Planet Earth: Too Big to Fail

Greenpeace action in nation's capital calls on world leaders to tackle global warming

Feature story - April 27, 2009
As representatives from the world’s 17 biggest global warming polluters met at the State Department in Washington, D.C. this morning, Greenpeace activists climbed a crane across the street to hang a banner with a picture of Earth and the message “Too Big to Fail.”

The meeting today is part of President Obama's Major Economies Forum (MEF), a revamped version of former President Bush's Major Emitters Meetings, which were actually designed as a means of undermining the international action to address global warming outlined in the Kyoto Protocol. Greenpeace is calling on the world leaders at the MEF to take responsibility for the planet and commit themselves to building a strong, legally binding agreement at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen being held this December.

Bold action needed, MEF can help provide leadership

We need global action that will ensure a peak in emissions by 2015 followed by a rapid decline to as close to zero emissions as possible by 2050, which climate scientists say are crucial targets if we are to avert the worst affects of global warming. The only way we will get such a coordinated, global response to global warming is if the leaders of the nation's developed economies lead the way.

Specifically, the industrialized world must commit to interim targets that aim at deep cuts in emissions - 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 - and at least 95% below 1990 levels by 2050. Additionally, they must provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries to enable them to switch to clean energy, stop deforestation, and adapt to those climate impacts that are now unavoidable.

The latest UN climate meetings in Bonn, Germany, however, ended with very little progress being made to get the major emitters of the world on the same page with regard to what actions they will take to stop global warming. There was simply no leadership.

Thus the MEF could be a great opportunity for Obama to start delivering the global leadership that he has promised in the past. By getting the world's major emitters to discuss constructive proposals for tackling global warming, as well as specifics on the emissions cuts they're willing to make and the funds they're willing to devote to helping developing economies switch to clean energy, Obama could set a positive, "Yes we can" attitude for the UN Climate Conference in December.

While the MEF could be a good start, President Obama and all heads of state need to take personal responsibility and get involved in the UN Climate negotiations. Only they can offer the leadership needed to bring the world's nations together on behalf of the billions of people whose lives will be disrupted or destroyed by runaway climate change if we continue to do nothing.

Seven Greenpeace activists arrested

Seven Greenpeace activists climbed a 140-foot construction crane in the pre-dawn hours of April 27th, 2009 to greet the sunrise and world leaders with a giant banner proclaiming that the Earth is "Too Big to Fail" and that it's time to "Stop Global Warming" and "Rescue the Planet."  Climbers went over the lip of the crane just after 6:00 and the banner was unfurled by 6:30AM EST.

All seven Greenpeace activists were arrested following the banner hang, including Greenpeace USA's new executive director, Phil Radford, who officially starts the job today. In a blog post about the action, Phil wrote the following about the need for leadership from Obama:

"If the United States doesn't take action that matches its responsibility, it's unlikely other countries will meet theirs: China will continue to build new, very dirty coal fired power plants, and tropical countries like Indonesia, Brazil, and the Congo will continue to allow giant agricultural interests to burn down their forests. And the climate will rapidly careen out of control."

Read more of Phil's blog post, and view a slideshow of images from the action.

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