Splits deepen as cli­mate talks near crunch time

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Frank Jor­dans

KA­TOW­ICE, POLAND >> Di­vi­sions deep­ened at the U.N. cli­mate talks Thurs­day, pit­ting rich na­tions against poor ones, oil ex­porters against vul­ner­a­ble is­land na­tions, and those gov­ern­ments pre­pared to act on global warm­ing against those who want to wait and see.

The stakes were raised by a sci­en­tific re­port that warned achiev­ing the most am­bi­tious tar­get in the 2015 Paris cli­mate ac­cord to limit emis­sions is get­ting in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult. Fresh fig­ures re­leased this week showed that emis­sions of heat-trap­ping car­bon diox­ide jumped the high­est in seven years, mak­ing the task of cut­ting those emis­sions one day to zero even more chal­leng­ing.

Ne­go­tia­tors at the cli­mate talks in Ka­tow­ice, Poland, still dis­agree on the way for­ward but have just a few days to fin­ish their tech­ni­cal talks be­fore min­is­ters take over.

“It’s go­ing to be a big chal­lenge,” said Am­jad Ab­dulla, the chief ne­go­tia­tor for the Al­liance of Small Is­land States. “We are go­ing to for­ward the sticky is­sues to next week.”

Among the splits that need to be over­come be­fore the con­fer­ence ends on Dec. 14 are:

— The ques­tion of what kind of flex­i­bil­ity de­vel­op­ing coun­tries will have when it comes to re­port­ing their emis­sions and ef­forts to curb them.

The is­sue is cen­tral to the Paris rule­book, which coun­tries have com­mit­ted to fi­nal­iz­ing this year. En­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists in­sist that coun­tries such as Brazil, with its vast Ama­zon rain­for­est, and China, the world’s big­gest pol­luter, should have to pro­vide hard data on emis­sions and not be treated like poorer na­tions who don’t have the abil­ity to do a pre­cise green­house tally.

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters, a group of rich coun­tries that in­cludes the United States and Aus­tralia is seek­ing sim­i­lar lee­way as de­vel­op­ing na­tions.

— Sev­eral oil ex­port­ing coun­tries have ob­jected to the idea of ex­plic­itly men­tion­ing ways in which global warm­ing can be kept at 1.5 de­grees Cel­sius (2.7 de­grees Fahren­heit). The In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change, a body made up of sci­en­tists from around the world, re­cently pro­posed “pol­icy path­ways” that would achieve this goal, which fore­see phas­ing out al­most all use of coal, oil and gas by 2050.

But Saudi Ara­bia and some of its al­lies say it would be wrong to cite those path­ways in a text about fu­ture am­bi­tions.

— De­vel­op­ing coun­tries are frus­trated that rich na­tions won’t com­mit them­selves to pro­vid­ing greater as­sur­ances on fi­nan­cial sup­port for poor na­tions fac­ing hefty costs to fight the ef­fects of cli­mate change. Euro­pean gov­ern­ments ar­gue that they are bound by bud­get rules that limit their abil­ity to al­lo­cate money more than a few years in ad­vance.

What’s clear is that few coun­tries are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion to halt global warm­ing.

“The first data for this year point to a strong rise in the global CO2 emis­sions,

al­most all coun­tries are con­tribut­ing to this rise,” said Corinne Le Quere, who led the team that pub­lished the emis­sions study this week.

“In China, it’s boosted by eco­nomic stim­u­la­tion in con­struc­tion. In the U.S., an un­usual year, cold win­ter and hot sum­mer, both boost­ing the en­ergy de­mand. In Europe, the emis­sions

are down but less than they used to be, and that’s be­cause of grow­ing emis­sions in trans­port that are off­set­ting ben­e­fits else­where,” she told the meet­ing in Ka­tow­ice.

Le Quere, the di­rec­tor of the Tyn­dall Cen­tre for Cli­mate Change Re­search at the Uni­ver­sity of East An­glia in Eng­land, noted some

pos­i­tive news.

“We have re­new­able en­ergy,” she said. “It is dis­plac­ing coal in the U.S. and in Europe, and it is ex­pand­ing else­where.”

“It’s not enough to meet the grow­ing en­ergy de­mand in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries in par­tic­u­lar,” she said. “But the in­dus­try is grow­ing.”

Host na­tion Poland,

which de­pends on coal for 80 per­cent of its en­ergy needs, is among those de­mand­ing help for work­ers in coal and gas in­dus­tries who could lose their jobs as na­tions shift to cleaner en­ergy.

In light of the deep di­vi­sions over how to best fight cli­mate change, U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio

Guter­res con­sid­er­ing re­turn­ing to Ka­tow­ice to push for a strong dec­la­ra­tion.

“It very much re­mains a pos­si­bil­ity,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Du­jar­ric said Thurs­day. “If he feels his pres­ence will be use­ful, he will go back. But no de­ci­sion has yet been made.”

SERGEI GRITS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Par­tially cov­ered by fog heat­ing plant is seen in Minsk, Be­larus, Thurs­day. The two-week U.N. cli­mate meet­ing COP24 in Poland is in­tended to fi­nal­ize de­tails of the 2015 Paris ac­cord on keep­ing av­er­age global tem­per­a­ture in­creases well be­low 2 de­grees Cel­sius (3.6 Fahren­heit).

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