African delegates under pressure to leave UN climate talks

Coalition of 500 African NGOs ask governments to withdraw from talks as developed countries fail to mobilise finance

Warsaw's National Stadium, where the UN climate talks are currently taking place (Source: RTCC)

Warsaw’s National Stadium, where the UN climate talks are currently taking place (Source: RTCC)

By Sophie Yeo in Warsaw

African delegates have been encouraged by non-governmental groups to withdraw from the UN climate negotiations, after the process has so far failed to yield any new pledges on climate finance.

Augustine Banter Njamnshi of the Pan African Justice Alliance, that represents 500 NGOs across the Continent, said the group had asked governments to walk out of the talks. A similar move at a UN climate meeting in Barcelona in 2009 brought the talks to a standstill.

The request reflects a growing frustration among developing countries that richer nations are not delivering on past pledges to raise the money that would help them to deal with climate change.

“African civil society has suggested their governments to walk out of the talks,” he said, adding that the process as a whole is failing, with no progress on sourcing the US$ 100bn a year by 2020 promised by rich nations in 2009.

“We want to see money commensurate to what is needed to cope with climate change in Africa now.”

He added the “pledge and review” system that allows countries to choose targets is a “sham” and expressed disappointment in Japan’s decision to cut its carbon targets earlier today.

“We know what reductions should be so why is it a free for all?”

Wael Hmaidan, director of Climate Action Network International, told RTCC that he met with a developing country group yesterday, who said that nothing was being accomplished at the conference, and no longer wanted to be a party to it.

This frustration has been exacerbated by obstacles from a perceived lack of interest from Australia, Canada, Japan and the USA.

Instead of attending the UN discussions taking place in Warsaw, Australian environment minister Greg Hunt will stay at home to work on the government’s election pledge to repeal the carbon tax.

Japan has announced that it will revise its previous ambitious target of a 25% reduction on greenhouse gases according to 1990 levels to a 3.1% increase.

“They [developing countries] are really upset at what is happening, particularly at Japanese and Australian behaviour,” said Hmaidan. “I think they’re going to see how it progresses, but they’re completely upset by what is happening around the world.”

Speaking today at a press conference in Warsaw, the head of the Japanese delegation Hiroshi Minami acknowledged that the new targets had not been welcomed by the developing countries at the conference.

“It seems to me that most of the developing countries are very disappointed with this mitigation target,” he said.

He added that the Japanese government was still fully committed to fighting climate change and that “if there is any development in the exercise for the energy mix policy perhaps we may be able to revisit the energy policy target in the future.”

An EU statement released today said: “We expect all countries to stand by their mitigation commitments and developed countries in particular to continue to show leadership in this respect.”

The move was also condemned by lead Brazil negotiator Ambassador Marcondes de Carvalho, who said “backtracking” on previous pledges was unacceptable within the UN process.

“We need to seek ways and means that they return to their initial commitments, they increase those commitments, and we can have an effective agreement by 2020 and not neglect to act prior to that.”

Funding progress

Nicaragua’s minister at the talks said Japan’s decision to change its carbon targets was symptomatic of a “lost decade” at the talks.

Paul Oquist Kelley told RTCC rich nations were just “kicking the can down the road”, warning the integrity of the UN negotiations were in doubt.

“Here we are three years after Cancun, and there’s one country that’s contributing to the fund that would be used for financing, and that’s Germany.

“That’s pathetic. We don’t see action with regards to implementation. It’s irresponsible to continue approving documents that have no means of implementation.”

Speaking at a press conference, EU negotiator Juergen Lefevere insisted the bloc is committed to meetings its funding commitments.

“We have been seriously engaged in that discussion,” he said. “We shown our continued readiness to contribute to the US$ 100bn.”

Historical responsibiity

Separately, the US and the EU have also aggravated talks by blocking a proposal to use historical pollution levels to determine how much countries should be able to emit in the future. The proposal was supported by 130 nations, including Brazil and China.

According to Brazil negotiator Raphael Azeredo: “The intention of Brazil was precisely to have a space to discuss the issue of historical responsibilities, which of course, is part of the discussion on equity.

“We would have liked to see parties bring ideas to the table. That’s why it was so surprising to have the entire discussion blocked, which we don’t think is very much in line with the spirit of promoting the convergence of views towards the building of the 2015 regime.  We are shooting for an open discussion.”

How a ‘fair’ deal on climate change can be achieved is traditionally a point of contention in UN climate talks.

Last month, US climate envoy Todd Stern signalled that his country did not accept the narrative of blame that means certain developed countries would have to face deeper cuts due to their historical responsibility for the problem.

He said: “lectures about compensation, reparations and the like will produce nothing but antipathy among developed country policy makers and their publics.”

Read more on: Climate politics | COP19 | EU | |