Campaigners have welcomed the government’s enthusiasm to revitalise the international climate negotiations, launched in London earlier today, but warned they needed to match enthusiasm with action.
They said that the UK’s commitment to a second term of the Kyoto Protocol, if other nations commit to a similar parallel treaty, was vital.
The future of Kyoto was a ‘toxic issue’ at the Copenhagen talks last December, and the new move from the UK could be a step towards unlocking the differences between developed and developing nations, they said.
In a statement responding to Beyond Copenhagen: The UK Government’s International Climate Change Action Plan, CAFOD's head of policy, Joanne Green, said: "The UK Government's agreement on flexibility to renegotiate the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol shows that Gordon Brown is listening to the concerns of developing countries.
“This is a first stride in rebuilding the trust desperately needed between developing and developed countries that can lay the foundation for a global agreement on climate change. This constructive announcement, along with the UK's leadership in the High Level Advisory Group, is a promising sign that the UK is once again in the driving seat on climate change."
However, whilst also giving a broad welcome to the plan, Tearfund pointed to "scant mention" of adaptation, warning that this was crucial for some of the world’s poorest people.
“Adaptation is crucial for the poorest and most vulnerable countries, already experiencing the impact of climate change,” said Paul Cook, Tearfund’s Advocacy Director. “They will bear the brunt of climate impacts caused by current weak emissions cuts pledged in the Copenhagen Accord.
“Tearfund is particularly concerned that funds for adaptation are not plundered to compensate oil rich countries for their lost revenues, which could happen under the terms of the Copenhagen Accord. The UK needs a strategy to ensure this does not happen.”
The aid agency also pointed out that the document stopped short of advocating an immediate unconditional move by the EU to 30 per cent emissions cuts by 2020 (on 1990 levels) – which campaigners say is a crucial way to demonstrate their confidence in Europe’s clean energy future.
The High Level Advisory Group on international climate change financing meeting in London today, co-chaired by Gordon Brown and the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Menes Zelawi, was described as “best chance for progress on climate finance”.
“With its political clout the group can play a critical role in unlocking finance from developed countries to support poor and vulnerable countries in tackling climate change,” said Paul Cook .
“There are some great ideas that could generate the huge sums of money needed, for example the Robin Hood Tax. But crucially, its work must feed back into the international negotiations as they get back on track this year.”
Melanie Ward, Christian Aid's Senior UK Political Adviser, said: "The positive language needs to be matched by the necessary political choices. These include using international finance to support clean development in poor countries, rather than more dirty coal power stations, and demanding much deeper cuts in EU emissions levels."
One important test of the government’s commitment on climate change will present itself next week, she added, when the World Bank will vote on whether to lend $3.75 billion to South Africa for the building of one of the world's biggest new coal-fired power stations
Campaigners in South Africa say that instead of providing power to communities which at present do not have electricity, most of the electricity generated will go to large scale foreign-owned metal industries.
Bishop Geoff Davies, Executive Director of the South African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute, has criticised the plans saying: "it would be wrong morally, economically, socially and ecologically for South Africa to be given a World Bank loan to continue its investment in coal-fired energy technology."
"The Government must put its money where its mouth is, and vote against the proposal," said Melanie Ward.
She added that ministers must also insist on the EU committing to cut its emissions by more than 30 per cent by 2020, whether or not other rich countries are prepared to make comparable cuts.
"Without such cuts, the world has no hope of keeping the global temperature rise below 2oC," she warned. "Nor will the EU be able to win developing countries’ trust, which will be vital in order to achieve a new international deal on climate change."