Climate challenge even greater after UN meeting in Bonn

Feature story - 15 June, 2009
As another round of Bonn climate talks limps to a close, and the UN Climate Summit to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December this year draws closer and closer, it’s a good opportunity to take a look at the progress that’s been made so far…

Negotiators at the UN climate talks in Bonn failed to answer the call for emergency action on climate change.

On the plus side, almost everything is now on the table. On the minus side, almost everything now on the table is still on the table, and doesn't look likely to be going anywhere fast. In fact, one draft document that was 50 pages long at the start of the Bonn meeting is now closer to 300 pages long. Given that one of the purposes of this meeting was to narrow options down, it's safe to assume that 'progress', therefore, has not been significant.

On the other hand, money from the industrialised world to help developing countries to switch to clean energy, keep tropical rainforests intact and adapt to unavoidable climate impacts is still missing from the table. But the biggest space of all is where the robust, effective emissions cuts for industrialised countries should be. The science demands that, as a group, these countries need to cut emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. So far they have offered - at most - 15 percent. Unless they raise their game considerably over the next six months, the world will be heading for a global temperature rise of 3° C and the distinct possibility of irreversible climate impacts.

We can't carry on like this and still hope to get the outcome the planet needs at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. Something has to change.

Leaders need apply

The climate change issue has to be passed right to the top of the political 'food chain'. Heads of governments must take responsibility for protecting the climate and, in so doing, protecting the planet and its people.

Think about it. There's probably not a single ministry or government department that remains untouched by this issue; energy, environment, foreign affairs, treasury - the list goes on. And every single one of them will have its own perspectives and priorities. In every capital city around the world, the person who has the 'big picture' - the person who sits at the desk where the buck ultimately stops - needs to stand up, step up and lead.

Next chance for action

Next month, the heads of the world's richest countries will get together in Italy for the G8 Summit. This will be an historical opportunity for these leaders to break the deadlock and send a strong signal of intent by agreeing deep cuts in emissions and putting money on the table for developing countries.

In December around 15,000 assorted politicians, negotiators, journalists, observers, caterers and cleaners will set up camp in the Copenhagen Bellacentre for the two week Climate Summit. We expect world leaders to be there, acting in our name and taking responsibility for our future.

Take Action

Tell Obama of the US, Hu of China, Brown of the UK, Merkel of Germany, Sarkozy of France, and Lula of Brazil that they must clear their calendars and show up at the UN Climate Summit to secure the future of the planet, and take personal action to get us out of this mess.

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