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London, United Kingdom, 2005/12/05 - Far from showing global leadership, mixed messages from the UK Government have led to confusion, the International Institute for Environment and Development has warned as politicians gather in Montreal.
"One day the UK Prime Minister talks of a future binding agreement involving all economies, the next the Environment Secretary pours cold water on the prospect of a deal," IIED Director Camilla Toulmin said. "It's not surprising that everyone is terribly confused by this muddled approach. We need clarity not mixed messages this week, building on Tony Blair's recent statement. Global leadership from the UK is vital and can make or break the negotiations."
The UK plays a pivotal role in this week's crunch ministerial negotiations and in leading wider debate as it currently holds the Presidency of both the G8 and the European Union.
IIED is critical of the emphasis on technology development rather than legally-binding targets. Camilla Toulmin said: "Technology is vital to achieve targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it cannot be a substitute for a binding agreement that forces the necessary cuts in emissions at the urgent pace required."
IIED wants European Union governments to build on the existing Kyoto protocol, still in its infancy, and strike an even stronger deal to bring deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by rich countries when the first commitment phase ends in 2012. Legally-binding targets, the core principle that makes the Kyoto protocol effective, should not be ditched. A sub-standard agreement to get the current United States administration on board would be a backward step. Several states and cities within the US are already recognising the urgent need to adopt a Kyoto type approach.
IIED chair Mary Robinson said: "Talk of loose agreements and flexibility is a recipe for disaster. The people of the world, particularly the poor who are the hardest hit by climate change, cannot be left to cross their fingers and hope that their leaders take action. Only a legally-binding deal with clear targets will force the pace of change and maintain public confidence. The US leadership will have to come round to this way of thinking sooner or later."
IIED believes that the key to the big industrialising nations, such as China and Brazil, accepting mandatory but fair emissions caps in the future is for climate change negotiations to produce a substantial "development dividend".
IIED Director Camilla Toulmin said: "With the stakes so high, development in the 21st century must take a sustainable, low-carbon path. But the new deal on climate change must be a fair one to succeed. Rich countries will have to cough up significant new cash to support the poor in adapting to the changing climate and to leapfrog dirty development. And they must lead by example by making big strides to clean up their own backyard."
Last month IIED organised an "open letter" signed by 28 leading scientists, politicians and policy experts which urged UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to stick up for legally-binding targets as the only way forward. Signatories included George Monbiot, Clare Short MP, Michael Meacher MP, Friends of the Earth Executive Director Tony Juniper, Glenys Kinnock MEP, Sir John Houghton, Professor Mike Hulme and the Rt Rev James Jones Bishop of Liverpool (see notes).
IIED spokespeople are available in Montreal.
IIED and other organisations have published two reports on the impact of climate change on international development:
The International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) is a London-based think-tank working for policy solutions that both sustain the environment and reduce world poverty.