UK urged to take a lead as Cancun climate talks draw to a close

By staff writers
December 8, 2010

The Cancun climate talks are in danger of being a triumph of style over substance, UK-based international development agency Christian Aid has warned.

Aid organisations want the UK government and its advisers to act more decisively as the conference approaches its climax.

Senior UN climate official Christiana Figueres said yesterday that the fate of low-lying islands should be a "wake-up call" to all involved.

While the Mexican hosts have successfully managed the talks to minimise open dissent and give all countries the chance to participate, negotiators have to date achieved little or nothing for millions of people living in poverty, who are already struggling with climate change, Christian Aid says.

Britain should lead the world by taking on a tough new climate change target to cut emissions by 60 per cent within 20 years which will see thousands of new wind turbines installed and millions of electric cars on the roads, according to the the Committee on Climate Change chaired by Lord Adair Turner.

"The case for action on climate change is as strong as ever: climate science remains robust and suggests that there are very significant risks if we do not cut emissions," Turner said on Monday 6 December.

"While the adaptation and finance sections of [the weekend's] text contain some welcome points, rich countries are holding them hostage to progress being made on their demands of poor countries,’ explained Mohamed Adow, Senior Adviser for Global Advocacy at Christian Aid.

The text is also ambiguous about the future survival of the Kyoto Protocol, say critics. In addition, it fails to resolve the question of the legal form of the outcome of the negotiations, which is one of the trickiest issues facing negotiators. Finally, the text needs a large injection of ambition to keep the global temperature rise within safe levels.

Mr Adow added: "Now it is time for ministers to take over and piece together a balanced and comprehensive package. All sides need to make compromises in order to complete the Cancun jigsaw and achieve an effective and equitable outcome."

He said the first week of talks had been a "triumph of style over substance". With two days now left, it is difficult to predict what can be salvaged. But campaigners say it is vital to keep the pressure up.

Mohamed Adow declared: "Countries have made little real progress, if any, towards action which will actually protect people everywhere from the hunger, destruction and fear that come with climate change. But why are we here in Cancun, if not to make such progress?"

The lack of progress so far makes it all the more vital for UK ministers in Cancun to give the talks some powerful new momentum, says Christian Aid.

"Cancun must lay the foundations for a solution to the climate problem, not wreck the existing climate architecture or confuse the urgency of action with readiness for a bad deal," added Mr Adow.

"As a priority, parties must support a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, establish an ambitious climate fund within the UNFCCC and agree a clear way forward into the South African summit next year," he said.

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