Cancún climate summit: Rich accused of ‘holding humanity hostage’*
By John Vidal and Jo Tuckman
In the absence of Barack Obama, David Cameron and most developed country leaders, a group of Britain’s least-welcome heads of state plans to grab centre-stage at next week’s global climate summit and accuse wealthy countries of a collective lack of ambition.
At the 194-nation summit in Cancún, Mexico, Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, all of whom were accused by Gordon Brown of “holding the world to ransom” at last year’s political debacle at Copenhagen, plan to charge the rich nations with imperilling the poorest people in the world.
They will be joined by the presidents of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil and Guatemala.
The Latin American presidents want to bolster the cause of nearly 100 small island states, and other poor countries on the frontline of climate change, which say that proposals to hold the global temperature rise to 2C threaten their existence.
First Signs of Diplomatic Clashes in Forthcoming Talks
Tonight the first shots were fired in what are likely to be serious diplomatic clashes at the talks. In an interview with the Guardian, Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN accused rich countries of “holding humanity hostage” and undermining the UN. “[Their] deliberate attempts to sideline democracy and justice in the climate debate will be viewed as reckless and immoral by future generations,” he said. “I feel that Cancún will become a new Copenhagen if there is no shift in the next few days.”
Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, warned journalists this week that if Cancún failed to move forward there would be a risk that some key parties would “start to simply lose interest in the international UN process”. She said: “If Cancún delivers nothing, or not much, then the UN process is in danger.”
The UK’s energy and climate change secretary, Chris Huhne, who will lead the British ministerial team and attend the talks during the second week of the conference, said negotiators needed to “keep the show on the road”. He said he wanted to see progress on deforestation, financing and encouraging the transfer of cleaner technology to poorer countries.
Huhne said: “If the world fails to stop emissions from continuing to climb by 2020, the prospects for the people on the planet are pretty bleak. Success from our point of view means getting closer to the legally binding deal we want.”
US ‘getting in the way’
The Mexican foreign minister, Patricia Espinosa, told the Guardian that she could not rule out western leaders, including Obama, attending the talks if the negotiations went well. “I’d say it’s a possibility, for as long as [Obama] doesn’t confirm that he is not coming,” she said.Others criticised the lack of concrete action by the US. Earlier this year the senate put paid to Obama’s climate bill. Greenpeace and other international groups accused the US of deliberately holding up progress. “We can either let the US stall global climate action and risk the disintegration of the whole multilateral system, or create a binding deal that the US will have to catch up with,” said director John Sauven.
“The world would make speedier process without the Americans getting in the way.”, said Asad Rahman of Friends of the Earth International.
Developing countries are bitter about US attempts to impose on them the weak political deal agreed by some countries last year, said Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, a Geneva-based thinktank for developing countries.
He said: “Cancún is the acid test to see if rich countries are serious. Developing countries are pessimistic. They see only more demands by the US and no new offers of finance. People are sceptical of the offers already made, which have been shown are often not new money.”
“There is deep frustration among the least developed countries”, said Bruno Sikoli, the spokesman for the 54-strong group of mainly African countries. “We feel there has been far too much talking. If the rich countries put nothing new on the table, then it will be very serious. Climate change is affecting our countries hard now. It is most urgent.”
The conference opens with the three leading institutes that calculate global temperature saying that 2010 is likely to be among the warmest years recorded. Annual carbon dioxide emissions globally have also hit record levels. Concentrations of the gases continued to build up in 2009 — the latest year of observations — despite the economic slowdown, said the World meteorological organisation (WMO) and are now at their highest level since pre-industrial times. In addition, the UK government’s Met office reported that the world warmed more rapidly than previously thought over the past decade.
Energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne said that Britain’s objective at Cancun was “to reinvigorate the talks. Success means getting the world to within shouting distance of a deal, keeping the show on the road and making practical progress on areas like forestry, finance and reduction commitments,” he said.