Friends of the Earth supporters protesting at the UNFCCC climate talks in Bonn today, denouncing the lack of progress. Photo: Friends of the Earth Europe via Flickr (All rights reserved).
Germany takes the heat as climate talks close with no progress
11th June 2015
UN climate talks in Bonn ended today without the progress needed to secure agreement at the Paris COP in December - shortly after the G7 issued aspirational climate promises devoid of action, and heedless of warnings that Germany is already suffering the impacts of climate change.
Rising temperatures, more humid winters and more frequent extreme weather events increasingly affect society in Germany. Impacts are becoming noticeable in many sectors including energy supply, agriculture and healthcare.
As two weeks of UN climate talks come to a close here today, Friends of the Earth International warned that not enough progress was made towards a fair and adequate climate treaty, which is supposed to be finalised at COP21 in Paris later this year.
While the leaders of the world's seven industrial powers (G7) made lofty statements this week about a fossil fuel phase out by the end of this century, politicians actually negotiating key issues of the planned UN treaty on climate change failed to make real progress in Bonn.
They were unable to agree on the legal form of the treaty, or on a fair distribution of emission reduction commitments, and also failed to agree how to generate sufficient public finance for adaptation to climate change.
"Climate change is upon us, and every increase in temperature causes more heatwaves, droughts and floods, killing thousands of people", said Lucy Cadena, climate justice and energy coordinator for Friends of the Earth International.
"If developed country governments continue to drag their feet at the UN negotiations instead of taking immediate action, millions of people will pay for it with their lives."
The failure bodes badly for the Paris climate talks due to take place this coming December. As warned by Illari Aragon in The Ecologist, "countries need to make the most of the ten days of negotiations available to them in June - which, in the face of the challenge, is looking like a very short time indeed.
"Clarity on legal aspects and signs of convergence on contentious issues like differentiation need to materialise as early as possible in order to ensure success in Paris." This is precisely what the Bonn talks have now failed to achieve.
Germany in the hotseat
Germany, as the current chair of the G7 and host of the latest round of UN climate change negotiations, came under particular scrutiny, with Ann Kathrin Schneider, climate campaigner for FoE Germany accusing Angela Merkel of having flipped "from climate chancellor to coal chancellor."
"While she talks big on climate, she's silent when it comes to supporting a levy on coal power plants, without which Germany will shamefully miss its 2020 emission reduction targets. If Germany does not address the fossil fuel industry in its national climate policy the phrase ‘Energiewende' will soon be meaningless."
Meanwhile Germany's Federal Environment Agency has announced that the effects of climate change are now "clearly noticeable in Germany" in its first monitoring report on climate impacts and adaptation.
"Rising temperatures, more humid winters and more frequent extreme weather events increasingly affect society in Germany", according to the Agency. "Impacts are becoming noticeable in many sectors including energy supply, agriculture and healthcare ...
"The number of hot days per year with temperatures of more than 30 degrees centigrade has risen from 3 to 8 in Germany. Longer heat waves can have various impacts ... In certain regions in the South of Germany new thermophilic species such as the Asian tiger mosquito are spreading which can transmit severe diseases, including malaria or dengue fever.
"In the agricultural sector drought stress or extreme weather events such as storms, heavy rainfall or hail storms lead to quality fluctuations and lower yields."
Progress at the G7 - but what does it add up to?
At the G7 meeting in a Bavarian schloss last weekend, leaders of the world's major industrial economies (except Russia) announced a non-binding commitment to decarbonise the global economy by 2100, with a 40%-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to 2010.
While the first promise is so much pie-in-the-sky, the second is more significant, as it will impact on investment decisions taking place now regarding coal-based infrastructure - such as mines, railways, ports and power plants - with a prospective lifetime of 50-100 years.
Angela Merkel is widely credited with pulling off the deal, however critics point out that it is both insufficient to tackle the climate crisis, and entirely aspirational, with no plan or concrete steps set out.
"G7 countries have signalled their agreement on the importance of tackling climate change eventually, but haven't announced any meaningful action", said Susann Scherbarth, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe
"The emission cuts they've promised are less than half of what climate science recommends and justice requires. We are on the path to a disastrously empty deal in Paris this December, but ordinary people are making the energy transformation that our governments have failed to."
Lucy Cadena added that there is really no excuse for the lack of action at the G7 and the Bonn climate talks, since it's already completely clear what has to be done, and indeed people and communities are doing it already in the absence of global leadership:
"People around the world are already implementing real, proven solutions-community-controlled, renewable energy systems. The energy revolution has come of age, and our politicians must help implement it or fade into obsolescence along with the dirty energy systems they cling to."
Today a group of activists from various Friends of the Earth groups protested outside the UN venue in Bonn calling for an energy revolution.
Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.
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