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23 OCT 2015

Paris climate summit showing green shoots of international cooperation – but rich countries still need to offer more to close global emission gap

Oxfam says the 150 countries that have now publicly committed to carbon reduction pledges show that December’s UN climate summit in Paris could, at last, be built on international cooperation rather than competition. 

However, Oxfam says that an urgent step-change is still required from all countries because the combined total of pledges still represents an unacceptable gamble that puts at risk the world’s climate security.

Oxfam is campaigning on climate change because of the devastating impacts it is already having upon the world’s poorest people. Exceeding 1.5°C warming will cause intolerable harm to billions of men, women and children who are least equipped to cope.

In analysing these new pledges on the basis of which countries are doing their ‘fair share’, Oxfam believes that many developing countries are stepping up to build momentum and show cooperative leadership, while overall rich countries need to show more ambition still. 

The report, ‘Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs’, by Oxfam and other organisations, finds that countries such as Kenya, the Marshall Islands, China and Indonesia have already pledged or exceeded their fair share of emission cuts, by Oxfam's reckoning. India’s pledge is broadly in line with its fair share while Brazil’s is slightly more than two thirds. 

Wang Bin-bin, Manager of Climate Change and Poverty at Oxfam Hong Kong, said: ‘Some of these countries have made promises that could genuinely transform how their future economies will operate. This could transform the UN negotiations as a result.’ 

Oxfam finds that rich countries, however, need to significantly increase their mitigation ambitions. In Paris, governments must agree on a robust framework that ensures that these commitments will be strengthened before they come into effect in 2020 – and then every five years thereafter. 

‘At the moment, rich countries are still locked into incremental target cuts that – while welcome – simply don't yet go deep enough,’ Wang said. Japan, for instance, is contributing about a tenth of its ‘fair share’ of carbon emission cuts, while Europe and the U.S. are contributing about a fifth. Russia has so far pledged nothing. 

All countries should be doing their fair share. For rich countries, this includes both stronger domestic emissions cuts and contributing far more money and technological assistance to help developing countries to do more. 

Oxfam says the ‘old days’ of rich countries being held solely responsible for cutting carbon emissions are gone. ‘The dynamic has shifted radically. Paris is likely to be an entirely different summit to those that preceded it – particularly because developing countries have tabled pledges that rich countries must inevitably now have to inch toward. The Paris test is to ensure that progress is transformational, not piecemeal.’