UN climate talks wrap up after meagre progress

PARIS (AFP) – UN climate negotiations wrapped up Thursday (June 17) after three weeks of virtual talks that failed to make major headway on crucial disputes between nations ahead of a crunch summit in November.

The discussions, which were all informal, saw “good progress made” on a number of issues, UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa told journalists by videoconference.

But she added: “I cannot say there were any breakthroughs.”

The talks were supposed to tackle a range of topics, including final elements of the “rulebook” to the 2015 Paris Agreement governing carbon markets and how financial contributions to the climate fight are reported.

The discussions were the first under the UN’s watch since December 2019, and come amid growing public alarm at the climate emergency.

Sonam Wangdi, chair of the Least Developed Countries Group negotiating bloc, said the talks had made “slow progress”.

“Current plans and pledges to cut emissions are extremely inadequate; far from enough to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 deg Celsius”, the most ambitious Paris goal, Wangdi said.

Rich nations have yet to live up to their pledge to provide US$100 billion (S$133 billion) a year to countries most at risk from the impact of climate change.

Last week, G-7 leaders recommitted to that goal, yet funding available for climate mitigation and adaptation remains significantly below the target.

Developing nations are desperate for funding to help them recover from the damage caused by extreme weather events made more likely by climate change, as well as to prepare their infrastructure for future shocks.

But Espinosa told Agence France-Presse this week that the issue of finance was not discussed during the three-week talks.

Failure to advance on this and other issues meant that nations face a “daunting task” to finalise the rulebook of the Paris deal by the end of November’s climate change summit, known as COP26, Wangdi said.

COP26 host Britain said on Thursday it was organising a ministerial-level meeting with representatives from more than 40 countries at the end of July to get countries in better shape in time for the summit.

COP26 was delayed from 2020 due to Covid-19 and Britain insists the meeting will go ahead in person.

But there are fears from developing nations that a lack of access to Covid-19 vaccines may end up costing their negotiations a seat at the table in Glasgow.

“Access to vaccines and testing facilities is still a challenge in island States, and the safety of our delegates is a priority,” Ambassador Black-Layne of Antigua and Barbuda, lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said on Thursday.

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