Archived press release
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In reaction to the end of the UN climate talks in Poland, Friends of the Earth Executive Director Andy Atkins said:

"The climate talks fizzled out with no progress on the big decisions. We're on a countdown to catastrophic climate change - yet the developed world is ignoring the ticking clock."

"The science clearly shows that developed nations must cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020 - but this issue has been avoided at these talks."

"Long ago rich countries agreed to provide finance to poorer nations so that they can build sustainable green economies and adapt to the devastating impacts of climate change - but this cash is still nowhere to be seen."

"There's now a plan to make decisions in 2009 but a radical quickening in pace is urgently required."

"Rich nations may be travelling first class, but when the ship hits the rocks they'll still drown."


There have only been two areas of progress:

1.    A timetable has been agreed for work between now and the UN climate talks in Copenhagen at the end of next year

2.    An Adaptation Fund to pay for poorer countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change has been made operational, but still has barely any money

THE ISSUE: Industrialised countries' emissions targets

  • WHAT? The industrialised countries signed up to the Kyoto Protocol are legally obliged to set new emissions reductions targets for the period following 2012, in light of the latest science. The science shows that rich countries have to make cuts of at least 40 per cent by 2020.


  • WHAT HAPPENED IN POLAND? Industrialised countries have failed to propose new targets and are even showing less ambition than at last year's UN climate talks in Bali.

    The European Union has in parallel been discussing its own climate plans in Brussels, including a proposal that two thirds of its emission reduction targets could be met by buying credits from overseas. The weakening of the EU's position undermined progress in Poland.


  • WHAT NOW? Industrialised countries have to make their proposals for their new emissions targets by June 2009, but progress in Poland would have made an agreement next year much easier.


  • WHAT DID THE UK SAY? The UK stuck to the EU position of committing to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, or 30 per cent in the context of an international agreement. The UK could have inspired international ambition by unilaterally declaring that it would cut its own emissions by 40 per cent by 2020. The UK's Climate Change Committee has recommended a 42 per cent cut by 2020, if a global agreement is reached.

THE ISSUE: Finance for developing countries

  • WHAT? The United Nations climate change convention - signed in 1992 - legally obliges industrialised countries to provide finance to poorer countries so that they can build green sustainable economies, and cope with the increase in storms, floods, droughts and famines that they face due to climate change.

    The UN estimates that at least 200 billion dollars a year is needed by poorer countries to cover these costs.


  • WHAT HAPPENED IN POLAND? Rich countries made no proposals about how much finance they will provide, despite several detailed proposals about finance transfer from developing countries. The EU is only due to agree its position on finance for developing countries in spring next year. This inaction generated frustration amongst developing countries at the climate talks.


  • WHAT NOW? Industrialised countries have long-standing commitments on paying for climate technology and adaptation costs that remain unfulfilled. The issue of finance is crucial to unlocking a global climate agreement in Copenhagen next year - developing countries will not be able to sign up unless funding is guaranteed. Progress on finance must now sharply accelerate over 2009.


  • WHAT DID THE UK SAY? The UK gave no indication of how much cash it is willing to put on the table for climate change, but in his Ministerial speech in Poland, UK Climate Change Minister Ed Miliband acknowledged the need for major and reliable resources for developing countries.

The ISSUE: Tackling deforestation

  • WHAT? 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by deforestation. On the table at the UN talks in Poland was a proposal to include forests in carbon markets - which would allow rich countries to offset their emissions by buying chunks of forests.

    Friends of the Earth opposes this proposal - the latest science says that rich countries have to reduce their own emissions and forests must be protected, these cannot be traded off against each other. Trying to tackle deforestation by selling bits of forest can also have devastating impacts on the rights of 1.6 billion people who rely on forests for their livelihoods.


  • WHAT HAPPENED IN POLAND? There was no agreement about whether the proposal to include forests in carbon markets should go ahead.

    Following pressure from Canada, Australia, the United States and New Zealand, text was deleted from the proposal that recognised Indigenous Peoples' rights. This raises grave concerns that Indigenous Peoples could be exploited if the proposal goes ahead.


  • WHAT NOW? Proposals will be considered again in June 2009.

    Outside of the UN, various other initiatives to include forests in the carbon markets are planned through bilateral agreements and the World Bank. These schemes also carry the same risks of violating Indigenous Peoples' rights.


  • WHAT DID THE UK SAY? The UK supports the inclusion of forests in carbon markets through the UN, but was not one of the countries that pushed for text on Indigenous Peoples' rights to be removed.

    Outside of the UN, the UK Government has today (Friday 12 December) committed some money to a separate World Bank scheme to stop deforestation by including forests in carbon markets. Friends of the Earth has concerns that this scheme may also have implications on Indigenous Peoples' rights and it may not achieve overall climate goals. The UK Government is pushing that any scheme to address emissions from deforestation will enable them to offset some of their industrial emissions reduction commitments, which Friends of the Earth does not support.

THE ISSUE: Adaptation Fund

  • WHAT? The Adaptation Fund was finally established a year ago at the UN climate talks in Bali to finance poorer countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The Adaptation Fund could be operational already - in contrast with parallel discussions on finance which focus on climate funding after 2012.

    The UN has judged that 86 billion US dollars are required annually for adaptation in developing countries. The Adaptation Fund currently has only 300 million dollars in it, and hasn't yet delivered any money on the ground.


  • WHAT HAPPENED IN POLAND? Bureaucratic problems that have been holding up the delivery of any money through the Adaptation Fund have been resolved. There was global agreement to a proposal from developing countries that they should make applications for funding for adaptation projects directly to the Adaptation Fund, instead of the World Bank taking a central role.

    A proposal to tax emissions trading and put the proceeds into funding adaptation in developing countries was blocked - if it had gone ahead this could have released up to 7 billion US dollars immediately. In the final plenary session India and Columbia expressed outrage that this money was held back.


  • WHAT NOW? Much greater sums of money are needed in the Adaptation Fund to meet the needs of countries facing climate change impacts. Further funding streams for adaptation are expected to be decided in Copenhagen in December 2009.


  • WHAT DID THE UK SAY? The UK has been reluctant to put money into the UN Adaptation Fund, although it has pledged some adaptation funding for activities through the World Bank. This money however was already earmarked for development aid so is not additional funding. The UN convention on climate change requires industrialised countries to provide additional money for adaptation to climate change in poorer countries.


1.    Executive Director Andy Atkins and International Climate Campaigner Tom Picken are available for interview at the UN climate change conference in Poznan, Poland. Climate and Energy Campaigner Robin Webster is available for interview in London.

2.    A detailed media briefing about the UN climate conference is available at:

3.    Friends of the Earth believes the environment is for everyone. We want a healthy planet and a good quality of life for all those who live on it. We inspire people to act together for a thriving environment. We campaign on a range of issues including climate change, biodiversity, waste, transport and food. For further information visit

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.


Published by Friends of the Earth Trust