Monday, November 29, 2021

Rich and poor countries split in COP26 climate talks

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) – Much controversy remains as the United Nations climate talks are cut to Friday’s deadline. Much of the difference comes down to money, which countries have it and which don’t. So it’s time for the diplomatic cavalry to move in.

At the two-week climate conference in Glasgow, heads of government spoke for the first time that containing global warming is a struggle for survival. Leaders focused on the big picture, not the elaborate language that is critical to the negotiation. Then, over the course of a week, technocratic negotiations focused on those key details, on getting things done, but not on really tough situations.

WATCH: What’s at stake at COP26 when climate activists denounce “empty promises”

Now is the time for “high-level” negotiations, with government ministers or other high-level diplomats rushing in to make political decisions that must overcome technical congestion. The United Nations has three goals for Glasgow that are not yet achievable: halving carbon dioxide emissions by 2030; rich countries give poor countries $ 100 billion a year to fight climate change; and ensuring that half of that money goes towards adapting to the growing damage from climate change.

To find a compromise, they need to bridge a large gap. Or, more accurately, multiple gaps: there is a trust gap and a wealth gap. The gap between north and south. It’s about money, history and the future.
On one side of the divide are countries that developed and grew rich as a result of the coal, oil and gas-fueled industrial revolution that began in the UK. now they say that this fuel is too dangerous for the planet.

The key financial issue is the $ 100 billion a year pledge, first made in 2009. Developed countries are still under the $ 100 billion mark. Rich countries have increased their aid this year to $ 80 billion a year, still less than promised.

On Monday, the head of the conference briefed countries on the progress – and in a sense, lack of it – in the negotiations, developing countries after developing ones noted in response how unfulfilled the financial obligations of the rich countries were.

“Everyone is furious here,” said Salimul Hook, a climatology and policy expert who is director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh.
Not that that $ 100 billion in and of itself would matter, because the fight against climate change will require trillions of dollars worldwide in payments, not promises, and not $ 100 billion, Hook said. He argued that providing money is important in bridging the trust gap between rich and poor countries.

“They didn’t keep their promise. They couldn’t deliver it, ”Hook said. “And they don’t seem to care about it. So why should we trust more in what they say? “

While the crowd at Monday’s conference greeted former US President Barack Obama as he urged countries to do more and the rich to help the poor, young Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate tweeted, “I was 13 when you pledged $ 100 billion #ClimateFinance. The United States has broken this promise, it will cost life in Africa. The richest country on earth does not contribute enough to life-saving funds. You want to meet youth # COP26. We want action. Obama and @POTUS #ShowUsTheMoney. “

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Nakata told The Associated Press that she is not criticizing Obama for targeting young climate activists with his message, but “to tell the truth … The money was promised but never delivered.”

Hook said the rich polluting countries also let the rest of the world down by failing to meet emission targets that would cap global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Under the current circumstances, it is the poor who are paying for the destruction caused by climate change, he said. Studies have shown that poorer countries like Bangladesh are more affected by climate change than rich countries, which also have more resources to adapt to extreme weather conditions.

There have long been credibility issues in the UN’s annual climate talks, according to Niklas Hone, a climate scientist at the New Climate Institute in Germany who has been attending the conference for over 20 years and tracking promises and actions to see how much they mean for containment. predicted warming.

Hone said the poor countries have good cause for concern, but the peoples are gathering “for this conference to build this trust.” And trust can only be built by showing real action. “
While China is currently the # 1 carbon pollutant and India the # 3, carbon dioxide has remained in the air for centuries. Based on historical emissions data – a substance that still traps heat in the atmosphere – the United States and European countries bear the greatest responsibility for climate change, Hon said.

Hohene said it is normal for high-level ministers to rush to the rescue in the second week of the climate talks.

“There are certain issues that are passed on to ministers, and these are difficult moments, and only ministers can solve them. And as soon as they solve them, they go back to the technical level for implementation, ”said Hone. “I think we have a normal amount of tricky bits right now.”

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represented her climate star at the UN climate talks on Tuesday as part of a Congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ocasio-Cortez told reporters that her main hope is to see the United States become a global leader in reducing climate-damaging pollution from fossil fuels.

Asked if she had a message for young activists who were instrumental in pressured governments to reduce climate-damaging fossil fuel pollution, Ocasio-Cortez told reporters at the conference venue, “Well, I would say,“ Stay on the streets. Keep pushing. ‘”

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Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report from Glasgow.

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