Sands of time push for leadership on climate crisis

Feature story - 19 February, 2009
In advance of Hillary Clinton's arrival in Beijing, we have delivered an open letter, together with a giant hourglass, calling for immediate cooperation and leadership between the US and China to stop global warming.The hourglass, inscribed with the words “time is running out”, refers to the time left to take effective action.

The Obama administration is asked to lead on climate change action in China, Indonesia and Canada.

Together, the Obama administration and China have an historic opportunity to act on both the most serious economic crisis in decades and the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced - the looming climate disaster.

For all the ways in which the US and China are different there is onething they share - the immediate need to stop climate change. China and the US are the world's two biggest greenhouse gas emitters. Commitments from both nations may differ but the urgency of the task facing us means every nation must play its part.

Our letter, addressed to both the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, states: "The current economic crisis provides an unprecedented opportunity to make investments in a way that creates jobs, rebuilds critical infrastructure and lays the foundation for a new energy economy in both nations."

The summer melting of the Arctic, more severe hurricanes, increasing drought, wildfires and heatwaves; these impacts are all signs of an increasingly chaotic climate system that will undermine the economic and development goals of all nations. Time is running out. Dr James Hansen, a leading climatologist from NASA, recently stated that the world is now in "imminent peril". The window for avoiding that peril is narrow, and closing rapidly, but it is not yet closed. With the right leadership, we can bring global greenhouse gas emissions under control, set them on a downward trajectory, and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Extract from our open letter to Hillary Clinton and Yang Jiechi

The US and China need to show leadership for strong climate action, ensuring a sustainable energy future and economic security. By the end of this year, governments must agree to rapidly accelerate action on climate change. A negotiation process will begin soon and concludes at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen this December.

It's not too late - yet

We are calling on Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, when they meet ahead of April's G20 meeting in London, to issue a joint statement on the need for global action and their commitment to ensure an effective plan is agreed. We have also asked them to attend the Copenhagen meeting in person and hope they will call on the rest of world to join them in their efforts - before it's too late.

While there have already been encouraging signs of cooperation between the two countries on renewable energy and energy efficiency, we want to make it absolutely clear that leadership is essential and time is quickly running out. The creation of a new development model that meets energy, moves both nations away from coal, and generates millions of green jobs without sacrificing human health or the environment is not only possible - it is absolutely vital. Also needed is an equitable financial mechanism encouraging greener development not only in China but also throughout Southern Nations.

Urgency underlined in Indonesia

Hillary Clinton also received a similar letter from our Southeast Asia office while she was visiting Indonesia recently. The letter, addressed to her and President Yudhoyono, was delivered to the US Embassy and the Presidential Palace in Jakarta. Our activists held a rally outside as a meeting took place between the two leaders.

We called on Clinton to use her visit to take action against climate change. Developed countries like the US must provide funds to countries like Indonesia in order for them to tackle global warming by preserving forests and reducing greenhouse emissions.

Hoping Obama will say "No we won't" for a change.

Meanwhile in Canada, President Obama was extended a warm Canadian welcome whenactivists unveiled two large banners on the Alexandra Bridgein Ottawa that read "Welcome President Obama" and "Climate Leaders Don't Buy Tar Sands".

Greenpeace Canada is urging that he puts climate change and energy issues at the top of his agenda during the visit. We hope the new US president will tell Prime Minister Harper that the dirtiest oil on the planet does not fit with his plan for a green economy.

While campaigning in 2008, Obama described oil as "a 19th century fossil fuel that is dirty, dwindling, and dangerously expensive." If President Obama supports low-carbon fuel standards in the US he would discourage the importing of oil from tar sands. Canada is now the biggest supplier of oil to the United States.

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