Climate change: Failure is not an option

Feature story - December 19, 2009
The following is a letter from Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, to our supporters at the conclusion of negotiations by heads of state at the Copenhagen climate summit.

Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International and chair of the TckTckTck campaign.

Dear friends,

Like tens of millions of people around the world who have been working so long and so hard for a fair, ambitious and legally binding (FAB) treaty to come out of the Copenhagen climate summit, I held on to my hope until the very end. My hope our leaders would stop talking and start acting. That they would agree a treaty to avert the threat of climate catastrophe.

My hope has been dashed. Despite a mandate from citizens around the world, and over 120 world leaders attending the Summit, the bickering continued. Our leaders did not lead, they did not act. The summit has failed to produce anything that could be called a FAB deal.

The city of Copenhagen is a climate crime scene, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport in shame. World leaders had a chance to change the world. To seize the day, and put us on a path way to peace and prosperity. To embark on a path of climate justice. In doing so, they could have banished the spectre of catastrophic climate change.  

In the end they produced a poor deal full of loopholes big enough to fly Air Force One through.

Trust went missing

A lack of trust between developed and developing countries played a large role in preventing any real progress.   Leaders from industrialised countries have had plenty of time to commit to ambitious greenhouse gas emission reductions and to find the billions of dollars needed to help developing countries both adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Developing countries showed a willingness throughout the year to take on their share of the effort. Developed countries  failed to move far enough. Bringing up the rear has been the US. It must take the lion's share of the blame.

Beating climate change

Climate scientists around the world tell us we have to ensure global emissions peak by 2015 in order to avoid average global temperature rising more than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

To achieve this, industrialised countries as a group - which have the greatest historic responsibility for the problem - must make the largest emission cuts. They also need to provide at least USD 140 billion a year to help developing countries get onto a clean energy pathway, to protect tropical forests, and to adapt to those climate change impacts that are unfortunately now inevitable.   

Any agreement must be enshrined in a legally binding treaty. This is the job the politicians did not do in Copenhagen.    

Make them finish what they started

It is now our job -  yours and mine - to make sure  our 'leaders' see sense, get back to work  get the job done!

Greenpeace, like many other groups around the world, will continue to peacefully pressure our leaders to do what must be done to save human lives and protect species which cannot speak for themselves.

More and more people are recognising the urgency of climate change. We believe there is an historic inevitability of forcing nations to act. The question is, whether we can force them to take the necessary action soon enough.

The final rub

In a cruel irony I have just learned that the three Greenpeace activists who, posing as world leaders, entered the Danish Palace for the State Dinner on Thursday night to unfurl a banner calling for a real climate deal are to spend the next three weeks in jail.  

They will be away from their families over Christmas and the New Year. The real  leaders, who attempted to get real action are now in jail, while the alleged 'leaders' got clean away, and are fleeing the Copenhagen climate crime scene in private jets and 747s.

Kumi Naidoo

Executive Director

Greenpeace International

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