Post Poznan: what’s the deal on climate change?

Feature Story - 2008-12-29
Two weeks of United Nations climate talks, 189 governments, and a planet in peril. What did we end up with?

An activist dresses as a Polar Bear in Poznan, Poland as the UN discusses climate change.

The bad news is: not much.

"Looking back at the Poznan Climate Conference, we can still feel the frustration of a lack of progress and an emerging sense of urgency," says Li Yan, Greenpeace China climate and energy campaigner.

Li Yan attended the meetings in the Polish town of Poznan in December as an observer.

"I shared many people's concerns about the lack of leadership from the European Union and the destructive roles some major industrialised countries played."

She picks out Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as prime culprits.

So what was decided?

Well the countries agreed to talk more about climate change at later meetings.

This response lacks the appropriate urgency that the climate change threat carries.

Climate change is happening now and threatens everyone.

"Scientists say we must act within ten years to avoid runaway global warming, and we've just wasted one of them," says Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett at the end of the talks.

China asked for clean technology support from developed nations to help the developing world cut their emissions.

But no rich country offered its help.

"Technology cooperation and a funding mechanism to support the developing world tackle climate change was one area that we expected to see some progress," says Li Yan. "But there was a clear contrast between proactive proposals from developing countries and lack of constructive engagement from the richer nations."

Next December, governments will meet again in the Danish capital Copenhagen to try to hammer out a concrete action plan on cutting global greenhouse gases.

Copenhagen is our last chance.

The great escape from Copenhagen

With Poznan such a flop, the Chinese delegate summed up many people's fears.

"The only conclusion many people like me are drawing is that some [rich] countries are preparing for the great escape from Copenhagen," Yu Qingtai told Reuters at the talks.

What else did China say?

As a developing country China made no binding targets to cut its emissions but it did make energy efficiency targets.

China said it would reduce its energy consumption per unit of economic output by 20 percent by 2010 from 2005.

"It's quite encouraging to see China playing a more constructive and open role in climate negotiations," says Li Yan.

"To reach a successful deal at Copenhagen, China should further strengthen its leadership role among the developing countries, not only in climate talks, but also as an example by controlling its emissions growth while maintaining  economic development

"2009 will be a hard year for negotiation, but it's also a year of hope," she adds.

The countdown has begun.

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