Who ever heard of a government refusing to build a hospital until other governments agree the same thing? Yet, in the international climate negotiations, it has become common for governments to make their own action conditional on long lists of demands from others.
When it comes to mitigation of greenhouse gasses, we are told the reason for this absurd game is trade – i.e. governments are scared to commit to climate action because they fear they will lose their competitive edge. However, this argument has been repeatedly picked apart by analysis showing that a green and energy efﬁcient society brings with it a prosperous economy, green jobs, energy security and improved public health. And, let’s not forget the beneﬁt of avoiding the consequences of catastrophic climate change!
But in the UNFCCC climate negotiations, which have now been running for two weeks in Bonn, Germany, game playing seems to be the order of the day. Take the US, who have announced they won´t let the negotiations on how to fulfil the promise of mobilizing financial resources for international climate action move forward until the negotiations on transparency have progressed 'sufﬁciently'. In other words: Poor communities in Africa who desperately need to adapt to the impacts of climate change will not know whether, how, and when they will get international funding, until the US and China are ﬁnished ﬁghting about how to do their national reporting to the UN. This hostage taking pulls the negotiations down to an all time low.
Other governments are also trying the blufﬁng game – look at the EU, who insists it will reduce its emissions by only 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, despite the fact that its own analysis shows that the policies it has already agreed will reduce domestic emissions 25% by 2020.
Regardless of whether the demands governments put to each other are fair and realistic, these wobbling towers of conditionality bog down the talks and spread ill will. It’s time for governments to realize that the best way of demanding action from others is to take action themselves.
And, Governments should realize that it´s not just their image that's at stake. The mistrust they are creating is dragging down the negotiations, and the window of opportunity to prevent runaway climate change is closing in front of the eyes of our poker-playing governments.
Therefore, dear governments, stop gambling with the well being of your citizens. If you are willing to do what´s best for the people you claim to represent, there is no reason to hide your cards.
(Tove Maria Ryding is Greenpeace Global Deal Coordinator)