Glaring vacuum on political leadership threatens to undermine ability to address climate crisis

24 June 2019

Bonn, 24 June 2019: Today at the UN climate talks in Bonn, civil society voiced its concerns that the political will and ambition needed to tackle the climate emergency is nowhere in sight.

Solving the climate crisis requires political leadership, particularly from the big emitters, who must step up and commit to enhancing their national climate targets by 2020 in order to cut global emissions by half by 2030 and meet the Paris Agreement goal to dangerous keep heating below 1.5C degrees.
Rich countries must pledge climate finance on a scale that will allow countries already suffering the consequences of climate change to deal with impacts and adapt quickly to survive.

Speakers at a press conference by Climate Action Network said the very weak signals coming from developed countries on enhancing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and on delivering finance, raises concerns that the Bonn climate talks are not responding to the climate emergency, even as a full-fledged heatwave is to sweep Europe this week and bring home the reality of climate change.


Alden Meyer, Director, Strategy and Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists, said:

“It’s very clear what we want out of this process, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has made it crystal clear. We need three things: ambition, ambition and ambition. We need of the ambition to close the emissions gap and have a chance to stay at the 1.5 C degree level. We need ambition on impacts because even if we manage to hold temperature increases globally to no more than 1.5C degrees, the horrific impacts we are already seeing across the world are going to continue and intensify over the next several decades. So we need more progress, more support on adaptation and loss and damage and we need ambition on finance, technology and capacity building, support for developing country actions.”

“It’s kind of a tale of two cities. We’re seeing very smooth progress here in Bonn on the technical issues at play… but on the political level, it’s a very different picture. There is a vacuum of leadership from major countries on ambition across all these fronts. If you see the countries that are committing in public to enhance the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), it is almost entirely developing countries and most of them are small or mid-size emitters. You don’t see the G20 countries on that list. You don’t see the countries that collectively represent about 80% of global emissions providing any certainty about what they plan to do on ambition.”

“At the end of this week, Japan will be chairing the meeting of the G20 leaders in Osaka. We’re very concerned that Japan is not building on the momentum generated by Germany and Argentina over the last two G20 meetings to fully implement Paris, decarbonize the global economy and ramp up support for developing country ambition and action. As a matter of fact, we hear concerns that Japan is talking about cutting its next pledge to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in half from the USD 1.5 billion that they pledged in the first round, not doubling its pledge as Germany and other countries are committing to do.”

“We have a lot of work to do in front of us over the next six months and most of what we need can be solved with political ambition from the major countries and we are calling for that leadership coming forward out of this meeting in Bonn.”

Mohamed Adow, International Climate Lead, Christian Aid, said:

“We all know that the world is starting to wake up to the fact that we’re in the midst of a climate emergency. Even though, this issue is getting the public’s attention, leaders are avoiding to take responsibility and address it effectively. It’s quite shameful that at a time when we have a climate emergency, these leaders are relegating the very important climate ambition that is required to a footnote. That’s what happened with the European Union but it is also happening with G20 with Japan totally avoiding including in the G20 agenda the need to be able to actually enhance ambition.”

“The conversation around loss and damage is limited to negotiating the terms of reference for the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) and in there the very important element of finance for loss and damage isn’t getting a lot of support particularly from the biggest polluters.”

“Look at the cruel irony. Those countries that are most vulnerable to climate change that are suffering the impacts of climate change who have contributed the least are the ones who are leading from the front. If these poor, vulnerable, most impacted communities can, I believe so can all the other big polluters. We need them to actually step up and provide the kind of support that is required. We’re looking at clarity on the 100 billion and the delivery of that political pledge but also the replenishment of the GCF. We need to see political signals coming through that the rich world is actually going to deliver the kind of support that is going to help the world transition to a pathway that is safe.”

“Biggest polluters need to commit to enhance their ambition. We need countries to step forward and actually revise and enhance their NDCs. In the absence of revision and updating of NDCs, it’s unlikely that we will be able to catalyze the transformational change that will put the world on a 1.5C degrees pathway. We also need them to commit and deliver their 2050 net-zero strategies so we have clarity around their development pathway. The third thing is the phase out of coal the biggest source of pollution in energy. We can’t have a conference as important as the UNSG Summit coming forward without countries taking concrete steps in terms of actually stepping away from coal towards renewables. We have abundant renewable energy resources across the world and that potential needs to be tapped to set the world on a safe pathway.”

“Get your grip on addressing impacts because it’s actually affecting people’s lives, mobilize adequate support so that we can bridge the financial gap and catalyze transformative changes. Then, increase your ambition in mitigation to get the world on a safe pathway.”

Ulriikka Aarnio, International Climate Policy Coordinator, Climate Action Network Europe, said:

 “The UNSG Climate Summit in New York is the key focus point this year and currently as it stands, the EU would be going there all empty handed and it’s very unlikely that the EU would be willing to do that. Historically, the EU has always been at the forefront pushing forward international global climate ambition, Kyoto, Paris and at every crunch point and this time, the climate is much higher on the Europeans agenda than it has ever been. It’s a top priority for many European citizens in many European countries. It was felt by the European elections results that showed that strong climate policies get you elected.”

“CAN thinks that the EU’s target by 2030 should be at least 65% reduction in emissions.”

“In one week, Finland takes over the EU’s rotating Presidency and climate emergency is a key issue in Finland now for the fins and for the Finnish government to the extent that climate change are the two first words of the current government’s programme for the next four years. We’re happy that in the next six months we have a serious EU Presidency and we hope that Finland will use all its diplomatic skills and other means to make sure that the EU will align its 2030 target with the Paris Agreement. The time is now. If you decide not to revise the NDCs now, we have to see it as a conscious decision to abandon the 1.5C degrees target. The time is now and the Europeans also want that.”

Lucile Dufour, International Policy Advisor, Climate Action Network, France, said:

“Increased support not only helps developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and implement their climate plans, it also has the potential to unlock the ambition and NDC enhancement that we urgently need.”

“Parties need to build on the rules decided in Katowice and design the tools that will help enhance the transparency of climate finance. We’re at early stages of this process, but parties need to make sure from the beginning that the tool that they are going to design is going to provide complete, comparable, and traceable information on the finance flowing from developing to developed countries. It is key to maintain the trust between parties and also build confidence in the new climate regime.”

“Last week, we saw some tensions emerging on who and how to govern the adaptation fund.

This is extremely concerning because the adaptation fund and the sustainability of funds over time is still a question that is not solved. In the context of growing climate impacts, adaptation and adaptation finance must remain at the center of the talks. Parties need to make sure that the adaptation fund will get increasing and sustainable funds because the adaptation fund works well and is well designed and actually delivers concrete results to help the most vulnerable communities on the ground.”

“We expect parties to demonstrate progress on the commitment they made to mobilize USD 100 billion a year by 2020 and they should do so by improving and achieving a balance between adaptation and mitigation finance. One of the biggest signals they need to send is about the GCF because it will hold its replenishment conference by the end of the year.

In light of the achievements of the fund that funded more than 100 projects with USD 5 billion over the past six years, we expect all the contributor countries especially the bigger ones such as Japan, Canada and the European countries to make new and ambitious pledges to the fund, we need at least doubling of the financial efforts. Any backsliding would be completely unacceptable in the current context.”

Written by Hala Kilani, Senior Communications Officer, CAN

For Follow up in Bonn, contact:

Dharini Parthasarathy, Senior Communications Officer, CAN / whatsapp +918826107830

About CAN

Climate Action Network (CAN) is a global network of over 1100 NGOs in more than 120 countries working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels. More information on


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