The outcomes of the Durban climate talks are significant but far too weak to prevent dangerous global warming, Friends of the Earth has warned.
The green campaigning charity says that current plans fall far short of the action scientists tell us is needed to slash emissions to prevent a five degree warming in global temperatures. This will leave millions at threat from increasingly frequent extreme weather events, like flooding and drought, and hit the world's poorest people hardest.
Delaying action to tackle climate change until after 2020 will also fail to drive forward the low-carbon growth urgently needed to wean countries off dirty and expensive fossil fuels, slash fuel bills and create jobs.
Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins commented: "The UN climate change process is still alive - but this empty shell of a plan leaves the planet hurtling towards catastrophic climate change."
He continued: "If Durban is to be a historic stepping stone towards success the world must urgently agree ambitious targets to slash emissions."
"Millions of the poorest people around the globe are already facing the impacts of climate change - countries like the US who have done most to create this crisis must now take the lead in tackling it," said Atkins.
"Decisive action to tackle climate change would slash fuel bills, create much-needed jobs and help people in poorer countries gain access to clean energy," he concluded.
Moreover, reacting to Canada's decision to pull out of the Kyoto climate agreement, announced yseterday (13 December 2011), Friends of the Earth's Head of Policy Mike Childs declared: "Canada's decision to ditch the Kyoto climate agreement and focus on dirty fuels will cost them and future generations dearly. By ignoring climate change and forcing damaging oil onto the rest of the world, Canada is creating a dangerous dead end for its people and economy."
"Meanwhile, countries like Germany, the UK and many developing countries will remain open for business as they lead the way in tackling climate change and developing clean energy," said Childs.
On the substnative Durban agenda, Friends of the Earth says some progress has been made on a Green Climate Fund, in that a mechanism is now in place to help developing countries adapt to climate change and grow cleanly.
But it is currently an empty shell, the green charity says - akin to setting up a bank account with no money in it. Measures are needed to ensure money is channelled urgently from rich governments via the UN and spent in a fair and transparent way, rather than merely boosting the profits of big business.
FoE has welcomed the continuation of emissions targets for rich countries in a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. For now, it remains the only international legally-binding framework for tackling climate change, and contains some important principles that should be incorporated into future mechanisms.
However, says the campaign group, the level of ambition currently offered by rich countries under the Kyoto Protocol falls badly short of the emissions cuts scientists tell us are needed. Friends of the Earth says rich countries must take the lead on cutting emissions, since they caused climate change and have a historic responsibily to act first and fastest.
The charity is calling on the EU to increase its 2020 target to 40 per cent (based on 1990 levels), and for other rich nations to make ambitious commitments under the Kyoto Protocol immediately.
Friends of the Earth says it is pleased that the Long Term Cooperative Action negotiating track, started in Bali, continues to address the transfer of funds and technology to poorer countries tackling climate change. But there is now a high risk that politicians in industrialised countries will divert their attention towards the separate negotiating mandate for a new global agreement, to be agreed by 2015, causing resentment among developing nations and making overall progress harder to achieve.
4. The negotiating mandate for a new global legally-binding agreement should - ideally - stop rich countries shirking their responsibilities to tackle climate change, FoE declares.
But even if all countries are on board by 2015, emissions cuts will not begin until 2020 - almost a decade from now, flying in the face of climate science, which tells us bold emissions cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are needed urgently to avoid catastrophic five degree warming. Friends of the Earth says this delay is a fundamental flaw of the Durban package.
* FoE: http://www.foe.co.uk/