Durban Platform leaves world sleepwalking towards four degrees warming

Published: 11th December 2011

Negotiators at the UN climate talks have narrowly avoided a collapse, agreeing to the bare minimum deal possible. The plan gets the Green Climate Fund up and running without any sources of funding, preserves a narrow pathway to avoid 4 degrees of warming and gets a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol without key members.

“Negotiators have sent a clear message to the world’s hungry: ‘Let them eat carbon,’” said Celine Charveriat, Director of Campaigns and Advocacy for Oxfam. “Governments must bank the pennies won here in Durban and immediately turn their attention to raising the ambition of their emissions cuts targets and filling the Green Climate Fund. Unless countries ratchet up their emissions cuts urgently, we could still be in store for a ten-year timeout on the action we need to stay under 2 degrees.”

An important page was turned on discussions of the legal form of a future agreement with the EU, US, Brazil, South Africa, India and China merging towards a common understanding. But after weeks of obstruction from the US, negotiators were unable to identify any concrete and reliable sources of money to fill the Green Climate Fund or ensure that new deeper targets for emissions cuts will be forthcoming. 

Brazil, South Africa, India and China could have been bolder by joining a coalition of ambition with the EU and vulnerable countries to push for greater and faster emissions reductions.  Negotiators may still need to leave the US behind in future talks to pursue the kind of deal that is sorely needed.

“The Durban Platform can only be described as a major disappointment,” said Charveriat.  “But the blame for this delay lies squarely on the shoulders of the US and other countries like Canada, Japan and Australia who dragged their feet from start to finish.”

The EU took an important step by signing onto a second period of the Kyoto Protocol, the bedrock of international efforts to fight climate change, and a key demand of African countries. But the new round of Kyoto falls short of what was expected and opens loopholes that weaken it.

The failure to seal an ambitious deal will have painful consequences for poor people around the world. A four degree temperature rise could be one of utter devastation for poor farmers who will face increasing hunger and poverty.

If action is not taken, farmers in parts of Africa could face a drop in crop yields of more than fifty percent within this generation or that of their children.  Food prices could more than double within the next two decades, up to half of which caused by climate change. This makes delivering real concrete assistance to ensure the most vulnerable people can protect themselves from a changing climate even more vital.

“We cannot allow the Green Climate Fund to wither on the vine,” said Charveriat. “Governments must identify significant and predictable sources of money for the Fund without delay, such as a tiny tax on financial transactions and a fee on emissions from international shipping.

“People who care about the fate of the world’s poor and their own economic future should be angry that governments have failed to take adequate action here in Durban.  But anger alone won’t solve climate change. There is still an opportunity to push forward in Rio to raise the level of ambition and cut the kind of deal we need. Those who are unable to negotiate for this kind of outcome should simply stay home.”

The blame for this delay lies squarely on the shoulders of the US and other countries like Canada, Japan and Australia who dragged their feet from start to finish
Céline Charveriat
Director of Campaigns and Advocacy for Oxfam

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