The pandemic has delayed official talks until now, but the pressure is back on governments to make progress ahead of COP26 and speed up climate action
By Megan Rowling
BARCELONA, May 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Governments must finalise rules for the Paris Agreement on climate change at November's COP26 summit so the pact can be fully implemented and serve as the basis for a green recovery from the pandemic, the U.N. climate chief said on Monday.
As three weeks of virtual climate talks opened, Patricia Espinosa also called on rich nations to fulfil long-standing climate finance pledges to poorer, vulnerable nations in order to secure trust in the U.N.-led process.
"It's time to wrap up outstanding negotiations and implement the Paris Agreement," said Espinosa, noting that many nations have yet to submit stronger climate action plans that were due last year under the 2015 global accord.
"Unleashing its full potential will not only address climate change but help the world build forward from COVID-19 and drive the transformation towards a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future," she said.
The talks that kicked off on Monday are the first official U.N. climate negotiations to be held since the end of 2019, due to delays caused by COVID-19.
Espinosa told reporters she had recently urged ministers from the G7 group of wealthy nations to deliver the $100 billion a year promised to developing countries from 2020 to help them adopt clean energy and adapt to climate change impacts.
New funding pledges will not be made at the U.N. climate talks that run until June 17, but they could emerge at the G7 leaders' meeting to be held in Britain from June 11-13.
Sonam P. Wangdi of Bhutan, who chairs the 46-member group of least developed countries at the U.N. talks, said in a statement climate finance was "a key piece of delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement".
Diann Black-Layne of Antigua and Barbuda, representing the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said its 44 members should get better access to climate finance, as they struggle to recover from hurricanes and access green technology.
The British cabinet official who will lead the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Alok Sharma, told the opening of the current round of talks that government representatives needed to move past "positional statements" and make tangible progress.
Due to concerns about the June talks being held online across multiple time zones and with potential technical difficulties for some delegates, it was decided the negotiations would not lead to formal decisions.
Those will have to be adopted in person, either at COP26 or at an extra session beforehand.
Tricky issues that still need ironing out include rules to govern how global carbon markets work to ensure they help reduce planet-heating emissions, how to report and measure finance, and time-frames for emissions-cutting targets.
Espinosa said there had been positive developments on climate action in recent months, including Washington's return to the Paris Agreement and its new 2030 emissions goal, as well as a slew of net-zero emissions promises from businesses.
Some countries have also committed to ending state support for coal, reducing their fossil fuel consumption and boosting renewable energy, she added.
But the emissions reductions promised by governments so far are still a long way from what is needed to meet the Paris goals of limiting global warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius and ideally to 1.5C, she said.
The current round of U.N. talks will be "crucial" for success at COP26, she added.
"We must make progress - and we must be very clear that this is a credibility test in our efforts against the climate emergency," she told reporters.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)
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