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Nations still worlds apart at crunch UN climate summit

/ 07:00 AM December 16, 2018
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Youth and indigenous groups protest against fossil fuels during US-hosted event at the UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, as the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in the city. (Photo by FRANK JORDANS / AP))

KATOWICE, Poland — Marathon talks aimed at charting mankind’s path away from climate catastrophe entered overtime on Saturday as nations picked over a plan presented by host Poland that exposed several sources of disagreement.

Negotiators told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the nearly 200 states involved were still far apart on several crunch issues from how nations report reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, to the levels of help given to countries already hurting from climate change.

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Ministers at the COP24 talks must agree on a common rule book to make good on promises they made in the landmark 2015 Paris accord, which vowed to limit global temperature rises to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

But with the starkest warnings yet from scientists highlighting the need to slash fossil fuel emissions within the coming decades in order to meet the safer cap of 1.5C warming, delegates were urged to act now or condemn at-risk nations to disaster.

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The summit was meant to wrap up at midnight on Saturday but overran into the wee hours as areas of dispute emerged, often with different alignments of developed and developing nations straddling each divide. The talks have been under way since Dec. 2.

‘Not a failure’

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that work needed to be finished “with the highest possible level of ambition.”

“It’s essential for me that Katowice is not a failure,” Guterres said.

The Katowice draft text is still subject to change but requires developed countries to deliver and increase on a promise of $100 billion a year of climate finance to help poorer countries adapt to climate change by 2020 and rules on how to report and monitor each nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The draft text included no resolution on how the climate fight would be financed, and developed nations responsible for the lion’s share of historic greenhouse gas emissions were accused of seeking to shirk funding promises made in Paris.

One veteran observer told AFP that the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw from Paris, was seeking to water down “differentiation,” a bedrock principle of the underlying UN climate convention.

Tentative consensus

Washington wants countries to contribute to the climate fight based on their current emission levels, rather than their historic pollution, meaning the United States would be less bound to help developing nations green their economies.

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One potential breakthrough came in the form of tentative consensus over how to treat the latest UN scientific report.

Most nations wanted the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which highlighted the need for greenhouse gas emissions to be slashed to nearly half by 2030 in order to hit the 1.5C target to form a key part of future planning.

But the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected, leading to watered down language in the draft decision.

IPs find voice

Indigenous peoples (IPs) across the world have secured their voice in the climate conversation, after representatives from nearly 200 countries reached an agreement on a platform that will allow the participation of the IPs in addressing the climate crisis.

The adoption of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform in the UN climate talks was a welcome development among delegates who had been at loggerheads over implementing guidelines of the Paris Agreement.

The platform will strengthen the knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts of indigenous communities in addressing and responding to climate change.

Francois Paulette, a representative of the IPs, said that its adoption was a positive move, as their lands and waters were “rapidly being destroyed” in front of their very eyes.

According to the United Nations, IPs make up 5 percent of the world’s population, but care for around 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

Despite their huge contribution in protecting forests and other natural resources, they bear the brunt of climate change impacts, said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Corpuz, a Filipino indigenous activist with Kankana-ey Igorot roots, also underscored the importance of climate finance to support indigenous communities that are disproportionately affected by global warming.

She said, for instance, if indigenous communities wanted to protect their forests, there should be resources to support forest guards in their area. —Reports from Jhesset O. Enano and the wires

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TAGS: climate summit, COP 24, Global warming, Paris agreement
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