The second last day of the United Nations’ annual climate conference saw agreements break down in room after room on Thursday, despite warnings from scientists around the world that the window to take much stronger action to combat climate change is closing rapidly. Small island nations pleaded for stronger action lest they lose their countries altogether to the rising seas.
Reacting to reports that politicians and bureaucrats from 194 countries gathered for the two-week United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit in Durban, South Africa, had still failed to agree on rules that would govern who would pay to control deforestation and how, UN Executive Programme chief Achim Steiner said, “You want forests in tropical countries to save the world. Then you have to pay for it.”
Apart from the fight between rich and poor nations over the big issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there were fights over who would control the Green Climate Fund (GCF) from which the poorest countries are supposed to get money to cope with climate change effects. The US and a few other countries wanted the control to be with Global Environment Facility of the World Bank, while most developing countries wanted the control to be with UNFCCC. Obviously the decision has to be taken before any country puts any money into the fund. As Richie Ahuja of the international NGO Environmental Defence Fund pointed out, “You can’t put money into a bank unless the bank has been set up.” But the failure to agree means more delay.
And there are more serious issues holding up the GCF. Petroleum exporting countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, have been saying that if a climate deal reduces oil sales worldwide, they must be compensated for it out of the GCF. Most other developing countries are bitterly opposed to this idea, and there is no resolution in sight.
While delegates bickered over this and many other issues, Foreign Minister of Grenada and Chairman of the Association of Small Island States Karol Hood said, “There isn’t enough seriousness in these negotiations. If we believe emissions are causing global warming, why aren’t we setting emission reduction targets now?”
Mr Hood said waiting till 2020 for a global agreement would be a disaster. The annual summit is called a COP (conference of parties), and he asked, “Is this a COP or a corpse? We hope that at the end of the day we won’t have to call the undertaker.”