Have we COPped out? – Tearfund's Policy Blog

November 28, 2012 By Sara Shaw

Never has urgent climate action at the international level been so urgent. Never has it appeared so unlikely. Never has the gap between the compelling science, the impacts on the ground, the dire predictions for the future – and the apathy and indifference of the majority of northern leaders and public been so enormous.

The climate talks open in Qatar

As the Doha climate talks opened earlier this week, for the first time since COP9 in Argentina in 2005 Tearfund haven’t sent anyone. And I have really mixed emotions about this – we have always sent a team of lobbyists, campaigners and southern partners to lobby and bear witness to climate impacts in the developing world. Not sending anyone at all feels like a real end of an era (though it’s always possible we’ll be back next year – typically just when the COP moves away from sunny climes to chilly Poland).

There are good strategic reasons for our absence – we’re focusing our efforts on shifting the tide in countries like Brazil, India and the US, where we have particular routes for influence. We’re trying to use our limited resources effectively to help create some of the conditions to get a global deal. And, interestingly, one of our partners from India, is going to the talks independently of Tearfund. We haven’t abandoned the process altogether, we’re just sitting out this round of actual talks.

The problem is the things we really need from the talks – at the most basic level – increased action to drastically cut emissions and increased finance for developing country adaptation and clean development just aren’t on offer this year. And the big decisions about the money and the cuts are made in capitals, not in the negotiating rooms. I want the big decisions to be made in Doha because I am desperately worried that time is running out to curb dangerous climate change and we need a global deal urgently, but my wanting them to be made there doesn’t make it any more likely.

In my recent blog on the international talks I mused on whether the talks are just totally broken now because we are in a new era where that kind of top down international process doesn’t work anymore at all (a question to which I don’t know the answer). This history of the negotiations in 83 seconds illustrates just how hard things are.

But I’m longing for that theory to be proved wrong. I’m longing to be surprised by hope over the next few weeks. I’m longing for the solidarity, passion and commitment of civil society and poor communities to cut through the procrastination, manoeuvring, the lack of political will and lack of moral courage that characterises many countries’ behaviour at the talks and in capitals. I’m longing for leaders to be convicted of the need to act on climate and to go beyond negotiating games. I am hoping that Doha will genuinely move discussions forward towards an ambitious 2015 deal. I am hoping for this because the alternatives are dire. Poor communities are being hit hard by climate change now, lives and livelihoods are being lost now. The urgency has never been greater.