Greenpeace activists display a banner from a construction crane near the State Department in Washington, D.C., Greenpeace urged government ministers from the world’s 17 biggest greenhouse polluters to‚Stop Global Warming and Rescue the Planet from the devastating effects of climate change as ministers gathered for climate talks under the Major Economies Forum (MEF) process.  © Greenpeace / Tazz
Greenpeace activists display a banner from a construction crane near the State Department in Washington, D.C., Greenpeace urged government ministers from the world’s 17 biggest greenhouse polluters to‚'Stop Global Warming' and 'Rescue the Planet' from the devastating effects of climate change as ministers gathered for climate talks under the Major Economies Forum (MEF) process.

As senior diplomats and politicians from 17 countries headed towards the US State Department building in Washington DC this morning, they couldn’t have missed a couple of Greenpeace climbers dangling below a huge banner bearing a picture of our beautiful blue planet and the words “Too big to fail”.

Climate change will be on the agenda at this meeting, billed as the Major Economies Forum (MEF), and we wanted to remind them to put the planet before profits.

The MEF is President Obama’s remodelled version of Bush’s Major Emitters Meeting. The Bush version was designed as a distraction to real progress, a venue for big economies to look busy while doing nothing. This week we will find out if Obama’s approach is going to be more productive.

The climate negotiations could certainly do with a positive shove. The latest UN climate meeting in Bonn ended with no progress, and no sign of the leadership needed to get things back on track. Obama’s MEF meeting might be able to add some momentum to get the negotiations back on track.

Last chance

The UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen at the end of this year is the best chance we have to take positive action and avoid catastrophic climate change.  If the summit is to be a success it needs to deliver three things:
  • Emission cuts of at least 40 percent by 2020.
  • The funding to achieve them, including USD 40 billion a year to end deforestation.
  • A deal which is legally binding, not just aspirational.

How can the MEF help do this?

It could be a forum for constructive proposals to be put on the table and for new ideas to be worked out. It could be a place where countries can share details about just how much they’re prepared to do - injecting some much needed confidence into the talks. The Bali action plan committed rich developed countries to providing funding to help less developed countries make the transition to clean economies, deal with the impacts of climate change and end deforestation. More than a year later the rich nations haven’t said how much they’re prepared to spend. We're hoping that the MEF will be a place for that to change.

Of course, what’s really needed is a change in attitude right at the top. During the last round of UN negotiations the Wilkins Ice Shelf collapsed, providing yet more undeniable evidence of the looming catastrophe. But the negotiators, obsessed with political maneuvering and short term national interest, were unmoved.

Coincidentally the area has been cordoned off, with President Obama due to address the National Academy of Sciences (next door) while Secretary Clinton opened the MEF meeting.

We hope he got the message, it's not the first we have directed at the US President in recent weeks.