Urgently Searching for a Path Forward

Posted on 10 December 2010 by admin

By Nastasya Tay

CANCÚN, Mexico, Dec 10, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva) – Civil society organisations here are demanding real progress in talks at the 16th Conference of the Parties on the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace and the Global Campaign for Climate Action. Credit: Nastasya Tay/IPS

Speaking Thursday on the penultimate day of negotiations, the heads of several international NGOs strongly asserted the need for decisive leadership, courage and creativity on the part of country delegates on the final day of negotiations.

At the moment, the biggest barrier to progress is a lack of clarity about what the path forward looks like in terms of the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the Climate Action Network’s David Turnbull told IPS.

“Especially in terms of how countries are going to anchor their pledges into the negotiations in a way that actually allows greater ambitions on those levels,” Turnbull said.

The pressure – and the blame laid for the lack of movement so far – is landing hardest on particular countries.

“Japan’s position has been inflexible and unacceptable since day one,” said Turnbull, “and it’s totally unacceptable.”

But blame does not lie only with Japan. “The U.S .doesn’t have a lot to bring to the table because of the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive climate legislation,” explained Turnbull, “and the U.S. negotiators are feeling very hesitant to move forward on anything, it seems.”

They are even moving away from the Bali Action Plan, but what’s required is a demonstration of good faith, he said.

“We knew negotiations were at a precarious place coming out of Copenhagen,” said Turnbull, “We needed to restore confidence in the process itself.” He believes expectations and levels of ambition going into the talks were realistic, paving the way for progress on several fronts – including concrete decisions on adaptation, technology transfer, and finance.

Talks have reached a point where progress is required to build trust and confidence between negotiating countries – across the developed and developing world divide, said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International.

“We’ve seen real progress in the last two weeks,” Hobbs said, and “now we’re in a position to see real practical moves.”

However, that does not preclude a repeat of the Copenhagen talks where delegates got into game-playing, warned Hobbes. They must start making concessions, talking to each other, working out solutions, he told the press.

Kumi Naidoo compares the campaign for international action on climate change to his experiences as a young activist during the apartheid regime in his native South Africa.

“However bleak things might be, with inspired leadership, with political will, and thinking about future generations, we can be inspired by the history of winning against all odds,” he told IPS.

Naidoo identifies the biggest barriers to progress as a lack of political will, as well as shortsightedness.

“Developed countries are currently not feeling the effects of climate change, and it is the people in poor countries who are feeling the effects and paying the first and most brutal price,” Naidoo said. “But we know that ultimately we get this right as rich and poor countries, and we secure the future of all our children and grandchildren. We get it wrong and we all go down together.”

“We are strangled by short-term political expediency, and short-term political interest, and election cycles,” he said.

Naidoo bemoans the lack of a legally binding treaty on the table, describing it as a tragedy.

“In Copenhagen, when you talked about a fair, ambitious and binding treaty, you weren’t thought of as a loony lefty, it was considered that you were making a mainstream demand. Here, you’re regarded as a fringe element,” he said.

Naidoo, a leader of the Global Campaign for Climate Action, believes that talks are at a crucial point in Cancún, with high expectations for next year’s negotiations in Durban.

“Leaders need to know they’re playing Russian roulette with the future of our planet. And history is going to judge this generation of leaders – including civil society if we cannot exert pressure and get the result in Durban – extremely harshly,” Naidoo said.

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