Rich Nations Failing to Meet Climate Obligations at Expense of Poor: Report

The U.S. and other wealthy nations are not pulling their weight in the climate change fight and may be setting the world on an even more devastating climate track, a new report published Monday reveals.

Globally, governments’ pledges to limit greenhouse gas emissions are not adequate to stave off an average surface temperature warming of 2°C, the agreed threshold to prevent irreparable global warming and extreme weather events, according to the report (pdf), Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), crafted by 18 civil society groups.

The groups, which include Friends of the Earth International and Oxfam, analyzed the pledges put forth ahead of time in early negotiations in Bonn, Germany this week by about 150 United Nations (UN) member states taking part in this year’s COP21 climate talks in Paris and determined that the “ambition of all major developed countries falls well short of their fair shares.”

While there is no official method of determining a nation’s climate obligations, the civil society groups weighed the pledges against individual countries’ economic wealth and historical contribution to global warming.

Because the U.S. and the European Union (EU) can afford to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and because they have benefited financially from burning coal, oil, and natural gas for centuries, their pledges amount to roughly a fifth of what they owe on climate action, the coalition said. Japan has pledged a tenth, according to the same metrics.

Meanwhile, emerging nations were found to “exceed or broadly meet” their obligations. Kenya, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and the Marshall Islands are among the developing economies which are going beyond the call of duty.


“Emission cut pledges made by rich countries so far are less than half of what we need to avoid runaway climate change,” said Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “The draft Paris agreement on the negotiating table this week shows that many seem ready to accept irreversible and devastating consequences for people and the planet.”

The talks in Bonn, which will continue until Friday, are the last chance for nations to finalize their climate pledges before COP21 talks commence on November 30. The civil society groups’ full report will be published next month.

Brandon Wu of ActionAid added, “Across the board, rich countries are failing to bring the two most important ingredients to the negotiating table—emission cuts and money.”

The coalition found more than the so-called “action gap.” According to Friends of the Earth Scotland (FOES), wealthy nations may even be purposefully shirking their duties and shifting climate obligations onto their developing neighbors.

FOES head of campaigns Mary Church said, “What we are seeing as the Bonn talks open is rich countries setting the stage for a great climate getaway in which they shift the burden of responsibility for tackling the climate crisis onto the shoulders of the poor.”

“If the deal that world leaders sign in Paris looks anything like the Bonn negotiating text, then world leaders will have wholly failed to respond to the urgency of climate science, let alone climate justice,” Church said.

“Wealthy countries understand the need to tackle the climate crisis, but are stubbornly unwilling to respond to it in a fair and equitable way,” Church continued. “As they stand, combined pledges put us on track for 3ºC warming which means devastating impacts for billions of the world’s poorest people. Not only are developed countries delaying urgent action to curb climate emissions at home, they are also failing to provide necessary support and finance to developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate crisis that are already being felt.”

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