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“Looking for a Climate Champion”

Stephen Leahy

Environmental activists protest outside the UN talks in Durban as part of a global day of action to demand a fair climate change deal. (Photograph: Rogan Ward/Reuters)

DURBAN, South Africa - Civil society said negotiations are going backwards with no nation willing to step up and lead the way forward here at the United Nations climate change conference Wednesday.

“No-one is a champion here. Who will step forward and call the other countries’ bluffs?” asked Tove Ryding of Greenpeace International.

Without that champion stepping forward in the next two and half days, “the world is heading to four degrees Celsius of warming while countries are playing a game of poker,” said Ryding.

“We are going backwards here. The EU put out a new mandate today that suggest a 10 year delay for increasing emissions reductions,” said Bobby Peek of Friends of the Earth South Africa.

“Corporate power is in charge here. Governments must act for the benefit of their people,” said Peek.

“There is still time to break the deadlock but need clear commitments from the members,” said Srinivas Krishnaswamy of the Climate Action Network – South Asia.

Big decisions at previous meetings were often made in the final hours, he noted.

China has made an “unprecedented” proposal to agree to binding commitments but the US and European Union are pretending this is nothing new, said Samantha Smith of WWF International.

China, as well other large developing nations, are waiting for the US and other developed countries to fulfill their promises made in the Bali (2008) and Copenhagen (2009) climate talks, Smith said.

But even those aren’t good enough to ensure less than two degrees of warming. Greater emissions cuts are needed from the developed that current pledges. “The climate can’t wait for that in 2020 as the US suggests.”

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