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FEATURE: Baby steps on climate cooperation bring small victories, but not enough to stave off climate-related suffering


For immediate release: 20th June 2011

The prospects for securing an ambitious, inclusive global climate deal any time in the next two to three years are weak, and the subsequent prospects for grave climate change impacts on the world’s poorest people are a cause for deep concern. That is the message from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) on the closure of the latest UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

“The outlook for the world’s most vulnerable people remains extremely sobering,” said CDKN Chief Executive Sam Bickersteth. “The need to secure binding commitments, particularly from the largest emitters, to constrain greenhouse gas emissions will be essential if we are to limit loss of life and livelihood as a result of climate impacts, this century.”

Sam Bickersteth added: “However, we can take heart from the modest steps that were achieved at this month’s UNFCCC talks. Progress has been made on governance of UN adaptation funds although it’s vital that more of this funding is disbursed to developing countries. Negotiators made progress in outlining how a UN-sponsored Technology Centre and Network might be developed to support the transfer of low-carbon and abatement technologies to developing countries.”

CDKN assists developing country policy-makers in deciphering the confusing landscape of climate funding, and in securing and allocating funds for national climate programmes. CDKN has also increased its efforts to support developing countries – particularly the least developed – to navigate the maze of the UN climate process.

Developing country measures to undertake Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and to progress or update their National Adapation Plans of Action (NAPAs) were also on the table in Bonn. “Many developing countries need to update their adaptation plans and progress their mitigation plans,” said Mr Bickersteth. “It’s important that they are able to do so in way that integrates poverty reduction, economic growth and human development fully with climate policy.”

CDKN is already providing technical assistance to the governments of Kenya, Rwanda, Colombia, El Salvador, Pakistan and other countries to do exactly this.

The backdrop for this latest UNFCCC conference was an alarming report by the IEA stating that greenhouse gas emissions from global society’s energy use were the highest ever in 2010. As global average temperatures rise, scientific models indicate that human society will suffer increased heat-related illness and death, food insecurity, water stress and spread of infectious diseases. Developing countries are least prepared to cope. A compelling new video from CDKN, Voices from the front line of climate change, shows how communities in the global South are already being affected.

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To arrange an interview with CDKN experts, contact Tristan Stubbs at or +44 (0) 7921 088 472.

Notes for editors:
1. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report 2007 found that: ‘Many [climate change] impacts can be reduced, delayed or avoided by mitigation. Mitigation efforts and investments over the next two to three decades will have a large impact on opportunities to achieve lower stabilisation levels. Delayed emission reductions significantly constrain the opportunities to achieve lower stabilisation levels [of atmospheric green house gases] and increase the risk of more severe climate change impacts.’

The report found: The average surface temperature of the Earth is likely to increase by 2 to 11.5°F (1.1-6.4°C) by the end of the 21st century, relative to 1980-1990, with a best estimate of 3.2 to 7.2°F (1.8-4.0°C). This seemingly small difference in average global temperature rise belies a huge difference between human survival (at the very lowest end of the scale of 1.1, which is 1.9°C above preindustrial levels) to destructive climate impacts which become difficult to manage and lead to negative physical feedback loops in Earth’s systems (above a global average temperature rise of 2 degrees).

Warming will not be evenly distributed around the globe. Most of North America; all of Africa, Europe, northern and central Asia; and most of Central and South America are likely to warm more than the global average.

The Kyoto Protocol, which holds rich, industrialised nations to binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, expires in 2012. As well as providing a legal framework for reporting against such reductions, it also provides a highly regulated official market for trade in carbon credits among countries – an important mechanism in enabling developing countries to obtain financing for their carbon reductions efforts. If the Kyoto Protocol expires without renewal, there is a possibility that such ‘Certified Emissions Reduction’ credits could also become redundant, sending an important part of the international climate architecture and related business activity into the ground. In Bonn, negotiators began to explore possibilities for keeping such official carbon markets alive, even if countries do not agree, by 2012, to sign up to a second Kyoto commitment period.

2. The Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) supports developing country decision-makers in designing and delivering climate compatible development. We do this by combining research, advisory services and knowledge-sharing in support of locally owned and managed policy processes. We work in partnership with decision-makers in the public, private and non-governmental sectors nationally, regionally and globally.

CDKN is an alliance of six private and non-governmental organisations operating across Asia, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, with a global office in London, UK. Our team includes climate scientists, researchers, economists, consultants and project managers, along with specialists in communication, networking and partnership building.

We are demand-led and source the best expertise to respond to developing country requests. In this process, we aim to strengthen capacity and foster long-term collaborative relations.

CDKN was established by the UK Government’s Department for International Development in March 2010 for an initial five-year period, and now also receives funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Please visit for more information.

Photo: ‘Shelter from the storm’ by Amir Jina

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