UN climate talks a ‘lost opportunity’, says Guterres

Chile’s Minister of Environment and COP25 president Carolina Schmidt (C) attends the closing plenary session of the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 at the ‘IFEMA — Feria de Madrid’ exhibition center, in Madrid, on Dec. 15, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 15 December 2019

UN climate talks a ‘lost opportunity’, says Guterres

  • Compromises were squeezed from countries over global warming battle plan but fell well short of what science says is needed to tackle emergency
  • The lack of a strong outcome to reinforce the Paris accord raises the stakes for the next big climate summit

MADRID: A major climate summit wrapped up in Madrid Sunday with a compromise deal that left little to show, prompting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to lament a “lost opportunity” to act.
Almost a fortnight of COP25 talks just squeezed out hard-earned compromises from countries over a global warming battle plan that fell well short of what science says is needed to tackle the climate crisis.
“I am disappointed with the results of COP25,” Guterres said. “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.”
The summit’s final declaration “expresses the urgent need” for new carbon cutting commitments to close the gap between current emissions and the Paris treaty goal of capping temperature at below two degrees, host country Spain said.
“Today, the citizens of the world are asking for us to move ahead faster and better,” Carolina Schmidt, Chilean environment minister and President of COP25, told the closing plenary.
But Tina Eonemto Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, denounced the response as inadequate for facing an existential threat of rising sea levels.
“Unfortunately, the new text we adopted this morning does not reflect anything near what we would have wanted. It is the bare minimum and we regret that countries could not agree on a more ambitious text,” Stege said.
Green youth activist Greta Thunberg — named 2019 Person of the Year by Time magazine — on Friday slammed world leaders for “still trying to run away from their responsibilities” while demanding a “year of action” in 2020.
Following a year of deadly extreme weather and weekly protests by millions of young people, Madrid negotiators were under pressure to send a clear signal that governments were willing to double down.
The summit — moved at the last minute from Chile due to unrest — at times teetered on the brink of collapse as rich polluters, emerging powerhouses and climate-vulnerable nations groped for common ground in the face of competing national interests.
“Based on the adopted text, there is a glimmer of hope that the heart of the Paris Agreement is still beating,” Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift, said.
“But its pulse is very weak.”
Negotiators from nearly 200 nations came to Spain’s capital with the aim of finalizing the rulebook for the 2015 Paris accord, which enjoins nations to limit global temperature to below two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).
With the accord set to become operational next year, it had been hoped COP 25 would show the world that governments would be moved by protests, irrefutable science, and deadly storms and wildfires that marked 2019 to redouble their efforts.
But greater ambition — how far each country is willing to slash carbon emissions or assist less wealthy peers to do likewise — has largely failed to materialize, leaving some veteran observers aghast.
“Never have I seen such a disconnect between what the science requires and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a 28-year veteran of the climate process.
“Most of the world’s biggest emitting countries are missing in action and resisting calls to raise their ambition.”
The push for strengthening voluntary carbon cutting plans is led by small-island and least-developed states, along with the European Union.
These have called out nations they see as blocking consensus — notably the United States, Australia and Saudi Arabia.
China and India, the world’s No. 1 and No. 4 carbon emitters, made it clear they see no need to improve on their current emissions reduction plans, which run to 2030.
These emerging giants chose instead to emphasize the historical responsibility of rich nations to lead the way and provide financing to poor countries.
“Major players who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations,” said Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and, as France’s top negotiator, a main architect of the Paris Agreement.
“But thanks to a progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American countries, we obtained the best possible outcome, against the will of big polluters.”
The summit was also meant to finalize a chapter on carbon markets in the Paris rulebook.
Instead, the focus now switches to next year’s COP 26 in Glasgow, when the true Paris deadline falls.
The US, which is leaving the Paris deal next year, was accused of playing spoiler on a number of issues.
This included so-called “loss and damage” funding to help disaster-hit countries repair and rebuild.
“The US has not come here in good faith,” said Harjeet Singh, climate lead with charity ActionAid.
“They continue to block the world’s efforts to help people whose lives have been turned upside down by climate change.”
Even if all countries implement their current plans under Paris, Earth is on course to warm more than 3C by 2100.


Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

Updated 17 January 2020

Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

  • Identified Sudan as most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world
  • According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile

LONDON: Nearly a quarter of the world’s nations witnessed a rise in unrest and violence in 2019 with the figure expected to rise in 2020, according to a study released earlier this week.

Verisk Maplecroft, a socio-economic and political analysis company, said in its index of global civil unrest that 47 of the world’s 195 countries were affected and that the number could hit 75 in the year ahead.

The UK-based consultancy firm identified Sudan as the most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world, which had previously been held by Yemen.

According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile and neither is expected to be “at peace” for at least two years its researchers claim.

“The reasons for the surge in violent unrest are complex and diverse. In Hong Kong, protests erupted in June 2019 over a proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, However, the root cause of discontent has been the rollback of civil and political rights since 1997,” the firm said.

“In Chile, protests have been driven by income inequality and high living costs but were triggered by a seemingly trivial 30-peso (USD0.04) increase in the price of metro tickets,” it added.

Other countries now considered hotbeds unrest include Lebanon, Nigeria and Bolivia. Asia and Africa are disproportionately represented with countries such as Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe also coming under the “extreme risk” label.

Since authoritarian leader Omar Al-Bashir was overthrown in April, Sudan was gripped by protests, violence and killings as armed forces battled democracy supporters for control of the new government.

The index predicts that a further 28 countries examined will see a “deterioration in stability,” suggesting that nearly 40% of all countries will witness disruption and unrest at some point in 2020.

Ukraine, Guinea Bissau and Tajikistan are all expected to see the sharpest rises in unrest, but the report highlights growing concern in the world’s biggest and most powerful countries as well.


Countries identified include the hugely influential nations of Russia, China, Turkey, Brazil and Thailand.

Maplecroft says there will be increased pressure on global firms to exercise corporate responsibility, especially those in countries “rich in natural resources where mining and energy projects often need high levels of protection.”

“However, companies are at substantial danger of complicity if they employ state or private security forces that perpetrate violations,” the report added.