Money for poorer nations, fossil fuel subsidies cause rifts at UN climate summit | Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Money for poorer nations, fossil fuel subsidies cause rifts at UN climate summit

Talks at a major United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow are going into overtime after developing nations demanded more money from richer ones to deal with the catastrophic consequences of global warming.

(CN) — Crucial negotiations at a United Nations climate conference in Glasgow stretched into the night on Friday with disillusionment setting in that the summit may end without making major progress on stopping global warming.

The Glasgow summit officially ended on Friday but negotiations over a final agreement outlining pledges and commitments nations will take to tackle global warming were expected to last into Saturday and possibly extend into Sunday.

So far, there have been some big announcements, though many activists, experts and government officials from developing and smaller countries were disappointed and said the summit's achievements won't put a brake on global warming.

“It's a lot of fancy words, they don't seem to have any teeth to them. It's aspirational,” said Philip Davis, the prime minister of the hurricane-battered and low-lying Bahamas, in an interview with Sky News. “Progress is stagnant and I hope we will get out of this quagmire.”

Despite skepticism that world leaders take the urgency of global warming seriously, and even if they do can do anything to quickly correct course, the summit can claim to have achieved some success.

The latest big announcement took place on Wednesday when the United States and China made a surprise declaration to work together on speeding up efforts to reduce carbon emissions. It was a rare show of cooperation between the two rival superpowers.

Earlier in the conference, many countries made pledges to end deforestation by 2030, reduce methane emissions, phase out coal in energy production and end public financing of fossil fuel projects abroad.

On Friday, as negotiators worked on a final agreement, poorer countries expressed anger that wealthier countries – the ones that caused most of the planet's warming in the first place and got rich at the same time – have not lived up to a 2010 promise to provide $100 billion a year in public and private funds to developing nations by 2020.

“Don't call them donor countries, they're polluters. They owe this money,” said Saleemul Huq, the head of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, a nonprofit group taking part in the summit, at a news conference.

“It's quite right because the developing countries are cash-constrained,” said Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, on Sky News. “If we want them to not build coal-fired power stations and use petrol-driven cars, then they need to be given financial support to help them make the transition to cleaner energy.”

An estimated $80 billion a year goes to developing nations at the moment and richer countries, including the United States and European countries, were accused of rejecting a proposal from a group of developing countries and China about how to reach the $100 billion goal.

Speaking on behalf of India's government, Chandni Raina, an adviser to India’s Department of Economic Affairs, said during the closing hours of the conference that there was “deep disappointment” over the lack of financing from developed nations.

Even the $100 billion sum is deemed to be far less than what developing nations need in compensation for damages caused by global warming and to move their economies and societies away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy sources.

Another point of contention was over proposed language for putting an end to coal for generating power and using public funds for fossil fuels.

A draft agreement on Friday said governments had agreed to “accelerating the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.”

In theory, this text endorses the use of coal if companies can show that they are not emitting more emissions than they are taking out of the atmosphere. As for fossil fuel subsidies, the draft text seems to want to allow countries to use public funds to keep fuel prices from skyrocketing and causing social unrest.

But environmentalists blasted the language as creating loopholes to the advantage of the fossil fuel industry and allowing coal-burning power plants to stay in operation indefinitely.

Still, this was the first time that a U.N. climate conference agreement has included mention of ending fossil fuel subsidies, making it a significant step, some experts said.

There were hopes that this U.N.-brokered summit would go down as a historic moment where richer nations would make strong commitments to end their polluting ways, do everything in their power to rein in global warming and extend massive support to poorer countries.

Hope for major progress was bolstered by the arrival of U.S. President Joe Biden to the White House and his administration's focus on climate change. Also, the summit comes amid a quickening pace of weather-related disasters around the planet and ever more clear scientific evidence that manmade global warming is to blame.

“The science has never been clearer,” a representative for the Bangladeshi government said. “There is an emergency prevailing all over the world.”

The planet is about 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial era and scientists say it is paramount to not surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal set by the 2015 Paris agreement.

The world's nations meet every year at U.N. summits to discuss how to achieve that goal. Under the Paris agreement, every five years nations are required to show how they plan to meet their emission reduction targets, a deadline that fell for this summit, which was delayed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The negotiations involve the 197 nations that signed the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Every year, the signatories to the convention meet at what is known as a Conference of the Parties, or COP. This is the 26th such summit.

Besides drawing world leaders and high-level officials, the summits have become a stage for mass demonstrations and a draw for celebrities and top business executives who want to show their green credentials. The events also bring in lobbyists for industry, including many from the fossil fuel sector.

“A COP is not a single event,” Huq said, speaking at the news conference within the negotiating hall. “There's a COP going on here in the blue zone ... But then there's a COP going on outside the blue zone; there's thousands of people from all over the world, indigenous people, young people, academics and scientists, business people; they're meeting and they're strategizing and they're networking and they're taking action. That's the good COP, the one inside [the negotiating hall] is the bad COP.”

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

Follow @cainburdeau
Categories / Environment, Government, International

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