Bonn 1: Action needed to close rich-poor climate divide

“Many of the poor countries here today are already struggling to cope with impacts of a climate crisis they did not create.”
Antonio Hill
Senior Policy Advisor, Oxfam
Published: 8 April 2009

 Climate talks in June will go nowhere unless rich countries close the gap between what scientists and poor countries say is needed and what they are prepared to deliver warned international agency, Oxfam, as negotiations came to a close in Bonn today (8 April).

For the first time developing countries have clearly outlined the level of emission reductions they expect from individual rich nations. This has thrown a spotlight on the huge gulf between rich and poor country positions. It is feared the air of optimism, created by the presence of a new US team, will quickly turn sour if rich countries fail to close the gap.

Developing countries, who face catastrophe if climate change is not held in check, are demanding rich nations cut their emissions by at least 40 percent on 1990 levels by 2020. Small island states and many least developed countries are pushing for a 45 percent cut in emissions on 1990 levels by 2020 but huge pressure is being brought to exclude any reference to this proposal in the talk’s concluding statement.

Rich country commitments, unchanged at Bonn, add up to a cut in emissions of between 4 and 14 percent on 1990 levels by 2020. The 2.8 – 4 degree temperature rise which would result, could lead to an additional 3 million more deaths from hunger and malnutrition and water shortages affecting up to 4 billion additional people – the vast majority in the developing world.

Developing countries have emphasis that multi billion dollar finance packages are needed to help poor countries adapt to changes in climate and cut their emissions. Europe and, increasingly the US, have agreed that a large increase in public funding is needed but no rich country has said what level of funding they believe is required.

Oxfam is calling for rich countries to cut their emissions by at least 40 percent on 1990 levels by 2020 and to provide at least $50 billion in new money each year to help the worlds poorest countries adapt to a changing climate.

Antonio Hill, Oxfam’s Senior Policy Advisor said:

“Leaders must grab the opportunities they have at the Major Emitters Forum in New York to close the gap between the science and the politics of climate change. If they fail we face ground hog day in June – with talks replaying the last two weeks.

“We have reached a cross roads and rich countries get to choose the route we all take. One route leads us out of today’s economic and climate crises and towards a low carbon future. The other spells disaster for hundreds of millions of people across the globe.”

“Rich countries need to remember what is at stake in these negotiations. Many of the poor countries here today are already struggling to cope with impacts of a climate crisis they did not create. They are fighting for their survival.”

Notes to Editors

Bonn 1: State of Play

Bonn is the last round of talks before a negotiation text for Copenhagen is drafted.  The UN has agreed two additional rounds of negotiations – in Bonn in August and Barcelona in November.

Mitigation – aggregate targets

No progress has been made on mitigation targets for rich countries despite an agreement in December that Bonn would produce concrete figures on the table.

Huge pressure is being brought on developing countries to exclude any reference to a proposal by small island states and least developed countries for a 45 percent cut in emissions on 1990 levels by 2020 in the conclusions.

The G77 group of developing countries, including China, have put forward a proposal for rich industrialized countries to cut their emissions by at least 40 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020. Saudi Arabia and other oil producing states have split with the group over fears that a decline in demand for oil will affect their economy.

Mitigation – country targets

South Africa, supported by the vast majority of G77 countries, has tabled a proposal for allocating emissions reductions based on the level of cuts the science says is needed allocated out according to principles of responsibility (a countries current and historical per capita emissions) and capability (a countries ability to make emissions reductions based on its wealth).

This model concludes that the US cut its emissions by 52 percent from 1990 levels by 2022; Germany by  54 per cent; Australia by 49 percent; UK by 75 per cent and Canada by 47 percent. The Philippines has tabled a similar proposal, which envisages even greater emissions reductions.

The EU, which has one of the most ambitious targets of Annex 1 countries, has committed to emissions reductions of 30 percent on 1990 levels by 2020 if other industrialised countries follow suit. To date public statements by the US talk about a stabilisation of emissions at 1990 levels by 2020.  Other countries are even further out - Canada's commitment equates to a 24 percent increase in total emissions by 2020.

Finance

Agreement on the level of money which will be made available assist poor countries adapt to a changing climate and cut their emissions is crucial for building trust between countries and moving negotiations forward.

South Africa and Brazil have emphasized that multi billion dollar finance packages are needed to help poor countries adapt to changes in climate and cut their emissions. Europe and, increasingly the US, have agree that a large increase in public funding is needed but no rich country has said what level of funding they believe is required.

Current funding commitments are no where near what is required. It is estimated that $2 billion is needed to fund urgent adaptation projects in least developed countries. Current funding commitments amount to just $170 million.

Adaptation

There is agreement that adaptation needs to prioritise the most vulnerable: and that planning and implementation should be a developing country-driven process.

Disagreements continue over which institutions should manage finance for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. Rich countries want existing organisations such as the World Bank to manage the finance while developing countries believe a comprehensive financial architecture under the UNFCCC needs to be set up to do the job properly. Developing countries criticise the lack of democratic oversight and governance at the Bank.