Madrid climate talks 'disappointing' says UN chief Antonio Guterres

Madrid climate talks 'disappointing' says UN chief Antonio Guterres
Madrid climate talks 'disappointing' says UN chief Antonio Guterres

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described a major climate change summit in Madrid as "disappointing" as the nearly 200 countries present failed to agree concrete steps to fighting global warming.

A declaration from the two-week long COP 25 underlined "the urgent need" for carbon cutting measures but infighting among attendees meant nothing substantial was hammered out moving forward.

In the formal talks, European governments, small island states and the poorest nations struggled to persuade big-emitting countries - from the United States and Brazil to India, China and Japan - to commit in 2020 to making their climate action plans more ambitious.

COP 25 has become mired in arguments over potential loopholes in rules governing international carbon trading, favoured by wealthier countries to reduce the cost of cutting emissions.

"I am disappointed with the results of COP25," Mr Guterres said. "The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis."

Activists had earlier hit out at the inertia in the Madrid talks.

Crunch meetings dragged on until the early hours of Sunday as representatives from nearly 200 countries failed to agree on crucial matters that marked two weeks of talks dominated by points of difference.

"Today the citizens of the world are asking for us to move ahead faster and better, in financing, adaptation, mitigation," Carolina Schmidt, Chilean environment minister and President of COP25, said.

Geuine ambition such as how far each country is willing to slash carbon emissions or assist less wealthy peers to do likewise largely failed.

"The climate emergency is now," said Oumarou Ibrahim from the Chad Mbororo community, that relies on agriculture. "We need our voices to be here... action must start now,” she added.

Africa’s Sahel region has been beset by droughts and floods that have meant crops are not growing enough and herders are running out of places to find grazing for livestock.

"From fires and power shut-offs in California to floods and other disasters, disabled people... are the first to be left behind and the first to die," said Jason Boberg, from New Zealand, who is a disability rights campaigner.

Chilean Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt admitted “this has been very tough, very long” in reference to the two weeks of talks but insisted “things are coming together”.

"We are almost there. It's hard, it's difficult, but it's worth it," she added.

But the UN climate meetings, informally known as COP 25, were decried by Alden Meyer, a climate expert.

“I've been attending these climate negotiations since they first started in 1991, but never have I seen the almost total disconnection we've seen here ... in Madrid between what the science requires and the people of the world demand, and what the climate negotiators are delivering.”

“The planet is on fire and our window of escape is getting harder and harder to reach the longer we fail to act,” he added.

Draft agreements circulated overnight on Saturday risked undoing or stalling on commitments made in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Among the main issues still being discussed in Madrid are rules for international carbon markets and a system for channelling money to help poor countries cope with the economic impact of climate change.

The Paris agreement, which President Donald has begun withdrawing the US from, was a global action plan that aimed to keep global temperature rises to a minimum.

Nathaniel Keohane, of the Environmental Defense Fund, told AP it was critical for countries to resist attempts by Brazil and others to keep large piles of carbon credits amassed under a now-discredited system.

“That opens up a potentially major hole in the fabric of the Paris Agreement,” he said. “There is really a question of integrity at stake and it is really critical for countries to hold the line.”

Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea’s climate envoy told the Madrid audience that "over the last 24 hours, 90 per cent of the participants have not been involved in this process.”

The talks originally were supposed to be held in Chile, but mass demonstrations forced the talks to be moved abroad.

Updated: December 15, 2019 06:15 PM

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