Talk is just more hot air as emissions keep rising, climate activists tell politicians

by Reuters
Friday, 13 December 2019 17:45 GMT

Brazil's Environment Minister Ricardo Salles talks with other delegation members, ahead of a plenary session during the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Susana Vera

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By Valerie Volcovici and Isla Binnie

MADRID, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Climate activists demanded that governments put science above narrow political interests on Friday as negotiators battled to secure stronger commitments on the last day of a U.N. summit aimed at averting catastrophic global warming.

Extinction Rebellion, a civil disobedience campaign that has rallied thousands of protesters courting arrest this year, delivered its call after meeting senior officials at the gathering, where negotiations are going down to the wire.

"We've had 25 years of talks and the only thing that really matters is global emissions are still rising," said Tim Crosland, a prominent member of the movement, which launched a global campaign by occupying bridges and blocking roads in Britain just over a year ago.

"We say you have to shift the conversation to what's necessary, to what has to be done to avert disaster and that's the only conversation that really matters," he told reporters.

As the clock ran down on the talks, which are seeking to finalise outstanding issues from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, Chile, presiding over the negotiations, urged governments to work harder to deliver robust agreements.

"We are a few hours away from closing... The eyes of the world are on us," said Carolina Schmidt, Chile's environment minister. "Our kids, the women of the world, indigenous people, our communities, the youth will not understand that we are not able to get to an agreement."

After two weeks of talks in Madrid held after months of preparation, delegates are yet to agree on financing to support the countries most vulnerable to climate change, rules guiding international trade in carbon credits, and whether big countries will give a strong signal of intent to curb emissions.

Campaigners are concerned that as negotiations drag on, delegates may be increasingly tempted to hastily adopt weak resolutions to conclude the marathon negotiations, which seemed likely to continue at least into the early hours of Saturday.

Poorer countries have been angered in particular by Australia's insistence on carrying over credits from a previous carbon trading scheme to help it meet emissions targets under the Paris accord.

Brazil has also come under fire for opposing attempts to impose gold standard accounting rules on carbon trading.

"We don't want any accounting tricks being created here," said Sam Van den plas, policy director at Carbon Market Watch, an advocacy group.

The tortuous progress of the talks cut a stark contrast to the explosion of climate activism seen in the past year, from colourful Extinction Rebellion protests to disrupt cities from London to Paris and New York, to the millions-strong school strike movement inspired by teen activist Greta Thunberg.

"We are seeing regression not progression, specifically because some countries are not willing to come forward on climate finance," said Mohamed Nasr, chair of the Africa bloc of negotiators. "There is a very big question on the commitment of the parties to the Paris Agreement."

(Writing by Matthew Green; Additional reporting by Jake Spring and Megan Rowling; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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