Oceans & Forests Blog

Climate talks in Bonn

Posted Jun. 20, 2011 / Posted by: Nick Berning

Friends of the Earth International is at the UN climate talks in Bonn from June 6-17 to hold developed countries accountable for their legal obligations to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide new scaled up financing and technology for developing countries. In particular, we are fighting a new U.S.-backed attempt to replace the existing binding targets for emissions reductions with a weak, ineffective system of pledges. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fast start proves to be a false start

By Rebecca Li, Friends of the Earth U.S.

Written from Washington, D.C.

A report by the Institute of Policy Studies shows that only $5 billion of the $30 billion in fast start funding developed countries committed to deliver to help developing countries respond to climate change is actually “new and additional,” as originally promised. The rest of the money consists of repackaged development aid or previously committed funding. For example, Japan was the biggest single contributor to fast start funds with $15 billion, but $10 billion of that money had previously been pledged in its 2008 Cool Earth partnership.

The $30 billion in fast start funding, intended to help poor countries cope with the consequences of climate change, was pledged by rich countries at UN climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. The failure of developed nations to come through with truly “new and additional” funding is undermining developing nations’ faith in the climate negotiation process, especially as developed nations seem more and more inclined to rely on pledges of goodwill instead of legal guarantees. “It’s damaging the fragile confidence that we have,” said Colin Beck, UN ambassador from the Solomon Islands. “These are things that have been promised but not delivered."

Learn more about climate finance.

Day 9: Thursday, June 16, 2011

Youth mobilize to push Europe towards climate action

As a part of the Push Europe campaign, our colleagues at Young Friends of the Earth Europe and other youth groups across Europe are encouraging the European Union to take a stronger stance at the climate negotiations by increasing EU greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, a significant step towards the 40 percent reduction that would provide a real chance to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Youth from the Push Europe campaign took action at the Bonn climate talks by “lining up” to apply for green jobs, only to be “rejected” by an EU official. “We aimed to show how the EU is blocking the future of young people by not raising its emissions reduction target,” said Thessa Meijlis from Young Friends of the Earth Netherlands. According to a recent report from the Potsdam Institute, the higher emissions reduction target would also create six million jobs across Europe, at a time when unemployment among European youth has reached record levels.

The current offer of a 20 percent emissions reduction lacks ambition, given that the EU already reached 17.3 percent emissions cuts in 2009. Furthermore, the current rules allow carbon offsets to cover reductions, allowing emissions to be essentially swept under the carpet as the EU gambles in unpredictable carbon markets. The EU needs to accept its historical role in causing climate change and demonstrate real leadership by announcing strong reduction targets achieved through reliable and equitable solutions.

Read more: Push Europe – Young people in action

Day 8: Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What would Robin Hood say?

By Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

As Wall Street profits remain sky high and fat cat bonuses are doled out on silver spoons, the world's poor are struggling to deal with a climate crisis that they did not cause, facing increasingly severe droughts, floods, crop losses and water shortages. Current pledges of climate finance by developed countries ($30 billion until 2012 and an aim of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020) come nowhere near the sums needed to address climate change in developing countries. But there are solutions in front of us. A financial transaction tax levied on all financial market transactions involving stocks, bonds, foreign exchange and derivatives could raise hundreds of billions per year, helping to fund a just transition to low-carbon economies in developing countries while also supporting public services at home. This tiny tax is only one of many options on the table that could help plug the gap in much needed financing from developed countries.

Read more: What would Robin Hood say?

Day 6: Monday, June 13, 2011

Saving forests is not like installing a traffic light

By Kate Horner, Friends of the Earth U.S.

Many believe that the momentum gained by including forests in a UN climate agreement will finally push countries to deliver the money needed for forest conservation, but deforestation is a complex socio-political and economic problem that cannot be solved by cash alone. What is needed is genuine political will to identify and implement effective action to halt the underlying drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, but to date most draft national REDD+ strategies have focused on the technical aspects of measuring forest carbon. These strategies largely ignore the need for fundamental governance reforms, such as recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. 

Read more: Saving forests is not like installing a traffic light

Day 5: Friday, June 10, 2011

Geoengineering: carbon capture or corporate capture?

By Eric Hoffman and Kate Horner, Friends of the Earth U.S.

A Convention on Biological Diversity workshop and recent remarks UNFCCC secretary Figueres seem to indicate resurgent interest in geoengineering despite a current moratorium. Geoengineering experiments would be conducted by the few wealthy nations and corporations who have the funds and technology at their disposal to do so, and these experiments could have devastating effects on other countries and the global climate system. The risks of geoengineering are simply too great for it to be seriously considered at a Convention whose purpose is to stop climate change -- not to allow one country to try changing the climate on its own.

