EU Leadership or Losership? Oxfam International’s report on how to break the impasse on climate talks

Published: 28th May 2009

As the US and China intensify discussions on climate change, Oxfam International urges EU countries to put aside national interests and step up their leadership role. Torn by disputes within and between member states, and distracted by the economic crisis and elections, Europe’s current approach is seriously risking the prospect of a safe and fair climate change deal in Copenhagen this December – one which ensures global warming is kept below two degrees and protects the poorest, most vulnerable countries that are struggling to cope with the impacts of climate change.Oxfam International’s new report EU Leadership or Losership? Time to break the impasse on climate talks argues that the deadlock in the climate negotiations, and its solution, is political, not technical.Kirsty Hughes, co-author of the report, said: “It’s not too late for Europe to get back into the driving seat in international climate negotiations but at least one of the big member states – either the UK, Germany or France– needs to drive it forward, backed by small but supportive member states such as the Netherlands or Denmark, under the helm of the Swedish Presidency.”“Europe’s current strategy is to sit back and wait for the US and China to make a move. This narrow, slow-moving, ‘national interest’ approach is a classic technique in international negotiations, especially trade talks, but entirely inappropriate given the urgent need for ambitious deal to stop disastrous climate change,” said Elise Ford, head of Oxfam International’s EU office. “Without money on the table to help developing countries adapt and pursue low-carbon futures, the chronic lack of trust between developed and developing countries will persist and a deal will not be made. The world needs Europe’s leadership to overcome this growing impasse.”The paper presents a set of recommendations ahead of a crucial European Summit, on 18-19 June, which if followed would kick-start the stalled United Nations climate process and re-position Europe as a leader. It calls on EU leaders to:

  • Put forward a concrete figure on the amount of adaptation and mitigation funding that rich countries should provide to developing countries. This should be at least €110 billion per year for adaptation and mitigation, or at least €40 billion a year for adaptation funding to help the most vulnerable communities adapt to the impact of climate change;
  • Commit to providing Europe’s ‘fair share’ of these figures – Oxfam estimates this to be about one-third, based on responsibility and capability, conditional upon others also providing their fair share;
  • Commit this money to be additional to 0.7% overseas aid targets;
  • Make substantial adaptation funds immediately available for use pre-2012 – Least Developed Countries are currently calling for $2 billion to be provided for urgent adaptation needs. This would be a political move, to show the EU recognizes the impacts climate change has already had and the richer countries' responsibility for this, and build up much needed trust with developing countries;
  • Specify the mechanisms it supports to raise these funds, for example, by forcing countries or companies to buy their emissions rights;
  • Set out a clear position on governance of climate finance, which must include support for a reformed system, which moves away from donor-recipient mindsets and has the UN, and equal representation for developing countries, at its heart.
Without money on the table to help developing countries adapt and pursue low-carbon futures, the chronic lack of trust between developed and developing countries will persist.
Elise Ford
Head of Oxfam's EU Advocacy Office, Brussels