Rich countries must step out from US shadow and do the right thing for world's poor

(Barcelona, November 6 2009) Oxfam today warned that EU countries must cut themselves loose from the US or risk losing a groundbreaking climate deal that has been two years in the making. The aid agency says a fair and safe deal can be struck in Copenhagen this year, but world leaders cannot wait whilst the US plays catch-up.

“At the moment the US shadow is looming large over the climate talks.  Rich countries are clearly using the US as an excuse to put their national interests above alleviating the suffering of those millions of people killed, bereaved, hungry or made homeless by climate change,” said Antonio Hill, Climate Advisor for Oxfam.

It is disappointing that a bloc such as the EU, who has previously led the world in the fight against climate change and invested blood, sweat and tears in paving the way for an unprecedented global agreement, has now been hijacked by the domestic policies of the US,” he added.

Oxfam’s comments come at the end of the Barcelona climate talks, the last official negotiations before the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December. At the talks, rich countries failed to agree targets for cutting carbon emissions or table firm commitments on climate finance. There was no improvement on the issue of ‘aid raiding’ and Oxfam’s concerns have grown that money for climate change will be taken from schools or health centres in poor countries.

At one point during the negotiations African nations blocked talks until there was serious discussion on the critical issue of reducing rich country carbon emissions.  A move which clearly demonstrated that they would not accept a weak deal that means nothing to people living on the front line of climate change.

"This is a political struggle between rich countries’ short term commercial interests and the survival of hundreds of millions of people. From children who swim to school, women forced to give birth knee-deep in flood water, farmers facing crop failure year after year, it’s people that must be prioritised,” said Mukta Ziaul Hoque, who coordinates Oxfam’s work in Bangladesh.

“Why would poor nations sign up to a climate deal that is all empty promises and no substance and how are we going to get a global deal without them?” he added.

Despite obvious set-backs, technical negotiations did advance in some areas including: the option of raising new money from controls on emissions from international aviation and shipping to help poor countries cope with climate change; government pledges to reduce deforestation; and better recognition of the need for poor countries to decide what can help their own people adapt to climate change.

“President Obama has recognized time and again that the poorest are being hit hardest by climate change. If ever there was time for audacity and hope, it’s now,” said David Waskow, Climate Change Program Director for Oxfam America.

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