UN Climate Meeting Ends In Frustration, With No Deal

Carolina Schmidt, U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP25) President, closes the meeting.      Photo: Reuters

After extending negotiations for an additional 40 hours, global leaders were not able to find agreement on key issues such as an emissions trading market scheme, damages for countries that are negatively impacted, and raising ambitions on current emission reduction pledges.  According to The Washington Post, the meeting ending with “finger-pointing, accusations of failure and fresh doubts about the world’s collective resolve to slow the warming of the planet.” Helen Mountford of The World Resources Institute said, “There is no sugarcoating it: The negotiations fell far short of what was expected. Instead of leading the charge for more ambition, most of the large emitters were missing in action or obstructive. This reflects how disconnected many national leaders are from the urgency of the science and the demands of their citizens. They need to wake up in 2020.”

Why This Matters:  No amount of extreme weather disasters, climate refugees, youth climate strikes or dire warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was sufficient for the nations of the world to “get to yes.”   The U.S. was worse than absent — its negotiators reportedly blocked progress on a key issue, compensation for loss and damage from climate impacts, despite the fact that the U.S. announced it will leave the agreement before the next meeting in a year.  But the U.S. was not alone — Brazil and Australia were also obstructionists, even as their nations are literally burning due to worsening warming.  This is a huge disappointment and will only further embolden those opposed to the Paris Agreement — particularly President Trump — to tout it as a failure.

What Happened?

Despite all the energy outside the meeting rooms, inside the government negotiations, many said there were concerns that the global emissions credit trading scheme would result in “double counting” of credits – letting both countries selling and buying carbon credits to count the emissions reductions as their own.  Many feared that this type of market mechanism would result in a way for the big emitters to avoid reducing their emissions, and instead would allow them to buy their way out of their national reductions promises.  Brazil also wanted to insert a provision allowing them to sell their old carbon credits under a former market existing under the Kyoto Protocol — grandfathering in old pollution that in effect would raise the caps.  Ultimately the countries seeking a more aggressive agreement decided that no deal would be better than a bad deal.

What Now?

The Chair of the meeting tasked the negotiators to conclude rules for the global carbon trading system by June of next year because that trading system is to take effect in 2021 according to the Paris Agreement.  And even as the UN meeting got mired down in fruitless negotiations, the European Parliament on Friday pledged to eliminate their carbon footprint by 2050.  Next year’s climate meeting will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, and will be entirely devoted to raising national targets.


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