After hours of one-on-one huddles and contentious disagreements over money, countries participating in United Nations talks to curb global warming appeared to be nearing a consensus Saturday, but India was saying not so fast.
A rich-poor divide widened at the U.N. summit in Glasgow, Scotland in recent days, with developing nations complaining about not being heard. But when the representative from Guinea, speaking for 77 poorer nations and China, said his group could live with the general results, negotiators applauded.
The Chinese delegation also said it was fine with the positions that would come out of a Glasgow in a final conference agreement. But Indian Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav potentially threw a wrench when he argued against a provision on phasing out coal-fired power plans, saying that developing countries were “entitled to the responsible use of fossil fuels.”
Yadav said that there was no consensus on key issues and blamed “unsustainable lifestyles and wasteful consumption patterns” in rich countries for causing global warming. It was unclear whether India would try to stop a potential deal.
A frustrated European Union Vice President Frans Timmermans, the 27-nation EU’s climate envoy, begged negotiators to be united for future generations.
“For heaven’s sake, don’t kill this moment,” Timmermans pleaded. “Please embrace this text so that we bring hope to the hearts of our children and grandchildren.”
Small island nations that are some of the most vulnerable to catastrophic effects of climate change and had pushed for bolder actions said they were satisfied with the spirit of compromise.
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“Glasgow has developed a strong message of hope, a strong message of ambition,” Seve Paeniu, finance minister for the South Pacific island nation Tuvalu, said. “What is left for us to deliver.”
Earlier Saturday, the negotiators in Glasgow pored over fresh proposals for sealing a deal that they hoped could be credibly said to advance worldwide efforts to tackle global warming.
The last-minute huddles focused on a potential loss-and-damage fund for poor nations hurt by climate change and forest credits in a carbon-trading market.
“I hope we can have some resolutions before formally starting this plenary,” conference president Alok Sharma, an official from host nation Britain, told negotiators. “Collectively this is a package that really moves things forward for everyone.”
Until late Saturday afternoon, divisions remained on the issue of financial support sought by poor countries for the disastrous impacts of climate change they will increasingly suffer in the future. The United States and the European Union, two of the world’s biggest historic emitters of greenhouse gases, continued to have deep reservations about the so-called “loss and damage” provisions.
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Mohammed Quamrul Chowdhury of Bangladesh, a lead negotiator for less-developed countries, ticked off the ways that vague wording in a Saturday morning draft fell short of committing wealthier countries to putting new money on the table for countries struggling with climate damage.
“There is a lot of frustration,” he told AP.
Another issue that caused problems Saturday had confounded negotiators for six years: setting up carbon-trading markets. The idea is to trade credits for reducing carbon like other commodities, unleashing the power of markets, with poorer nations getting money, often from private companies, for measures that reduce carbon in the air.
One huge issue has been rich nations want to make sure that poor nations that sell their credits for making carbon reductions, which include carbon-sucking forests, don’t include the same settings as reductions in their national emissions, called double counting.
Saturday’s draft provided “strong” provisions to prevent double counting of offsets, but new issues involving forests reemerged later in the day, according to Environmental Defense Fund Vice President Kelly Kizzier, a former European Union negotiator and expert on carbon market negotiations.
Before the areas of disagreement between rich and poor nations demanded urgent attention, coal had garnered more consideration.
A proposal for the overarching decision retains contentious language calling on countries to accelerate “efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”
But in a new addition, the text says nations will recognize “the need for support towards a just transition” _ a reference to calls from those working in the fossil fuel industry for financial support as they wind down jobs and businesses.
Some advocacy groups said early Saturday proposals were not strong enough.
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“Here in Glasgow, the world’s poorest countries are in danger of being lost from view, but the next few hours can and must change the course we are on,” Oxfam senior policy adviser Tracy Carty said. “What’s on the table is still not good enough.”
But the possibility of having fossil fuels explicitly mentioned for the first time in a decision coming out of the U.N.’s annual Conference of the Parties meeting, or COP, was well-received by some environmentalists.
“It’s weaker and compromised, but we see it as a bridgehead, a bit of a breakthrough,” Greenpeace Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said.
“We will have to fight like hell to keep it in there and have it strengthened in the coming hours,” Morgan said, adding that there were “a clutch of countries really seeking to strike that line from the deal.”
In another proposal, countries are “encouraged” to submit new targets for emissions reduction for 2035 by 2025, and for 2040 by 2030, establishing a five-year cycle. Previously, developing countries were expected to do so only every 10 years. Developed countries are also being asked to submit a short-term update next year.
The proposed agreement states that in order to achieve the 2015 Paris accord’s ambitious goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared with pre-industrial times, countries will need to make “rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around mid-century, as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gases.”
Scientists say the world is not on track to meet that goal yet, but various pledges made before and during the two-week talks, which are now in overtime, have brought them closer.
The latest draft agreement expresses “alarm and utmost concern that human activities have caused around 1.1C (2F) of global warming to date and that impacts are already being felt in every region.”
Next year’s talks are scheduled to take place in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Dubai will host the meeting in 2023.
— Anniruddha Ghosal and Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.
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