Government challenged on climate change and green action

By staff writers
6 Oct 2011

Aid agencies have taken a photo climate petition to No 10 Downing Street, as part of a campaign to get the UK government to act on its green pledges.

The petition, presented by Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund, comes in the wake of the annual Conservative Party conference, which ended in Manchester yesterday.

At the beginning of the conference, the three church-based development agencies, who work with some of the poorest communities throughout the world, issued a warning to the Conservatives that they must not abandon their pledge to be the "greenest government ever".

The warning by more than a thousand supporters of the charities came amid discussion of the Government's intent to raise the motorway speed limit to 80 mph, and news that a £860 million subsidised renewable heating scheme is now to be postponed.

Following a service in Manchester Cathedral last Saturday evening, the charities’ supporters marched to the conference centre to urge the Conservative party to do everything in its power to make sure climate talks later this year deliver for the poorest people in the world.

Eighteen months on from David Cameron’s ‘green’ pledge, the charities want to see the Prime Minister playing a proactive role in delivering climate policy that helps vulnerable communities in poorer countries that are already bearing the brunt of climate change.

Tearfund President, Elaine Storkey led the ecumenical service in the Cathedral where speakers included leading South African theologian Professor Tinyiko Malueke and Christian Aid’s Director Loretta Minghella.

The congregation then walked in procession to the G-Mex centre where the Conservative party conference starts today, and on to Albert Square where a candlelit vigil and a minute’s silence were held in solidarity with those already suffering the impacts of climate change.

The charities stressed that developing countries desperately need world leaders to take stronger global action on the issue, and urged the UK to take a lead later this year at the G20 meeting in France, and UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa.

Developed nations pledged in 2009 that a fund would be up and running by 2013 that should deliver $100 billion of climate finance per year by 2020 to help poorer countries cope with the impact of climate change. But the charities fear that the economic crisis may result in rich nations not fulfilling this pledge.

Tearfund’s Director of Advocacy Paul Cook explained: "Poor people urgently need finance to adapt to climate change and develop in a low carbon way. The current economical and political troubles dominating the western world must not allow previous pledges on international climate policy to be kicked into the long grass."

Climate finance is key to making the UN climate conference in South Africa a success, the charities say, but currently there is no agreement on where money for the new Green Climate Fund, agreed at UN climate talks last year, will come from. The issue will be discussed at the G20.

Christian Aid’s Director Loretta Minghella declared: "Recent developments such as suggestions the government is to raise the speed limit suggest it may be going backwards on climate rather than forwards."

She continued: "Any backsliding is unacceptable. We need the government to galvanise international support for the extension of the Kyoto Protocol, without which there would be no enforceable rules on carbon emissions, and we would risk climate anarchy."

CAFOD’s Director Chris Bain added: "In 2010 David Cameron promised that his government would be the greenest government ever. We’re calling on him to hold true to that promise for the world’s poorest people by leading international efforts to deliver the support they were
promised."

The three charities say that the UK has, in the past, positioned itself as a world leader on climate finance issues, but that in the midst of the economic crisis, when it is still very much needed, such leadership is notable by its absence.

[Ekk/3]

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