UN cli­mate sum­mit opens with dire warn­ings for world

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - ARTHUR MacMIL­LAN

UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res opened two weeks of cli­mate talks yes­ter­day with a warn­ing that coun­tries could ei­ther in­crease their ef­forts to com­bat global warm­ing or blindly stum­ble to­ward a dis­as­ter that im­per­ils civil­i­sa­tion.

The COP25 con­fer­ence in Madrid is the lat­est at­tempt to per­suade world lead­ers to act on the grave dan­gers of ris­ing tem­per­a­tures. It comes a month af­ter the US for­mally an­nounced that it would exit the Paris Cli­mate Ac­cord, struck in 2015.

The agree­ment called for cap­ping of global warm­ing at un­der 2°C, and 1.5°C if pos­si­ble, above pre-in­dus­trial levels. The US with­drawal hangs heav­ily over in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to ad­dress cli­mate change.

The schism was in­creas­ingly ev­i­dent by the at­ten­dance in Madrid of US House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said Democrats

would re­join the Paris deal if they win back the White House from Don­ald Trump’s Repub­li­cans in Novem­ber next year.

Mr Guter­res, how­ever, cen­tred his speech on a fa­mil­iar re­frain about the im­pact on fu­ture gen­er­a­tions if there is a fail­ure to act and how na­tions faced a stark choice.

“One is the path of sur­ren­der, where we have sleep­walked past the point of no re­turn, jeop­ar­dis­ing the health and safety of ev­ery­one on this planet,” he said. “Do we re­ally want to be re­mem­bered as the gen­er­a­tion that buried its head in the sand, that fid­dled while the planet burnt?

“The other op­tion is the path of hope ... where more fos­sil fu­els re­main where they should be – in the ground –

and where we are on the way to car­bon neu­tral­ity by 2050.”

De­spite the in­tended US pullout from the Paris agree­ment, a State Depart­ment del­e­ga­tion is at­tend­ing the Madrid talks “to en­sure a level play­ing field that pro­tects US in­ter­ests”, a state­ment on Satur­day said.

The dis­jointed stance of Amer­i­can politi­cians on the is­sue of cli­mate change, how­ever, was laid bare by the ap­pear­ance of Ms Pelosi at the head of a 15-mem­ber US con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion. Her Demo­cratic Party is pur­su­ing the pos­si­ble im­peach­ment of Pres­i­dent Trump.

“We’re here to say to all of you, on be­half of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Congress of the United States, we’re still in it, we’re still in it,” Ms Pelosi said to ap­plause at a fo­rum of heads of state from cli­mate-vul­ner­a­ble na­tions.

“We see this as an ex­is­ten­tial threat. We have not lived up to the chal­lenge.”

Mr Trump has dis­missed global warm­ing as a hoax, dis­man­tling many of the cli­mate and environmen­tal pro­tec­tion poli­cies set in place by his pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama.

US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo gave for­mal no­tice of the US with­drawal from the 196-na­tion Paris cli­mate treaty on Novem­ber 4, fur­ther iso­lat­ing Amer­ica from much of the rest of the world on cli­mate is­sues af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s back­ing of coal pro­duc­ers.

The 12-day meet­ing in Madrid is aimed at fi­nal­is­ing the rules and pro­ce­dures for the Paris deal, which be­comes op­er­a­tional at the end of next year.

Vir­tu­ally all Demo­cratic can­di­dates for the US pres­i­dency have made global warm­ing a ma­jor is­sue in their cam­paigns. Some have called for am­bi­tious eco­nomic aid pro­grammes to ad­dress global warm­ing, stress­ing that a fail­ure to do so will dam­age not only hu­man ex­is­tence but also the Amer­i­can and wider global econ­omy.

Nearly two thirds of the US

The US Sec­re­tary of State gave for­mal no­tice of the US with­drawal from the 196-na­tion Paris cli­mate treaty on Novem­ber 4

pop­u­la­tion and gross do­mes­tic prod­uct is un­der states or sub-na­tional re­gions com­mit­ted to ad­here to the Paris tem­per­a­ture goals, ac­cord­ing to “We Are Still In”, a coali­tion of lo­cal gov­ern­ments, busi­nesses and ci­ti­zen groups.

“There is no doubt that a sec­ond Trump term would be a chal­lenge not just to Paris, but to a whole range of mul­ti­lat­eral agree­ments,” said Alden Meyer, di­rec­tor of strat­egy and pol­icy for the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists, a US non-profit founded in 1969 by sci­en­tists and stu­dents at the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

Reuters

Spain’s act­ing Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez, left, and the UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res in Madrid yes­ter­day

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