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Mon Dec 9, 2019, 05:45 AM

Climate change: UN negotiators 'playing politics' amid global crisis


Climate change: UN negotiators 'playing politics' amid global crisis

By Matt McGrath
Environment correspondent, Madrid

9 December 2019

UN negotiators meeting in Madrid have been accused of "playing politics" while the climate crisis grows.

The talks - now in their final week - are bogged down in technical details as key countries seek to delay efforts to increase their pledges, observers say.

Up to half a million people took part in a march in Madrid in support of rapid climate action, but according to observers, negotiators haven't got the message.

"The problem is while hundreds of thousands of people are marching outside in Madrid, and school children are striking, countries are playing politics with the negotiations," said Mohammed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a climate and energy think tank based in Nairobi, who's an observer at these talks.

Back in 2015, everyone signed up to the Paris agreement and put new plans on the table that are due to run from 2020. However the richer countries were supposed to undertake specific carbon cutting actions in the years between 2015 and 2020, which many haven't yet achieved.

Here in Madrid a group of countries including China, India and Saudi Arabia are pushing for these pre-2020 commitments be adhered to - even if it means achieving them post-2020. Observers believe this is partly a negotiating tactic designed to put pressure on richer nations in any discussions about improving pledges in the period after 2020.

As well as the pre-2020 question, the talks are stuck on two tricky, technical issues - one about the question of loss and damage, the other about carbon markets.

Article 6 of the Paris climate agreement deals with the trading of emissions reductions credits that might arise from a country beating its own pledges or from a public or private initiative that cut emissions, such as a renewable energy plant or the restoration of a forest.

Here in Madrid, as last year in Katowice, countries are struggling to agree the rules of how these markets would work.

The question of loss and damage sees developing countries looking for a new facility in the UN talks that would deal with the impacts of events like sea level rise or major storms that have a climate component.

They argue that the poorest are the ones feeling the impacts of a climate they didn't create.

Rich countries have long resisted the idea feeling they will be on the hook for billions of dollars for centuries to come.

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