Activists urge US to alter stance on climate talks


THE LEADERS of 16 major non-governmental organisations yesterday called on US secretary of state Hilary Clinton to ensure US negotiators in the United Nations climate change talks in South Africa do not block progress being made during negotiations.

In a letter to Ms Clinton the NGOs expressed concerns about the US negotiating team’s position and strategy during the Durban talks on two major issues: the mandate for future negotiations and climate finance.

As things stand the US risks being viewed not as a global leader on climate change but as a major obstacle to progress, stated the letter from organisations that included Greenpeace USA, Oxfam America and the World Wildlife Fund.

On the mandate issue, the NGOs said the US had laid down a set of stringent preconditions that would have to be met for it to support a mandate for negotiations on a comprehensive long-term climate regime.

These included legal symmetry, a clear process for developing countries to graduate to commitments similar to those of developed countries, and making commitments by major developing countries unconditional, rather than conditional on financial or technological support.

“It will clearly not be possible to reach consensus on these issues in Durban. Insisting on their inclusion in a mandate sends the signal that the US does not support such a mandate,” the letter states.

On climate finance, the NGOs maintained that the refusal by US negotiators to even allow a discussion about the relative strengths and weaknesses of climate finance proposals that had been put forward risked fostering the perception of bad faith among their counterparts.

In sharp contrast to the US position on climate financing, the European Union said yesterday it wanted the board of the Green Climate Fund, a mechanism designed to deliver funds to help developing countries adapt to climate change, to start working as soon as next year.

“In the context of a satisfactory outcome on the Green Climate Fund as well as the overall package from Durban, we want to see the board start as early as 2012,” said chief EU and Polish climate negotiator Tomasz Chruszczow.

Countries agreed to form the fund during climate change talks in Cancún, Mexico, and a transitional committee was formed.

On the sidelines of the 17th conference of parties climate change negotiations, campaigners yesterday revealed leading banks from around the world lent the coal industry, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases, €232 billion from 2005 to 2010.

The figures were acquired from a trawl through the lending portfolios of 93 of the world’s leading banks, said Earthlife Africa, which compiled the report Bankrolling Climate Change with three other groups.

“Between 2005 and 2010, coal financing almost doubled. If we don’t take banks to task now, coal financing will continue to grow,” said Earthlife Africa’s Tristen Taylor.

The group reported the top three banks that lent to the coal industry were JP Morgan Chase, Citi and Bank of America.