Climate campaigners tell leaders to ‘stand with us, or stand aside’

Mass gathering of NGOs outside UN talks in Bonn highlights growing unrest over progress at high-level discussions

By Ed King

A coalition of 75 NGOs has delivered a set of demands for more climate ambition to Venezuelan, Peruvian and French diplomats charged with coordinating UN negotiations over the next year.

Led by representatives from ActionAid, WWF and Greenpeace, the group wants countries to radically scale-up targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts ahead of 2020.

It also calls on world leaders to “Reject the damaging influence of corporate interests on climate policy and prevent their promotion of false solutions as the global response to the climate crisis.”

The protest reflects intense anger among many in green movements over what they see as slow progress at country level in addressing global warming.

Around 800 campaigners walked out of a UN summit in Warsaw last November, saying they were on track to “deliver virtually nothing”.

“We felt completely frustrated looking at Warsaw,” ActionAid policy advisor Harjeet Singh told RTCC from Bonn. “The way negotiations are going we see a complete lack of ambition on mitigation and adaptation.”

In addition to handing over a set of requests, WWF’s lead climate campaigner Sam Smith said a small delegation from NGOs had also met with Peru Environment Minister Manual Pulgar-Vidal, stressing the need for clear results at the Lima meeting in December.

Smith said green groups are likely to intensify their efforts ahead of Ban Ki-moon’s climate leader’s meeting in New York this September, with thousands expected to flood the Big Apple’s streets calling for action.

Key to this meeting, said Singh, would be tangible announcements from heads of state that can contribute towards a UN climate deal scheduled to be signed off in Paris next year.

“We want leaders to act and not just make statements that are not going to result in concrete action both back home and at the international level.”

A US announcement of new carbon standards for power plants and rumours China could set a ‘carbon cap’ by 2016 have boosted the meeting in Bonn this week, raising hopes that others may follow.

But a low turnout of ministers for the ‘high-level’ part of talks indicates many countries still do not regard this process as a priority.

That could change as NGOs turn the screw, and Smith points to the planned US laws as proof grassroots pressure does have an effect on the largest governments.

“What made it happen was also the politics. The administration understood there was a need to act on climate and do it visibly.

“The most important contribution of civil society in the US was to create a climate where there was public and political support for the administration to act now, and they have done that.”

Singh added: “There’s no doubt we have had some positive news from the US and are expecting big announcements from China.

“But we have to see how much we are lagging behind, while appreciating all the efforts being made to achieve the target of keeping temperatures below 1.5C warming”

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