BY SETH BORENSTEIN
Open wallets wider to fight climate change? That looks a little more feasible. Closing more chimneys for the same purpose? Not sold yet.
World leaders in a special session of the United Nations on Monday made “weak signs of progress” on the financial end of the fight against climate change, but they did not commit to more decisive reductions in emissions of the heat-storing gases that cause global warming. After two high-level meetings in four days, frustrated leaders are still pointing to tomorrow – or next month – for key promises to fight climate change.
“If countries were private entities, all heads of state or government would be fired because we are not on the right track. Things stay the same, “said Costa Rican President Carlos Quesada after a closed session of more than two dozen world leaders at the United Nations. “It’s absurd.”
The heads of state and government said they had hope of promised “good news” that would come Tuesday from US President Joe Biden. Other leaders are hoping rich nations will finally reach a long-promised $ 100 billion per year package to help poorer countries move to cleaner energy and tackle the worst effects of climate change.
This week’s focus on climate change is at the end of another summer of catastrophes-related extreme weather conditions, including devastating forest fires in the western United States, deadly floods in the US, China and Europe, a drumbeat from deadly tropical cyclones worldwide, and unprecedented heat waves everywhere.
After what should be the big impetus of making more commitments ahead of the giant climate negotiations in six weeks to accelerate the 2015 Paris Agreement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a meeting of the top economies in late October “absolutely imperative “Will be to guarantee success” of the climate talks. The G-20 meeting takes place the day before the start of the UN-sponsored climate negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland.
“We need decisive action now to avert a climate catastrophe. And for that we need solidarity, ”said Guterres on Monday after the meeting of the private leaders.
At the meeting, vulnerable countries like the Marshall Islands and the Maldives, which are “staring at the bottom” of climate change, asked “to push the developed world to the top” in order to provide them with the money they need to deal with the effects of warming said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who moderated the meeting with Guterres.
The meeting was “very open and frank – not polite,” said the Deputy Federal Environment Minister Jochen Flasbarth.
Instead of the expected 35 to 40 heads of state and government, only 21 heads of state took part. The leaders of the four largest carbon polluting countries – China, the United States, India and Russia – all sent delegates.
Guterres said he had three goals in the Glasgow negotiations: emissions reductions of around 45% from 2010-2030 levels; $ 100 billion in annual financial aid from rich to poor countries; and half of that money will help poor countries adapt to the worst effects of warming.
The rich nations made “weak signs of progress” at the end of the money, Johnson said. “Let’s see what the President of the United States has to say tomorrow.”
American officials at the meeting told other leaders that “good news is imminent” regarding the US share of the $ 100 billion a year, a senior UN official told the reporter on condition that the proceedings were kept anonymously informed at the closed meeting. According to the United Nations, the US special envoy on climate, John Kerry, represented the United States in place of Biden.
But there is “not so much progress” in getting countries to commit to greater reductions in heat-storing gas emissions, the UN official said.
The official said several countries that have not updated their emissions reduction targets said they were about to do so, which gives hope. He wouldn’t say which countries these are, but both # 1 and # 3 carbon polluters, China and India, fall into that category.
“If we don’t change course together, there is a high risk of failure” in huge climate negotiations in six weeks, Guterres said in a press conference after the meeting. The upcoming climate negotiations in Scotland this autumn are intended to be the next step after the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Guterres told CNN that Kerry’s negotiating efforts “largely failed” because China was reluctant to cooperate with the United States. Previously, in a weekend interview with The Associated Press, he described himself as “not desperate, but I am very worried”.
“We all agree that ‘something needs to be done,'” Johnson said to the leaders, according to a statement released by his office. “Still, I confess that I am becoming increasingly frustrated that ‘something’ that many of you have committed to is nowhere near enough. It is the largest economies in the world that are causing the problem, while the smallest have the worst consequences. “
Johnson said leaders should “rid the world of coal-fired power plants and internal combustion engines” and stop deforestation while rich nations meet their commitment to spend $ 100 billion a year to help poorer nations cope with climate change .
“Developing countries are bearing the brunt of catastrophic climate change,” Johnson said on Monday. “We are the guys who caused the problem. … I understand the feelings of injustice in the developing world and the passionate appeals that we have just heard from Costa Rica, the Maldives and other countries. “
If all the planned coal-fired power plants were built, Gutteres said, “the Paris targets would go up in smoke”.
As world leaders gather, activists, other leaders and business people gather in New York City for Climate Week, a huge cheerleading event that coincides with the high-level UN meeting. All week long, the rich nations, the G-20, are pushing to do more.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, promoted Europe’s green recovery plans and said ahead of the crowd at the opening of Climate Week that rich countries must provide financial aid “to help developing countries avoid falling into the trap of the fossil fuel economy grope, but jump into an economy ”. based on renewable energies.
Guterres urges rich countries to meet their long-term pledges of $ 100 billion a year in climate aid to poor countries, at least half of which will help them cope with the effects of global warming. Guterres and Germany’s Flasbarth pointed to a study that shows the world is missing about $ 20 billion annually. Funds to cope with the effects of climate change decreased by 25% last year for small island nations, “the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” he said.
The UN’s strictest goal is to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. This corresponds to about 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) from now on due to the warming that has already taken place.
A UN report on Friday showed that current pledges to cut carbon emissions have been moving the world towards 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit) warming since the pre-industrial era. This even overshoots the weaker Paris goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
“This is catastrophic,” said Guterres. “The world couldn’t live with a temperature rise of 2.7 degrees.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Edith M. Lederer and Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations, Claudia Torrens in New York, Aamer Madhani in Washington and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report. Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at http://twitter.com/borenbears and read more about AP’s climate reporting at http://www.apnews.com/Climate