Climate consensus seems close; India protests against coal plans – The Denver Post

By FRANK JORDANS and SETH BORENSTEIN

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) – After hours of one-on-one knots and controversial money disputes, it appears that countries participating in UN negotiations to slow global warming are approaching a consensus on Saturday, but India said it was not so fast.

A gap between rich and poor was widened at the UN summit in Glasgow, Scotland in recent days, with developing countries complaining about not being heard. But when the Guinean representative, who spoke for 77 poorer nations and China, said his group could live with the general results, the negotiators clapped.

The Chinese delegation also said it was fine with the positions that would come out of a Glasgow in a final conference deal. But Indian Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav potentially threw a wrench as he argued against a provision phasing out coal-fired power plans, saying developing countries were “entitled to responsible use of fossil fuels.”

Yadav said there was no consensus on key issues and accused “unsustainable lifestyles and wasteful consumption patterns” in rich countries of causing global warming. It was unclear whether India would try to stop a potential deal.

A frustrated EU Vice President Frans Timmermans, the EU’s 27-nation climate envoy, begged negotiators to stand together for future generations.

“For God’s sake, do not kill this moment,” pleaded Timmermans. “Please embrace this text so that we bring hope to the hearts of our children and grandchildren.”

Small island nations, which are some of the most vulnerable to the catastrophic effects of climate change and had pushed for bolder actions, said they were satisfied with the spirit of compromise.

“Glasgow has developed a strong message of hope, a strong message of ambition,” said Seve Paeniu, finance minister for the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. “What’s left for us to deliver.”

Earlier Saturday, Glasgow negotiators examined new proposals for a deal they hoped could be said to credibly advance worldwide efforts to tackle global warming.

Last-minute assemblies focused on a potential loss-and-damage fund for poor nations plagued by climate change and forest credits in a CO2 trading market.

“I hope we can have some decisions before we formally start this plenary session,” conference president Alok Sharma, an official from the host nation of Britain, told negotiators. “Together, this is a package that really moves things forward for everyone.”

Until late Saturday afternoon, there was disagreement over the issue of financial support that poor countries sought for the catastrophic consequences of climate change, which they will increasingly suffer in the future. The United States and the European Union, two of the world’s largest historical emitters of greenhouse gases, continued to have deep reservations about the so-called “loss and damage” provisions.

Mohammed Quamrul Chowdhury of Bangladesh, a leading negotiator for less developed countries, ticked off the ways in which vague wording in a draft Saturday morning could not oblige richer countries to put new money on the table for countries struggling with climate damage.

“There’s a lot of frustration,” he told the AP.

Another issue that created problems Saturday had confused dealers for six years: the creation of CO2 trading markets. The idea is to trade credits to reduce carbon like other commodities, freeing up the power of markets, where poorer nations get money, often from private companies, for measures that reduce carbon in the air.

A major problem has been that rich nations want to make sure that poor nations that sell their credits for making carbon reductions, which include carbon-absorbing forests, do not include the same options as reductions in their national emissions, called double counting.

Saturday’s draft provided “strong” provisions to prevent double-counting of offsets, but new issues involving forests resurfaced later in the day, according to Environmental Defense Fund Vice President Kelly Kizzier, a former EU negotiator and expert on CO2 market negotiations.

Before the areas of disagreement between rich and poor nations required urgent attention, coal had received more attention.

A proposal for the overall resolution maintains a controversial language calling on countries to speed up “efforts to phase out undiminished coal power and inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.”

But in a new addition, the text says nations will recognize “the need for support for a fair transition” – a reference to calls from those working in the fossil fuel industry for financial support as they wind up jobs and businesses.

Some advocacy groups said the proposals early Saturday were not strong enough.

“Here in Glasgow, the world’s poorest countries are in danger of being lost, but the next few hours can and must change the course we are on,” said Oxfam’s senior policy adviser Tracy Carty. “What’s on the table is still not good enough.”

But the possibility of having fossil fuels explicitly mentioned for the first time in a resolution coming out of the UN Annual Conference of the Parties, or COP, was well received by some environmentalists.

“It’s weaker and compromised, but we see it as a bridgehead, a bit of a breakthrough,” said Greenpeace CEO Jennifer Morgan.

“We’ll have to fight like hell to keep it in there and get it strengthened in the coming hours,” Morgan said, adding that there was “a group of countries that are really looking to strike that line from the agreement.”

In another proposal, countries are “encouraged” to submit new emission reduction targets for 2035 by 2025 and for 2040 by 2030, establishing a five-year cycle. Previously, developing countries were only expected to do so every 10 years. Developed countries are also asked to submit a short-term update next year.

The proposed agreement states that in order to achieve the ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement of 2015 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, countries will have to: make “rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including a reduction of global carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and to a net zero around the middle of the century, as well as profound reductions in other greenhouse gases.”

Researchers say the world is not on track to reach this goal yet, but various promises made before and during the two-week talks, which are now overtime, have brought them closer.

The latest draft agreement expresses “alarm and greatest concern that human activities have caused around 1.1 C (2F) of global warming to date and that the effects are already being felt in all regions.”

Next year’s negotiations are scheduled to take place in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea. Dubai will host the meeting in 2023.

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Anniruddha Ghosal and Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.

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