Former UN climate chief, Yvo de Boer, gave an interview today to Bloomberg News arguing that the debate over C02 targets is largely "irrelevant" in the UN climate process. Naturally, we disagree.

A frank discussion about science-based targets (like reducing the concentration of C02 in our atmosphere below 350 parts per million) is key not only to summoning the necessary ambition to tackle global warming, but also to maintaining the credibility of the UN climate negotiations. Big polluters cannot be allowed to perpetuate the idea that weak targets will avert catastrophe. There is currently 392 ppm C02 in our atmosphere and this year we’ve seen Pakistan underwater, Russia on fire, and, most recently, tens of thousands of walruses are forced to shore by melting sea ice. Can anyone really claim that 450 ppm of C02 is safe for our planet?

Yvo de Boer dismisses the importance of targets because he feels that first, big polluters won’t increase their level of ambition and second, that the debates over targets contributed to the failure to reach an agreement in Copenhagen.

Sure, it’s going to be tough to push countries like the US to take action, but letting them off the hook guarantees failure. Instead, we need to build a movement that can push our countries to summon the courage and leadership necessary to take on climate change. On 10/10/10, we’ll be getting to work on climate solutions in thousands of communities around the world and pressuring our leaders to get to work, as well. Speaking clearly and strongly about what the world needs to do to stop the climate crisis — lowering C02 below 350 ppm — helps build that movement and keep up the pressure on countries to increase their ambition to meet what science says is necessary.

As for the failure in Copenhagen, it wasn’t the push for strong targets that stalled progress: it was the refusal of rich countries like the US to show anything resembling leadership. As the world’s largest historic emitter, the US should have arrived in Copenhagen ready to make strong commitments. Instead, it repeatedly blocked progress and worked to undermine the credibility of the UN by entering into secretive side negotiations with other large polluters. If the push for strong targets blocked anything, it blocked the passage of the weak, compromised Copenhagen Accord that contained no serious commitments from big emitters.

Together, we’ve made incredible progress building a movement behind the real solutions that science and justice demand. Last October 24, you organized over 5,200 events in more than 180 countries to build support for the 350 ppm target. Thanks to your hard work, the number “350” made it onto the front pages of newspapers around the world — CNN called October 24 the “most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” That publicity payed off: in Copenhagen, 112 countries adopted the 350 ppm C02 target, many of them for the first time. Just as important, targets like 550 or 700 parts per million disappeared from the negotiations completely. By building a movement around strong targets, we were able to turn the talks back towards what science says is necessary.

If last year we set the target, this year we’re showing how to get there. There are already 10/10/10 work parties planned in more than 130 countries. We’re making the future visible today: showing the types of solutions necessary to get us back to 350 ppm as quickly as possible.

The more successful we are, the more the forces of the status-quo are going to push back. Over the coming months, you’ll see big polluters and bored bureaucrats trying to downplay expectations for international climate negotiations. You’ll see more talk about the declining importance of, you know, doing what’s necessary. The tough part is: science and chemistry don’t negotiate. They’ve set the target at 350 ppm and we need to figure out how to get there.

Yvo de Boer may be tired of pushing countries to raise their ambition, but we’re just getting started here at We’re not going to give up on what science and justice demand. We’re going to get to work.

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