New Oxfam report says that rich countries have a ‘double duty’ to act on climate change

Rich countries have a ’double duty’ to cut emissions at home and to help fund emissions reductions in poor countries in order to get a fair and safe climate deal, according to a new report by international agency, Oxfam today.

The report ’Hang Together or Separately?’, launched at the UN talks in Bonn, says that only rich countries can break the deadlock now crippling international climate negotiations and prevent the world lurching into climate disaster.

The science shows that annual global emissions need to return to 1990 levels or below by 2020. Oxfam says roughly half of these reductions need to be achieved through the establishment of a ‘Global Mitigation and Finance Mechanism’ which will provide poor countries with the up front support they need to limit the growth in their emissions.

Rich countries must also collectively cut their emissions by at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, with a majority of these reductions occurring at home. Oxfam’s report spells out exactly how much individual countries need to cut their emissions by to meet this target and shows that no rich country is anywhere near delivering their fair share of the reductions needed.

‘Hang Together or Separately?’ offers a solution to two hotly disputed issues that could make or break the talks - who should cut emissions and who should pay? A global climate deal is due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December but negotiations are moving at a snails pace.

Rich countries are responsible for three quarters of green house gas emissions currently in the atmosphere but it is the world's poorest people who are being hit first and hardest by a changing climate. In Africa, changes to rainfall are already affecting food production, and rising temperatures are boosting the spread of disease.

“The deadlock threatening these talks must be broken if we are to have any hope of avoiding a human catastrophe”, said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International. ”Rich countries got us into this mess and they have the money and the technology to get us out of it. This gives them a double duty – to deliver major emissions reductions at home and provide the money poor countries need to start tackling their emissions too.”

The ’Global Mitigation and Finance Mechanism‘would use money from the sale of carbon permits to provide the up-front support developing countries need. The world’s poorest countries, such as Uganda and India, would receive 100 percent of the funding they need to shift to a low carbon development path. However, more advanced developing economies such as Brazil and China would be expected to fund a proportion of the costs, depending on their economic capabilities.

“Oxfam estimates that at least $150 billion is needed every year to fund both adaptation and mitigation action in developing countries. This is a relatively small amount compared with the cost of inaction – which economist Sir Nicolas Stern estimates could be as much as 5-20 percent of global GDP – and peanuts compared to the trillions of dollars that was found to bail out rich country banks,” said Hobbs.

Many developing countries have already made significant steps to reduce emissions and signalled their willingness to discuss further action – provided that rich countries provide financial and technological support. For example, Mexico has already committed to halving its emissions by 2050 and China is a world leader in renewable energy investment - ploughing $12 billion into renewable energy in 2007.

“Emission reductions are needed across the globe but only rich countries have the means to make this happen. A global solution is needed that uses money generated by new money that guarantees funds for fund low carbon development in poor countries,” said Hobbs.  

“Without exception, all rich country governments are failing in their duty to protect their citizens from catastrophic climate change. Acting now will save money and save lives,” said Hobbs.

Read the full report here.

Notes to editors

‘Hang Together or  Separately?’ outlines what level of emissions reductions individual rich countries need to make to contribute their fair share of the effort needed to deliver on this target: Europe must cut emissions by 44 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 – with the bulk of the cuts occurring domestically.  It is currently committed to a 20 - 30 percent reduction. The US must deliver 45 per cent cuts where as the climate bill currently making its way through the House or Representatives proposes up to a 14 per cent cut in emissions. Japan, which is poised this week to commit to a 7 or 25 per cent reduction or possibly even an increase, must deliver a 56 percent reduction, while Russia, which has yet to set a mid term target, must deliver a 20 percent reduction in emissions.  Australia, which has committed to a 25 percent cut in emissions, would need to deliver reductions of 40 percent. Canada, whose commitments are equivalent to a 3 per cent drop in emissions on 1990 levels by 2020, would need to deliver a cut of 43 percent.

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