Cli­mate ex­perts hear talk, see lit­tle ac­tion

Lead­ers pledge to do more at UN, but crit­ics aren’t im­pressed

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Seth Boren­stein

UNITED NA­TIONS — Leader af­ter leader told the United Na­tions on Mon­day that they will do more to pre­vent a warm­ing world from reach­ing even more dan­ger­ous lev­els. But as they made their pledges at the Cli­mate Ac­tion Sum­mit, they and others con­ceded it was not enough.

Sixty-six coun­tries have promised to have more am­bi­tious cli­mate goals and 30 swore to be car­bon neu­tral by mid­cen­tury, said Chilean Pres­i­dent Se­bas­tian Pin­era Echenique, who is host­ing the next cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions later this year.

Out­side ex­perts say they hear a lot of talk but not the promised ac­tion needed to keep warm­ing to a few tenths of a de­gree. They say it isn’t adding up to the dra­matic changes the world re­quires.

Bill Hare, who fol­lows na­tional emis­sions and prom­ises for Cli­mate Ac­tion Tracker, called what was said “deeply dis­ap­point­ing” and not adding up too much.

“The ball they are mov­ing for­ward is a ball of prom­ises,” said econ­o­mist John Reilly, codi­rec­tor of MIT’s Joint Cen­ter for Global Change. “Where the ‘ball’ of ac­tual ac­com­plish­ments is, is an­other ques­tion. We have not seen global emis­sions drop dra­mat­i­cally — they dropped for a cou­ple of years but crept back up. So the ball of ac­com­plish­ments is well be­hind the ball of prom­ises.”

David Waskow, in­ter­na­tional cli­mate chief at the World Re­sources In­sti­tute, said smaller na­tions are mak­ing com­mit­ments, but the big car­bon pol­luters — the U.S., China, the Euro­pean Union and others that make up the ma­jor­ity of emis­sions — still aren’t step­ping up.

“What we’ve seen so far is not the kind of cli­mate lead­er­ship we need from the ma­jor economies,” said World Re­sources In­sti­tute Vice Pres­i­dent He­len Mount­ford.

Heads of na­tions such as Finland and Germany promised to ban coal within a decade. Sev­eral also men­tioned goals of cli­mate neu­tral­ity — when a coun­try is not adding more heat-trap­ping car­bon to the air than is be­ing re­moved by plants and per­haps tech­nol­ogy — by 2050.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dropped by the sum­mit, lis­tened to Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel make de­tailed pledges, in­clud­ing go­ing coal-free, and left with­out say­ing any­thing to at­tend to what he saw as the main event: a meet­ing on pro­tect­ing re­li­gious free­dom.

Trump said it was an “ur­gent moral duty” for world lead­ers to stop crimes against faith, re­lease pris­on­ers of con­science and re­peal laws re­strict­ing re­li­gious lib­erty.

The United States did not ask to have some­one speak at the cli­mate sum­mit, U.N. of­fi­cials said. And Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res had told coun­tries they couldn’t be on the agenda with­out mak­ing bold new pro­pos­als.

Even though there was no speech by Trump, who has de­nied cli­mate change, and re­pealed U.S. car­bon-re­duc­tion poli­cies, he was talked about.

In a none-too-sub­tle jibe at Trump’s plans to with­draw the United States from the 2015 Paris cli­mate agree­ment, Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi said coun­tries “must honor our com­mit­ments and fol­low through on the Paris Agree­ment.”

“The with­drawal of cer­tain par­ties will not shake the col­lec­tive goal of the world com­mu­nity,” Wang said to ap­plause.

For­mer New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the U.N.’s spe­cial cli­mate en­voy, thanked Trump for stop­ping by, adding that it might prove use­ful “when you for­mu­late cli­mate pol­icy,” draw­ing a bit of laugh­ter and ap­plause on the floor of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

Be­fore world lead­ers made their prom­ises in three-minute speeches, 16-year-old cli­mate ac­tivist Greta Thun­berg gave an emo­tional ap­peal in which she chided the lead­ers with the re­peated phrase, “How dare you.”

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here,” said Thun­berg, who be­gan a lone protest out­side the Swedish par­lia­ment more than a year ago that cul­mi­nated in Fri­day’s global cli­mate strikes. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you have come to us young peo­ple for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my child­hood with your empty words.”

Hilda Heine, pres­i­dent of the Mar­shall Is­lands, said she rep­re­sents “the most cli­mate vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple on Earth.”

Her tiny coun­try has in­creased its emis­sions-cut pro­pos­als in a way that would limit warm­ing to that tight goal of 2.7 de­grees Fahren­heit since prein­dus­trial times.

JA­SON DECROW/AP

Spe­cial En­voy Michael Bloomberg said the U.S. should for­mu­late a pol­icy.

JA­SON DECROW/AP

Pres­i­dent Hilda Heine called the Mar­shall Is­lands “the most cli­mate vul­ner­a­ble.”

JA­SON DECROW/AP

China’s For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi chided Pres­i­dent Trump, but not by name.

TI­MOTHY A. CLARY/GETTY-AFP

Cli­mate ac­tivist Greta Thun­berg speaks dur­ing the Cli­mate Ac­tion Sum­mit.

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