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WWF: Governments fail on ambition, courage at UN climate change talks

Durban, South Africa -- After two weeks of sparring and a day-long extension, governments once again failed today to provide the inspiration and ambition to tackle climate change and provide hope for hundreds of millions around the world who suffer and will continue to suffer from climate-related impacts.

Governments reached a weak agreement that established a Green Climate Fund with little money, postponed major decisions on the content of the Kyoto Protocol, and made an unclear commitment to a global agreement from 2020 that could leave us legally bound to 4 degrees of global warming.

Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy initiative issued the following statement:

“Governments did just enough to keep talking, but their job is to protect their people. They failed to do that here in Durban today. Science tells us that we need to act right now – because the extreme weather, droughts and heat waves caused by climate change will get worse.

“But it is clear today that the mandates of a few political leaders have outweighed the concerns of millions, leaving people and the natural world we depend on at risk. Catastrophe is a strong word but it is not strong enough for a future with 4 degrees of warming.

“Unfortunately, governments here have spent the last two crucial final days of negotiations focused on only a handful of specific words in the negotiating texts, instead of spending their political capital on committing to more and real action to address climate change.

“Some countries here, like the United States, showed they were not interested in supporting an ambitious outcome in Durban. The US -- afraid of the politics at home – fought over a few words, but missed the bigger story: limiting dangerous climate change.

“Overall, the responsibility for this lies with a handful of entrenched governments – like the US, Japan, Russia, and Canada – who have consistently resisted raising the level of ambition on climate change. This is what brought us to this point.

“One crumb of comfort in Durban has been the emergence of a large group of high ambition countries, led by the most vulnerable nations and small island states, including many in Africa.

“We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing, or we’re going to choke on our own carbon and run out of natural resources – and that means we won’t have food, water and energy for all.”

“We know climate change is a global problem and it needs a global response. This process didn’t deliver that today, but that doesn’t mean the global fight to tackle climate change has stopped, both within this process and outside of it.”

Tasneem Essop, head of international climate change strategy and of WWF’s COP 17 delegation:

“Greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels this year, so we need an aggregated response to this problem – one that includes continued action on climate change from progressive business, from governments at the national level, and from the public and civil society, who must keep up the call to arms.

“While negotiators and ministers were sitting behind closed doors, they weren’t hearing the people’s call, made by faith leaders, youth, women in protests and demonstrations, inside and outside the venue, to act with urgency. These people, including WWF, will hold them accountable.”

Jim Leape, WWF Director General said:

"Politicians here in Durban have shown an alarming inability to come to grips with the challenge of climate change. Encouraging words about finding solutions have turned into nothing but hot air.