Four billion people threatened by water shortages if world leaders stumble at 2010’s first climate change hurdle

World leaders are set to fail their first test on climate change since Copenhagen and put the world on track for almost four degrees of warming, said Oxfam International today, ahead of the 31 January deadline for countries to submit emission reduction targets under the Copenhagen Accord.

Despite agreeing that temperatures should be kept from rising above the two-degree danger level at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, world leaders are so far failing to provide adequate emissions cuts targets. The European Union, Japan and Australia have already put their plans on the table, none of which improve on the offers they made before Copenhagen.

Rich countries pledges on emissions cuts are expected to total just 12-18 per cent below 1990 levels – less than half of the 40 per cent cuts needed from rich countries to keep temperatures in check.

Join Oxfam's Climate Change Petition now

The pledges expected under the Accord will, according to climate models, lead to a nearly four degree centigrade rise in global temperature by 2100. Scientists predict this will create a world crippled by drought with four billion people affected by water shortages across the globe, year round droughts in Southern Africa and serious droughts in Europe every ten years instead of every one hundred years.

Antonio Hill, Climate Advisor for Oxfam International said:

“World leaders are set to fail their first test on whether they meant what they said in Copenhagen.  They recognized that temperatures should be kept from rising above the two degree danger level but are still talking about emissions cuts that will create a near four degree world crippled by drought.”

Oxfam says the Accord proves that the bottom up approach, where countries set their own emission reduction targets, will not deliver the cuts that are needed.  The international agency is calling for a global target for emissions reductions based on the science and for national contributions to the global target to be calculated according to a country’s historical responsibility for creating the climate crisis and their economic capability for tackling it.  This would, for example, mean Europe should cut its emissions by at least 44% percent below 1990 levels by 2020, as opposed to its current target of just 20 per cent.

To deliver their fair share of global effort to tackle climate change, rich countries should also provide $200 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt and reduce their own emissions. The Accord aims to raise just $100bn a year and progress hangs on the establishment of a High Level Panel to recommend how the money will be raised and delivered.

The Accord also promises $30 bn in fast track finance - emergency funds to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts over the next three years. For example Bangladesh, one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change, needs an estimated $1.5m, to provide drinking water to coastal communities whose traditional water sources have been contaminated with salt water due to sea level rise.

Hill said: “The next big test is whether the world leaders will be able to deliver the climate cash promised in the Accord.  This means delivering the emergency funds the poorest countries need to adapt to climate change now and sorting out how to raise and deliver $100 bn within the year.”

“The lackluster response shows the Accord isn’t solving anything. Only a UN deal can deliver the global emissions reductions that are needed and ensure the voices of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries are heard. Real negotiations must restart now. Every year we delay an estimated 150,000 people will have died and a further one million displaced as a result of climate change.”

Notes to editors

Oxfam climate experts are available for interview in countries around the globe. Contact: Anna Mitchell at Oxfam International +44 7796993288

The EU decided on Wednesday to stick to its lowest offer for cutting carbon emissions, a 20 percent reduction by 2020, and maintain a conditional pledge to make the leap to 30 percent if others follow suit.

Poland, Italy, Cyprus and Malta opposed making the more ambitious conditional offer because of concerns it would be too costly for their industry. The UK, France, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands defended the 30 percent offer.

In a welcome development, Japan made official on Tuesday its pledge to reduce its emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Statistics on the human impacts of a near 4 degree temperature rise are from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 and Stern Review 2006.

Australia said on Wednesday it will cut emissions by 5 percent compared with 2000 levels by 2020, and step-up to 15-25% depending on the level of commitment made by other world nations.

See the latest outline of country pledges on emissions reductions.

Oxfam’s analysis of how global emissions reductions should be shared across countries: Hang Together or Separately

Climate models include climate interactive www.climateinteractive.org and climate action tracker www.climateactiontracker.org. Climate impacts statistics are from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 and Stern Review 2006.

Contact information

Share this page: