Thursday February 21, 2019
Home World U.N. Climate ...

U.N. Climate Talks Pit Countries Against One Another

In light of the deep divisions over how to best fight climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is considering returning to Katowice to push for a strong declaration.

0
//
Climate
A wind turbine overlooks the coal-fired power station in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. VOA

Divisions deepened at the U.N. climate talks Thursday, pitting rich nations against poor ones, oil exporters against vulnerable island nations, and those governments prepared to act on global warming against those who want to wait and see.

The stakes were raised by a scientific report that warned achieving the most ambitious target in the 2015 Paris climate accord to limit emissions is getting increasingly difficult. Fresh figures released this week showed that emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped the highest in seven years, making the task of cutting those emissions one day to zero even more challenging.

Negotiators at the climate talks in Katowice, Poland, still disagree on the way forward but have just a few days to finish their technical talks before ministers take over.

“It’s going to be a big challenge,” said Amjad Abdulla, the chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States. “We are going to forward the sticky issues to next week.”

Amazon, Climate
Logs that were illegally cut from Amazon rainforest are transported on a barge on the Tapajos river, a tributary of the Amazon, near the city of Santarem, Para state. VOA

Among the splits that need to be overcome before the conference ends on Dec. 14 are:

* The question of what kind of flexibility developing countries will have when it comes to reporting their emissions and efforts to curb them.

The issue is central to the Paris rulebook, which countries have committed to finalizing this year. Environmental activists insist that countries such as Brazil, with its vast Amazon rainforest, and China, the world’s biggest polluter, should have to provide hard data on emissions and not be treated like poorer nations who don’t have the ability to do a precise greenhouse tally.

Complicating matters, a group of rich countries that includes the United States and Australia is seeking similar leeway as developing nations.

 

Climate Change, hurricane michael, Storms
In this photograph released by the Sri Lankan Air Force media division on May 29, 2017, flooding is seen in the country’s Matara district. VOA

 

* Several oil-exporting countries have objected to the idea of explicitly mentioning ways in which global warming can be kept at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body made up of scientists from around the world, recently proposed “policy pathways” that would achieve this goal, which foresee phasing out almost all use of coal, oil and gas by 2050.

But Saudi Arabia and some of its allies say it would be wrong to cite those pathways in a text about future ambitions.

* Developing countries are frustrated that rich nations won’t commit themselves to providing greater assurances on financial support for poor nations facing hefty costs to fight the effects of climate change. European governments argue that they are bound by budget rules that limit their ability to allocate money more than a few years in advance.

What’s clear is that few countries are moving in the right direction to halt global warming.

Climate, pollution
Pollution is emitted from steel factories in Hancheng, Shaanxi province. VOA

“The first data for this year point to a strong rise in the global CO2 emissions, almost all countries are contributing to this rise,” said Corinne Le Quere, who led the team that published the emissions study this week.

“In China, it’s boosted by economic stimulation in construction. In the U.S., an unusual year, cold winter and hot summer, both boosting the energy demand. In Europe, the emissions are down but less than they used to be, and that’s because of growing emissions in transport that are offsetting benefits elsewhere,” she told the meeting in Katowice.

Le Quere, the director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in England, noted some positive news.

“We have renewable energy,” she said. “It is displacing coal in the U.S. and in Europe, and it is expanding elsewhere.

Climate change, ice, China, emissions, Global Warming
An ice crevasse is seen on the Baishui Glacier No. 1, the world’s fastest melting glacier due to its proximity to the Equator, on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the southern province of Yunnan in China. VOA

“It’s not enough to meet the growing energy demand in developing countries in particular,” she said. “But the industry is growing.”

Host nation Poland, which depends on coal for 80 percent of its energy needs, is among those demanding help for workers in coal and gas industries who could lose their jobs as nations shift to cleaner energy.

Also Read: AIIMS Prepare Research Project On Air Pollution’s Impact on Health

In light of the deep divisions over how to best fight climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is considering returning to Katowice to push for a strong declaration.

“It very much remains a possibility,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday. “If he feels his presence will be useful, he will go back. But no decision has yet been made.” (VOA)

Next Story

2015 Agreement to Bring Peace to Ukraine’s East Remains Unimplemented

Ursula Mueller, the U.N.'s deputy humanitarian chief, said the conflict is causing severe humanitarian problems.

0
FILE - A Russia-backed rebel guards the position after sunset near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 2, 2015. Hostilities in eastern Ukraine have abated after February's peace agreement, but the truce has been frequently violated. VOA

A 2015 agreement to bring peace to Ukraine’s volatile east remains largely unimplemented and civilians are paying the highest price, with more than 3,300 killed and 3.5 million needing humanitarian aid this year, U.N. officials said Tuesday.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in early 2014 and support for separatist rebels in the east triggered a conflict with Ukrainian government forces that the U.N. says has also injured up to 9,000 civilians and displaced 1.5 million people.

Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenca told the Security Council that negotiations “appear to have lost momentum,” with Russia and Ukraine unable or unwilling to agree on key steps forward or too distracted to focus on implementing the 2015 agreement.

UN, Russia
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia addresses the United Nations Security Council, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 17, 2018. VOA

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia and Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko blamed each other for the failure to implement the agreement signed in the Belarus capital, Minsk.

Jenca, who is in charge of European affairs, stressed that the conflict in eastern Ukraine is not dormant. “It is a conflict in the heart of Europe which continues to claim victims,” he said.

Jenca said the main parties have committed to over a dozen cease-fires since the start of the conflict, but “each one was regrettably, short-lived.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation’s monitoring mission in Ukraine reports that the military positions of both sides are coming closer to each other in the “gray areas” near the so-called “contact line,” he said. “The use of heavy weapons and their deployment in the proximity of the contact line is a reality.”

United Nations
Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria, April 25, 2018, at United Nations headquarters. VOA

Ursula Mueller, the U.N.’s deputy humanitarian chief, said the conflict is causing severe humanitarian problems, noting that many of the 3.5 million people who need aid are elderly, women and children.

“Many are struggling to access schools, hospitals and other essential services,” she said. “Many have lost their jobs, homes, family members and friends.”

Mueller said the U.N. has appealed for $162 million this year to aid 2.3 million people.

Ertugrul Apakan
Ertugrul Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, addresses a news conference at OSCE’s headquarters in Vienna, Feb. 5, 2015. VOA

Ertugrul Apakan, chief of the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, told the council by video that many people use checkpoints in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk to receive pensions and see families separated by the conflict. Since December, he said, there have been “14 cases of people who died from natural causes while waiting at the checkpoints.”

Mueller said most of those who died this year were elderly. People wait for several hours in freezing temperatures to cross the contact line, and she urged better conditions and additional crossing points, especially in Luhansk where there is only one.

Before the meeting, eight former and current European Union members of the Security Council issued a joint statement urging humanitarian access to areas not under Ukrainian government control.

They called on Russia “to immediately stop fueling the conflict by providing financial and military support” to the separatists and reiterated their opposition to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. Nonetheless, they said, they “remain convinced that a peaceful resolution of the conflict is possible.”

Nebenzia said Russia called the council meeting to discuss implementation of the 2015 agreement, declaring that the situation in southeastern Ukraine “remains explosive” with positions now “too close to each other at some locations.” He said Ukraine “comprehensively and consciously ignores and sabotages the Minsk agreements and our Western partners cover up for all of its unlawful acts.”

Russia, United Nations
Ukrainian Ambassador the the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko speaks during a security council meeting about the escalating tensions between the Ukraine and Russia at United Nations headquarters, Nov. 26, 2018. VOA

ALSO READ: Australia to Reinstate Island Detention Camp for Refugees

Ukraine’s Yelchenko countered that “it is only Russia and its ongoing military activity in the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as well as in Crimea that constitute for now an unsurmountable obstacle for the peaceful resolution of the conflict.” (VOA)