Climate summit between concern and anger: no breakthrough in sight

At the world climate conference in Madrid, concerns are growing about a failure in view of the still laborious negotiations. Even during the course of today, no breakthrough emerged at the conference, which was originally scheduled to end on Friday.

New draft texts, on the other hand, caused great anger among environmentalists and development workers. Many of the participating countries, including Germany, also rejected the compromise proposals. Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) spoke of a "very serious situation" and again appealed urgently to the states to come to a solution.

196 countries and the EU have been working for two weeks in the Spanish capital to implement the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well under two degrees. At present, the progress and announcements made by countries are far from sufficient for this purpose.

Among other things, the draft final declaration lacked a strong call to increase greenhouse gas reduction targets next year – a sticking point especially for countries that are already struggling with the dire consequences of climate change. All that was found in the agreement was a reminder of the Paris pact, which provides for an update of the pledges for 2020 – without a deadline or an appeal to actually put something on top of it.

Among environmentalists and development workers, disappointment and dismay increasingly gave way to great indignation. "If there was ever a moment in history where governments screwed up, I would say here in Madrid governments screwed up," said Mohamed Adow of Power Shift Africa. People around the world would now have to rise up to save the planet.

BUND head Olaf Bandt said: "Despite all the emotional appeals, countries like Australia, Brazil and China are taking hostage countries that are literally up to their necks in water."

Greenpeace chief Jennifer Morgan was sharply critical of the Chilean presidency, saying, "The approach of the COP presidency shows that it has listened more to the climate polluters than to the people". German Fridays for Future activist Luisa Neubauer wrote on Twitter that the conference was sending a fatal signal – "namely that governments haven’t understood what’s at stake, that they’re willing to dismiss the warnings of science and think it’s okay to ignore the voices of millions on the streets".

Federal Environment Minister Schulze also expressed her concern. "We have just launched the "Green Deal" in Europe, so a conference like this cannot remain without a result." Texts had been put on the table that could not be adopted in this way, he said. At the moment they are trying to build bridges.

Development Minister Gerd Muller (CSU) said in Berlin that no state can or should shirk its responsibility to reduce emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases. "Now there needs to be measurable and ambitious reductions."

Many other countries also complained that the wording was too weak. Brazil, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and others named as brakemen expressed dissatisfaction – but on other issues.

The president of the summit, Chile’s Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt, urged delegations to negotiate constructively, saying, "We are in overtime. We need to show the outside world that we deliver, that multilateralism works," she said. The conference leadership announced a more ambitious text this afternoon and called for greater willingness to compromise from countries.

This year is also about largely finalizing the rulebook for international climate protection. A year ago, no agreement was reached under which states could trade climate change credits. But if the rules are not well made, they could slow down climate protection rather than promote it – which is why Germany, among others, is taking the position that it would be better to postpone an agreement than to accept a rotten compromise. Schulze said on Saturday that he did not want an agreement at any price.

A third major contentious issue is the demand by poorer countries for more support from rich industrialized nations. This time, the focus is on damage that extreme weather, such as storms, droughts and heavy rain, is already causing. Climate change will make them even more so. Harjeet Singh of the aid organization Action Aid said that the USA was blocking this – but the EU, Australia and Canada were also not prepared to do more. "We don’t see any progress on financing. We can’t just keep demanding ambition from developing countries without putting money on the table."

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