Leading development and environmental groups have today succeeded in persuading the Government to abandon plans to recall the Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne from the UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico.
Huhne and the climate change minister Greg Barker, who is also in Mexico, were awaiting instructions as to whether they must return to help shore up the Government vote over tuition fees in the face of a threatened backbench revolt.
In Cancun yesterday (7 December 2010) Huhne was asked to play a key role in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change talks by conference organisers the Mexican government.
They have tasked him with helping to bridge the negotiating gap between rich countries refusing to sign up to a further commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and developing countries insisting that without such an extension, there can be no international climate deal.
Groups including Christian Aid, Oxfam, Greenpeace, Tearfund and WWF-UK wrote to the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg saying the need for a new climate deal was of the utmost urgency and could not be jeopardised by domestic political considerations.
In Cancun, Sol Oyuela, a senior Christian Aid climate justice adviser, said as the letter was sent : "The prospect of Chris Huhne being pulled out of Cancun at precisely the moment when his presence is so important to achieving a good result, is terrible news."
Oyuela went on: "The timing could not be worse. There are just a few days left for in which to achieve a badly-needed leap forward.
"The Mexican government specifically invited him to help take charge of some of the most vital but difficult elements of these talks. To recall him now would suggest that the UK has a very disappointing sense of priorities when it comes to solving global problems."
CAFOD’s head of policy Gwen Barry said: “All parties have said they would give the highest priority to climate change. Where is that commitment now? To allow Westminster politicking over a three-line whip to put at risk the vital work that Britain is doing on the Kyoto Protocol is utter hubris.
“Climate change is more important than point-scoring between or inside parties. Tuition fees is a massively important issue but the vote will not be won or lost on Chris Huhne’s presence.
“We need someone to take the lead on climate change - a statesman amongst our political parties - worthy of the title - who will offer a solution to this problem. This will be the person who demonstrates an understanding that Westminster should not be the story here - that belongs to the people who are already being affected by damaging climate change.”
The Kyoto Protocol is the only global legally binding cap on CO2 emissions in the world today, setting targets for 37 industrialised countries and the European community. Its first commitment period ends in 2012.
Recognising that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, the Protocol places a heavier burden on them to curb emissions.
However, neither of the world’s two largest carbon emitters, China and the United States, are bound by the Protocol’s targets. The US refused to sign, while China, as a developing country, is not obliged under the Protocol to make cuts.
Last week Japan, backed by Russia and Canada, said it would not sign up to a new extension period of the Protocol, while a number of countries, particularly in South America, insist it must form the basis of any new climate deal.