The UK and other governments risk sparking climate anarchy if they scupper the world’s existing law on global warming, Christian Aid has warned.
The British-based development agency's comments came on the eve of the latest United Nations summit to tackle the mounting crisis.
"You wouldn’t scrap a law to protect the UK environment and then ask polluters to voluntarily clean up their acts - it would have disastrous consequences," said Christian Aid’s Head of Advocacy and Influence, Paul Brannen.
"But that is what we’re facing on a global scale unless Governments – especially the UK and others in Europe – pledge to preserve the world’s existing climate law, the Kyoto Protocol," he continued.
"It’s clear that UK climate minister Chris Huhne understands what a serious threat global warming poses to our way of life," said Brannen. "But even now, Mr Huhne seems to be saying that UK and European support for Kyoto is conditional on other ‘major economies’ agreeing to commit themselves to an international law on climate change."
"Making UK and EU support for Kyoto conditional on India and China accepting legal commitments on their emissions is unreasonable, at a time when the US, Japan, Canada and others are shying away from legal obligations to protect the world’s climate," he declared.
"It’s also dangerous because it’s a recipe for international anarchy, as far as the world’s climate is concerned. That would be bad news for everyone but the people who would suffer most are the people who are least to blame for climate change: people living in poverty in poor countries, who are the most vulnerable to harsher and more unpredictable weather," said the Christian Aid spokesperson.
As delegates from almost 200 countries across the world gather in Durban, South Africa, for two weeks of United Nations talks on tackling climate change, Christian Aid is calling for:
Rich countries including the UK and the rest of the European Union to commit to extending the Kyoto Protocol and agree a provisional date on which it will enter force.
Rich countries to commit to providing adequate, predictable and additional sources of long-term climate finance. In Copenhagen and Cancun, governments agreed a goal of mobilising US$100 billion a year by 2020, which is the minimum needed by poor countries to adapt to climate change and develop in ways which don’t greatly exacerbate the crisis.
Creation of a Leapfrog Fund within the Green Climate Fund agreed at the Cancun talks in 2010, to ensure that sub-Saharan Africa gets its fair share of financial support for low-carbon development such as the generation of clean electricity.
Close the ambition gap between the emissions cuts to which major polluters have agreed and the considerably deeper cuts which science shows are vital to keep the global temperature rise below 2oC.
"The alternative to extending Kyoto is a voluntary ‘pledge-and-review’ system, under which countries would decide for themselves what, if any, emissions cuts they were prepared to make," added Mr Brannen.
"This might well be worse than no agreement at all, because it could allow powerful interests which oppose action on climate change to claim that enough is being done to prevent the looming disaster, when in fact a pledge-and-review system would be nothing of the sort," he said.