Read more: Geoengineering: carbon capture or corporate capture?

A gap in more than just ideas

By Pascoe Sabido, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

As it stands now, rich countries are cooking the books and the planet. Developed countries seem happy to be able to set their own targets to reduce climate-polluting emissions under a non-binding pledge and review system that includes a lot of "creative accounting." But avoiding the "gigatonne gap" will require a different approach: only by closing down loopholes, stopping offsets and securing rich countries' commtiments to do their fair share within a legally binding international treaty can we reduce emissions far enough to prevent the crash of the world's ecosystems. This is a reality driven home powerfully by many developing countries -- be they vulnerable small islands likely to disappear beneath the sea or some of the poorest countries in the world already having to tackle the catastrophic impacts of climate change and poverty.

Read more: A gap in more than just ideas

Day 4: Thursday, June 9, 2011

Climate finance – old wine in a new bottle?

By Marjorie Williams (International Gender and Trade Network), Janet Redman (Institute from Policy Studies) & Kate Horner (Friends of the Earth U.S.)

According to a presentation yesterday by the European Union on “fast-start finance” for international climate assistance, as well as recent reports to the UNFCCC, developed countries’ finance commitments look a lot like old wine in a new bottle. There is growing evidence that little of the $30 billion pledged by developed countries at Copenhagen is genuinely “new” or “additional.” Moreover, double-counting official development assistance as climate finance not only undermines the trust desperately needed in the UNFCCC but, equally importantly, imperils the longstanding need to address poverty eradication in developing countries.

Read more: Climate finance – old wine in a new bottle?

Day 3: Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No free speech at the climate talks?

By Kate Horner, Friends of the Earth U.S.

Today in Bonn, delegates are taking a first step towards understanding and fixing the remarkable limitations placed on civil society participation at the UN climate talks. Civil society representatives belong at the UNFCCC climate negotiations -- they are the lifeblood of the process, giving it legitimacy and providing expertise. Needless restrictions on their ability to engage must be removed so that, instead of being a sad example of what not to do, the UNFCCC can become a leading light, showing others how it should and can be done.

Read more: No free speech at the climate talks?

Day 2: Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Current pledges threaten climate chaos

By Pascoe Sabido, Friend of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Delegates from every corner of the globe filed in to the large white tent tacked on to the Maritim Hotel in Bonn, Germany. Today, negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol started again -- the latest in six long years of continued stalling by developed countries. This disagreement over the future of the international climate regime has been at the root of the repeated fights in the climate negotiations over the last two years. 

Friends of the Earth International in Copenhagen
Friends of the Earth International fights for the Kyoto Protocol at the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, December 2009
The United States continues to aggressively push for a ‘pledge and review’ regime that contains no science-based or legally-binding targets and is not based on principles of equity. A recent UNEP report shows that current voluntary pledges for emission reductions are far below the levels necessary to avert dangerous climate change, and could lead to a 5C rise in temperature. (Stay tuned for tomorrow’s workshop that we affectionately refer to as the “credibility gap” on the appallingly weak developed country targets).

All developing countries have called for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, which should ensure a top-down, science-based approach to emissions targets.  Unfortunately, the wealthy countries are now intent on discussing not pollution reduction targets but “conditionalities” for a second commitment period -- they want to ensure huge loopholes and the continued use of ineffective and unjust carbon trading. (In policy wonkery, developed countries want to agree on the rules for accounting before the targets and the possible expansion of market mechanisms).  As one negotiator said, this is the behavior of a primary school student who refuses to begin his homework until first receiving his ice cream reward. 

Additionally, the United States, Japan, Russia and Canada have all made it clear they don’t want to or simply won't sign on to the next commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.  Many developing countries are wondering if they can get a say in what an eventual deal looks like, since having developed countries set the rules is akin to a demolition firm being asked to restore a historic monument on a plot they’re already planning to level into a parking lot. Or like Alex Ferguson, coach of Manchester United, being asked to give Barcelona a team-talk before the Champions league final (would it have made a difference?).

Day 1: Monday, June 6, 2011

Bring the march on Blair Mountain to Bonn

By Kate Horner, Friends of the Earth U.S.

As hundreds of conservationists, coal miners and activists start a five day journey through the mountains of West Virginia to call for an end to the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining, a similar battle to ensure a just and sustainable future is being waged at the new round of UN climate talks being held in Bonn, Germany.  Instead of implementing laws on the books and standing up to corporate power, the wealthy countries historically responsible for causing the climate crisis are ignoring their moral and legal responsibility to act by dismantling the rules that have the highest chance of delivering a safe climate future.

Read more: Bring the march on Blair Mountain to Bonn

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