If U.S. takes a step back, others need to step up — Oxfam’s Gore

2011-12-07 00:00

AS the high-level segment of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP17/CMP7) in Durban got underway yesterday, the U.S. was singled out as the spoiler.

“The U.S. is blocking, blocking, blocking,” said Oxfam’s Tim Gore and repeated a call made at the weekend for the U.S. to step aside from the talks.

But if the U.S. takes a step back, other countries need to step up, said Gore. He said the priority for COP17 is for a legally binding agreement to tackle climate change.

“The U.S. are setting an unreasonably high bar on issues such as legal parity … In talks last night the U.S. took option four — ‘let’s stop talking about it’.”

Gore said China put out encouraging signs regarding a legally binding agreement at the weekend, but now seem to be backtracking from their original upbeat and forward-looking approach.

“We need more clarity on what sort of legally binding agreement China, India, and Brazil want … At the moment we are seeing parties putting chips on the table but not showing their whole hand.

“The European Union is the strongest advocate of a legally binding agreement,” said Gore, adding that they must drive it forward over the remaining days of COP17.

Gore said the EU needs to stand with the developing countries in sending a clear signal that there must be a second commitment to the Kyoto Protocol with five-year targets attached. “The timeline is set by the science and we need to get to two degrees centigrade by 2020,” he said.

“It’s a big worry that the U.S. is driving a reframing of the debate and now talking about decisions on emissions post-2020. 2020 is too late for two degrees.”

This is a reference to the scientific consensus that we have to keep the planet’s average temperature from rising above two degrees measured from pre-industrial levels in order to avert disastrous climatic consequences.

China, India, Brazil, South Africa and the EU must concentrate on how we can get higher targets brought into force before 2020, said Gore.

“If we allow the U.S. to set the framework here as 2020 we can say goodbye to two degrees.”

The U.S. is not interested in any increase of mitigation targets until 2020. “They are saying we will stick to what we suggested in 2009 and what we reaffirmed last year. We are headed for a four-degree increase and this needs to set alarm bells ringing in the office of every minister who’s arriving at these talks.”

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