Cancun climate talks: which country will show real leadership?

Press release - 30 November, 2010
Cancun – 29 November 2010- Greenpeace today challenged Governments gathering in Cancun for the climate talks to build momentum for a strong climate deal.

Greenpeace International Climate Policy Director Wendel Trio said there were some positive and necessary decisions that governments could take in Cancun, but one of the biggest questions centred around what Governments would do about the US.

“Should the world continue to wait for the US – or should governments step up and take the leadership role we need to stop climate change by building a strong international regime - regardless of how and when the US will participate?” he asked.

The argument that the US is a major emitter and must be part of a global agreement is increasingly looking like an excuse for inaction on the part of other governments, such as the EU and China.

Yet countries like China are perfectly positioned to take a leadership role here – a role sorely lacking from developed countries. And the EU is already close to reaching its climate target and could easily shift up a gear to a strong target of 30% cuts in emissions by 2020.

“It is time for the EU to stop hiding behind the US and become leaders.

Equally, China must stop responding to US attempts to goad it into a public fight – a tactic that is clearly driven by the US administration’s need to distract attention from the fact it can bring very little to the table,” he said.

President Obama has admitted that the US legislation is not viable and is faced with a Congress where, thanks to fossil fuel industry money, many of the members don’t accept the climate science, let alone the need to act. 

“Cancun presents both an opportunity and a choice for Governments.  It is an opportunity for them to park the US question for now – and move forward to reap the benefits of clean development, creating a future that is safe from the ravages of climate change. 

“If they wait for the US they will be accepting the economic and social consequences of climate impacts. Cancun is where Governments need to regain their momentum in a race to the future and if the US doesn’t want to join, then perhaps others need to move on.”

Cancun will not see a global deal, but Governments in Cancun need to make some absolutely crucial decisions on key areas like climate finance and forests – and to agree a clear path toward resolving some of the more difficult issues. 

Greenpeace demands for Cancun are in five key areas.

To avoid dangerous climate change, governments will, ultimately, need to conclude a legally binding agreement that provides deep emission reduction cuts in developed countries as well as substantial action to limit emissions in developing countries. The industrialised world must also provide money for climate action in poor countries. 

In order to make this happen and to keep up momentum, governments must agree to a number of building blocks for this agreement and should, in Cancun

  • reiterate their goal to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C, and review this number in light of the fact that a 1.5° rise will have dangerous impacts;
  • acknowledge that the current emission reduction commitments will not allow us to avoid dangerous climate change - and agree on a process to increase those commitments;
  • set up a Climate Fund;
  • agree a work plan to decide on innovative sources for long-term climate finance;
  • establish a mechanism to tackle emissions from deforestation and ensure this mechanism protects both biodiversity and indigenous peoples' rights.

Greenpeace International in Cancun (if local, just start with 998):

Media on-call number  +52 1 998 202 6181

Climate Policy Director Wendel Trio: +52 1 998 204 9770

Communications:  Cindy Baxter +52 1 998 216 1099

Spanish speaking media: Juliana Tinoco +52 1 998 213 7837

For Photo/video throughout the meeting:  Jo Kuper +521 998 109 4319

All Greenpeace information and background on Cancun, including press releases, can be found here: