respects and reasserts the principles in the UNFCCC, including the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR), and which includes binding emissions targets for developed countries and no new market mechanisms
  • Efforts by all governments to drive forward the transformation of our unsustainable economies, protecting the rights and livelihoods of communities and delivering a safe climate and greater health and wellbeing for all.
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