Facing climate emergency, UN summit staggers on
Activists protest outside of the COP25 climate talks congress in Madrid, Spain on Saturday. The United Nations Secretary-General has warned that failure to tackle global warming could result in economic disaster.
AP, Madrid :
After two weeks of talks on tackling global warming, nations have little progress to show for it.
Negotiators from almost 200 nations planned to gather for a final time at the U.N. climate meeting in Madrid early Sunday to pass declarations calling for greater ambition in cutting planet-heating greenhouse gases and in helping poor countries suffering the effects of climate change.
But one of the key issues at the talks, an agreement on international carbon markets, has eluded officials even after the Chilean chair extended Friday's talks deadline to allow more time for negotiations.
The talks have been accompanied at times by angry protests from indigenous and environmental groups, both inside and outside the venue. The demonstrations reflected growing frustration, particularly among young people, at the slow pace of government efforts to curb climate change.
Scientists say greenhouse gas emissions must start dropping sharply as soon as possible to prevent global temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. So far, the world is on course for a 3- to 4-degree Celsius rise, with potentially dramatic consequences for many countries.
Faced with fire-alarm warnings from science, deadly extreme weather made worse by climate change, and weekly strikes by millions of young people, negotiations in Madrid were under pressure to send a clear signal that governments were willing to double down in tackling the crisis.
But the 12-day talks, more than 24 hours after their scheduled end, had retreated even further from this goal on Saturday.
Simon Stiell, Grenada envoy, told AFP that the lack of ambition in the initial agreement text was "crazy".
"It isn't reflective of the kids who are demonstrating on the streets the world over, communities being washed away by rising sea levels," he said late Saturday.
"We wanted provisions that were in the Paris agreement to remain and what we see at every COP it just seems to be another opportunity to erode those."
Â·Veteran observers of UN climate talks were stunned by the state of play
nearly 24 hours after the negotiations had been due to close.
"I have never seen such a disconnect between what the science requires and the people of the world demand, versus what the climate negotiations are delivering," Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told AFP.
Alexandria Villasenor, a 14-year-old climate activist, said she was "disappointed" in the lack of action at COP 25.
"The difference between the youth on the streets and the negotiations is that the youth on the streets are acting with urgency," she told AFP.
"COP 25 has failed us and it's another year of failure."
Under the Paris accord, countries agreed in 2015 to work to limit global temperature rises to "well below" two degrees Celsius through a series of voluntary action pledges that step up over time.
The push for a strengthening of voluntary carbon cutting plans is led by small-island and least-developed states, along with the European Union.
Ministers from this "high ambition coalition" have called out countries they see as blocking a consensus call for all countries to step up, notably the United States, Australia and Saudi Arabia.