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DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA, 22 November 2011 – Friends of the Earth International has expressed strong concerns over the stated agenda of the US and a number of other developed countries at the forthcoming UN climate talks in Durban from 28 November to 9 December [1].

The global grassroots environmental federation is calling on other governments to stop these countries from undermining the globally-agreed framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure stronger targets for legally binding emissions cuts in line with science and equity.

The climate talks have been deadlocked since the beginning of the decade because of the failure of developed countries – those historically responsible for the bulk of the climate-changing emissions – to deliver on their moral and legal obligations for climate action.

Developed countries are obliged under the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to cut their emissions first and fastest and to provide adequate public finance and technology transfer to developing countries.

But in the last two years the international negotiations have taken an even more worrying turn, with the US, Japan and others pushing to scrap the agreed, legally-binding framework for developed country emissions cuts and replace it with a voluntary ‘pledge and review’ approach. This would put the world squarely on track to catastrophic global warming [2].

“Millions of people around the world are already facing the impacts of the climate crisis. Yet many developed country governments, who have it within their power to prevent the crisis from getting any worse, are acting with complete impunity. And worse, many are using the climate talks to advance the narrow, profit-driven agenda of polluting industries, multinational corporations, and financial elites”, said Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Friends of the Earth International coordinator of the Climate Justice and Energy Programme.

“To tackle the climate crisis we need a transformation in our unjust and unsustainable economies and their basis in dirty, polluting fossil fuels. In South Africa, it was the power of peoples’ struggle that defeated apartheid. Once again our communities need to organize, mobilise and help build not just a new South Africa but a new just and sustainable world that puts the interests and needs of ordinary people and communities first,” said Bobby Peek, director of Friends of the Earth South Africa / groundWork.

“Durban could be where the greatest crime against humanity is committed. The blind greed and self-interest of developed countries could literally pass a death sentence on the peoples of Africa”, said Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International.

“Developed countries must take the lead by committing to urgent and dramatic legally-binding emissions cuts, stop the drive for destructive false solutions like carbon trading, and repay their climate debt to developing countries. Developing countries must resist the drive from the US, Japan and others towards climate catastrophe, and the EU must prove its climate leadership or take its share of responsibility for what could be a disastrous outcome in Durban. The world cannot wait any longer” he continued.


[1] The most fractious issue in the negotiations is the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. Whilst the greenhouse gas emissions targets in the current phase are extremely weak and full of dangerous loopholes like carbon trading, the Protocol itself provides the only existing international framework for legally binding targets for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The first phase of emission cuts agreed under the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012. A second phase must be agreed in Durban to avoid gaps between the two periods.

Canada, Japan and Russia are determined not to commit to a second period of emission cuts under the Protocol unless all major economies – including China and the United States – agree to the same legal terms.

The US is reneging on its promise to take on comparable binding emissions reductions. Instead, it is pushing for a complete dismantling of the framework of legally-binding emissions reduction targets and for its replacement with a voluntary pledge and review system where countries would decide their own emissions cuts on a national basis.

[2] According to UNEP, the voluntary emissions reductions pledges submitted at the previous UN round of climate talks (COP 16 in Cancun) would put the world on track to a catastrophic 5 degrees of warming and even higher for Africa


Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Friends of the Earth International coordinator of the Climate Justice and Energy Programme: or +27 763 598 845 (South African mobile valid only Nov. 22 – Dec.10) or +44-7912 40 65 10 (UK mobile), email: sarah.clifton@foe.co.uk

Bobby Peek, director of Friends of the Earth South Africa / groundWork: Bobby Peek, Director of Friends of the Earth South Africa: +27 824 641 383 (South African mobile), email: bobby@groundwork.org.za

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International: +234 803 727 4395 (Nigerian mobile) or +27 716 392 542 (South African mobile valid only Nov. 22 – Dec.10), email: nnimmo@eraction.org

Friends of the Earth International media line: +27 791 097 223 (South African number valid only Nov. 26 – Dec.10) or +31-6-5100 5630 (Dutch mobile) or email: media@foei.org