BALI, INDONESIA—Hours after Nobel Peace Price Laureate Al Gore pointed to the obstructionist role of the United States at the UN climate change conference, the US proposed new language that would swap binding emissions cuts for rich countries with a voluntary approach for all countries according to international agency Oxfam.
“This new text threatens to drive discussions off the road and into a ditch,” said Antonio Hill, Oxfam’s senior adviser on climate change. “The Bush Administration proposes to strip the most important elements out of this agreement. Global emissions are still rising, and voluntary cuts by rich countries just won’t work. Poor people will suffer the terrible consequences of continued delay.”
Ministers of 189 countries are seeking to hammer out a final deal in the UN climate change conference. Oxfam calls for developing countries, the EU and others to reject the US proposal and hold fast to binding targets and financing for adaptation and technology, urgently needed by the world’s poorest people.
Since the start of the negotiations, Ministers from both rich and poor countries pushed for real action on climate change that would put poor people first. Meanwhile the US, backed by Canada and Japan, has continued to demand that developing countries take on targets, while withholding commitments to address financing and technology for adaptation for the countries that need it most. But it is the responsibility of rich countries to move first and fastest, since they created the vast majority of historical emissions.
“Developing countries, who are most vulnerable to climate impacts, have demonstrated tremendous commitment, flexibility and assertiveness in these talks, but at the eleventh hour, this goodwill has been subverted by the Bush Administration,” continued Hill. “The challenge of climate change is too huge to wait for laggard governments to fall in line. Progress here in Bali is crucial.”
While US negotiators feign cooperation on one of the key elements in Bali—a negotiation track that ends in 2009—the timing and content of last night’s proposal demonstrate this is simply a ploy to carry on with business as usual, according to Oxfam.
“This position ironically comes at a time of hope, with last week’s historic motion in the US Senate,” said Hill. “The will and public concern of Americans to take the strong action needed on climate change is clear. But American delegates here in Bali are undermining prospects for similar progress internationally.”