Thu, 28 May 2020

UN talks struggle to stave off climate chaos

News24
14 Dec 2019, 04:11 GMT+10

United Nations climate negotiations in Madrid were set to wrap up on Friday with even the best-case outcome likely to fall well short of what science says is needed to avert a future ravaged by global warming.

The COP25 summit comes on the heels of climate-related disasters across the planet, including unprecedented cyclones, deadly droughts and record-setting heatwaves.

Scientists have amassed a mountain of evidence pointing to even more dire impacts on the near horizon, while millions of youth activists are holding weekly strikes demanding government action.

As pressure inside and outside the talks mounts, old splits between rich polluters and developing nations have re-emerged over who should slash greenhouse gas emissions by how much, and how to pay the trillions needed to live in a climate-addled world.

Newer fissures, meanwhile, between poor, climate vulnerable nations and emerging giants such as China and India - the world's No.1 and No.4 emitters - may further stymie progress.

But observers and delegates said negotiators had largely failed to live up to the conference's motto: Time for Action.

"We are appalled at the state of negotiations," said Carlos Fuller, lead negotiator for the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), many of whose members face an existential threat due to rising sea levels.

"At this stage we are being cornered. We fear having to concede on too many issues that would damage the very integrity of the Paris Agreement."

Shifting alliances

The narrow aim of the Madrid negotiations is to finalise the rulebook for the 2015 Paris climate accord, which enjoins nations to limit global temperature rises to "well below" 2C.

Earth has already warmed 1C, and is on track to heat up another two or three degrees by 2100.

But "raising ambition" on emissions remains the overarching goal in Madrid.

Host nation Spain on Thursday said that rich and developing nations alike were stalling.

READ | Creecy commits to enhancing SA's climate change contributions at COP25

"There are two very clear visions," Spain's minister for energy and climate change Teresa Ribera told reporters.

"There are those that want to move quicker and those that want to hide behind things which aren't working, so as not to advance."

The deadline under the Paris treaty for revisiting carbon cutting commitments - known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) - is 2020, ahead of the next climate summit in Glasgow.

But Madrid was seen as a crucial launch pad where countries could show their good intentions.

Nearly 80 countries have said they intend to do more, but they only represent 10% of global emissions.

Conspicuously absent are China, India and Brazil, all of whom have indicated they will not follow suit, insisting that first-world emitters step up.

Restructure global economy

But some countries historically aligned with the emerging giants over the course of the 25-year talks broke rank on Thursday.

"The failure of major emitters - including Australia, the United States, Canada, Russia, India, China, Brazil - to commit to submitting revised NDCs suitable for achieving a 1.5C world shows a lack of ambition that also undermines ours," AOSIS said in a statement.

ALSO READ | Africa caught between climate and growth: top diplomat

The talks received a meagre shot in the arm on Friday after the EU pledged to make the bloc carbon-neutral by 2050.

The much-heralded decision was immediately undermined however by the refusal of Poland - a major emitter - to sign on.

The UN said this month that in order for the world to limit warming to 1.5C, emissions would need to drop over seven percent annually to 2030, requiring nothing less than a restructuring of the global economy.

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