Five days left at COP-24 to ensure UN climate talks respond to urgency

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Katowice (Poland), Dec 10 (IANS) With four big oil and gas producers blocking 193 countries from “welcoming” an influential climate science report, five crucial days were left starting Monday to ensure that the ongoing for COP 24 UN climate talks respond to the urgency highlighted by the report that says temperatures could rise 1.5 degrees as early as 2030 – with devastating impact.

To do that, in addition to delivering the Paris rulebook, they’ll need to send a signal they are committed to collectively raise their ambition on climate change and united on a path forward to achieve that goal, say climate negotiators.

It means by December 14 there must be a clear and unambiguous outcome to that effect, a negotiator at the UN Conference of the Parties-24 (COP-24) told IANS.

The four big oil and gas producers — the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait – on Saturday night had faced off against every other country in this Polish city who wanted to formally “welcome” in the UN text the landmark 1.5 degrees Celsius Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that talks about urgency and also scaled up ambition by the world.

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The US had even rejected the science itself, standing alone among all the world’s countries in refusing to endorse the findings of the report.

It was a fight over a word, but an important fight that will set the tone for this week’s discussions.

“What signal does it send the world if we are not able to accept the best available science,” asked a delegate from a small island state late Saturday.

Still, there is a ray of hope of good news.

Texts on the various elements of the Paris rulebook are being finalised for ministers: and they are nearly two-third shorter than the first iterations.

Yet concerns persist that the Paris rulebook looks too weak, especially on transparency and reporting requirements from countries, said a climate expert.

The date where all countries will follow the same rulebook, with flexibility for those with limited government resources, is also a sticking point, he added.

From Monday the UN says 124 ministers will descend on the conference centre this week.

Their job will be to unlock these talks on crunch issues such as differentiation, finance, and enhanced ambition, reaching the political compromises needed to get the package of decisions the world needs by the end of the week.

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Some, like Canada’s Catherine McKenna and Spain’s Teresa Ribera will be expected to lead complex working groups on some of the outstanding issues to be resolved.

This is a week that expects the voices of climate vulnerable countries to get progressively louder.

Spain, Canada, Norway, New Zealand and perhaps Britain could also emerge as governments from developed countries pushing for a more ambitious outcome.

China and India have privately indicated they could push for an ambitious outcome this week.

Mayors allied to the C40 (Cities Climate Leadership Group) and business leaders from Coca Cola, IKEA, Maersk and Target will also be audible, experts believe.

Good news also came during the first week of COP-24.

Germany announced that it will double its contribution to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to euro 1.5 billion.

France and China together with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared to “cooperate closely to make this summit a defining moment to accelerate action, increase ambition and mobilize the required resources to achieve an ecological transition”.

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The World Bank announced it will double investments in climate action to about $200 billion from 2021-2025.

India’s Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan signaled that the country is ready to update its nationally determined contributions or NDCs if other countries do the same, followed by the Canadian environment minister on Wednesday.

The world’s largest container shipping company Maersk pledged zero emissions by 2050.

Volkswagen also announced that it will sell no more combustion cars after 2040 and will put the last fossil-fuel based models on the market in 2032.

A WHO report says the health benefits of meeting the Paris goals outweigh costs by far.

And New Zealand released a defence policy statement, identifying climate change as the country’s most significant security threat.

(Vishal Gulati is in Katowice at the invitation of Climate Trends to cover the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP24. He can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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