Delay kills: Disappointing climate negotiations leave millions of vulnerable people at risk

“Instead of motoring along the Bali Road Map, political leaders have been asleep at the wheel.”
Barry Coates
Executive Director, Oxfam New Zealand
Published: 12 December 2008

Poznan, Poland: The UN climate negotiations have not shown the urgency and political will needed to fight climate change and keep millions of people safe, Oxfam International said today.

The international agency blames rich countries for the inaction during the 12 days of negotiations. They arrived empty-handed and unwilling to engage in constructive discussions to move further towards a global deal in Copenhagen next December.

“The lack of progress in Poznan merits outrage – most of all from the millions of poor people already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change. They cannot afford delay,” said Senior Oxfam Executive Barry Coates. “This inaction is at odds with the urgency of the crisis and the ambition voiced at Bali. Instead of motoring along the Bali Road Map, political leaders have been asleep at the wheel. They must wake up and take action immediately, as they have left themselves with a huge amount to do to secure a global deal at Copenhagen next year.”

Oxfam says that a deal in Copenhagen next December is not only possible but more urgent and  necessary than ever. “In the coming year, rich countries must stop floundering and demonstrate commitment and leadership at the highest levels,” said Coates. “A lack of will from Canada and Japan, attempts by Russia to frustrate progress behind the scenes, and the EU’s lack of leadership must change. The US, a lame duck in the negotiations in Poznan, must step up a gear to make up for their eight-year absence.”

Developing countries put forward important proposals, including Mexico’s bold announcement of plans to halve its emissions by 2050. But rich countries did not respond. The issue of helping developing countries reduce their emissions has been identified for a decade, yet proposals on how this could be financed and supported by technology transfer are still lacking.

There was important progress on the Adaptation Fund, which was created to help vulnerable communities adapt to climate change. But this is only a small part of the overall solution that poor people require. “Here in Poznan, the negotiators looked into the money box, but it is still almost empty, less than 1% of what is needed,” said Coates.

Negotiators in Poznan agreed on the crucial issues of accountability, effectiveness and control over the money available to poor countries for urgent adaptation needs. But big-picture financing questions were left unanswered. At least $50 billion a year is needed to help poor people face the impacts of a changing climate according to Oxfam’s estimates, and far more if emissions are not cut fast and far enough.

“It is irresponsible that rich countries should use the financial crisis as an excuse. The amounts of funding required are a tiny fraction of the finance bail-outs,” said Coates. “And solutions to the financial crisis and the climate crisis are not mutually exclusive. In fact, urgently addressing the climate crisis could boost our global economy through clean technology and green jobs. These negotiations are not about politics – they are about people’s lives. Delays will kill.”