(EnergyAsia, December 13 2011, Tuesday) — Governments submitted to the wishes of polluting corporations at the expense of the people after two weeks of the UN climate summit in the South African city of Durban, said Greenpeace.

On the closing of the latest round of UN climate talks, Greenpeace said it became “clear that governments listened to the carbon-intensive polluting corporations instead of the people who want an end to our dependence on fossil fuels and real and immediate action on climate change.”

Greenpeace said that governments should have undertaken the following measures to ensure success for the Durban summit:

1.    Set a peak in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2015. Following on the Cancun meeting last year, governments were to agree to 2015 targets for global emissions reduction and global peak year for emissions and they have done neither. In Durban, governments promised to develop a workplan to close the gap between science and their pledges to reduce greenhouse emissions.

2.    Ensure that the Kyoto Protocol continues and provide a mandate for a comprehensive legally binding instrument. Instead, governments have decided that there will be another timeframe where they sign up to deal with emissions under the Kyoto Protocol but postponed putting it into action until next year. On the issue of a new legally binding agreement the proposal was watered down substantially to the point where governments have only committed to talking and producing more documents and not actually commit to a new legally binding protocol.

Greenpeace said India’s role in the negotiations around the new legally binding agreement was unconstructive and lacked foresight while the island states and the least developed countries pushed hard for the urgent adoption of a new and ambitious protocol.

In Durban, the parties agreed to adopt a second commitment period as well as launch negotiations for a new protocol under the Convention to include all parties.  With the survival of nations on the line, only the strongest terms are acceptable.

Greenpeace said governments failed to set a timeline.  The amendment to the Kyoto Protocol will only be adopted in Qatar next year, while the new protocol is to be adopted no later than 2015, but only be implemented from 2020.

3.    Deliver the necessary finance to tackle climate change. Governments in Durban spent an inordinate amount of time talking about technical details of the Green Climate Fund. What was needed was not only an agreement on the fund but more importantly how this empty fund could be filled. The goal for developed countries is US$100 billion a year by 2020.

Greenpeace said: “Not only do we face a gap between what the science says is needed and what these governments are prepared to do to avoid catastrophic climate change, we also face a massive gap in finance required and what is available, to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

4.    Set up a framework for protecting forests in developing countries. Greenpeace said the summit failed to provide the guidance and security to civil society, donors and investors to best meet the Cancun Agreement on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) to “slow, halt and reverse” deforestation in a socially responsible way. The environmental group said the decisions adopted in Durban have increased the environmental and social risks associated with the Cancun objective. Rather than protect the rights of the people responsible for protecting the forest, the decision opens the doors for the irresponsible companies who profit from forest destruction. An entire year’s worth of negotiations has been wasted, said Greenpeace.

5.    Ensure international transparency in assessing and monitoring country commitments and actions. This should be about governments being open about how they are implementing the agreed rules for action, but in Durban there has been no agreement on how this action will be reported on, by whom or by when. Also, for this to succeed, Greenpeace said there has to be global agreement on how to measure action but the US refuses to accept that oranges should be compared with oranges.

6.    Greenpeace also criticised the decision to include carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). CCS on coal has never been shown to work on a large scale, but UN approval increases the risk that new coal power plants will be built, with a dangerous carbon dioxide legacy left for future generations. It is illogical that this technology could now get financing under the CDM of an agreement that should be saving the climate.

Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director, said:

“The grim news is that the blockers led by the US have succeeded in inserting a vital get-out clause that could easily prevent the next big climate deal being legally binding. If that loophole is exploited it could be a disaster. The deal is due to be implemented ‘from 2020’ leaving almost no room for increasing the depth of carbon cuts in this decade when scientists say we need emissions to peak.

“The global climate regime amounts to nothing more than a voluntary deal that’s put off for a decade. This could take us over the two degree threshold where we pass from danger to potential catastrophe.

“Our atmosphere has been loaded with a carbon debt and the bill, carrying a Durban postmark, has been posted to the world’s poorest countries. The chance of averting catastrophic climate change is slipping through our hands with every passing year that nations fail to agree on a rescue plan for the planet.”