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The last hours of COP24: Climate talks cut through key sticky points
Katowice, Poland

The last hours of COP24: Climate talks cut through key sticky points

Tensions are running high at the climate change conference here in the Polish city of Katowice as countries remain deadlocked on setting rules to combat climate change.

The aim of the annual United Nations climate talks is to ramp up climate action and to finalize detailed rules and guidelines that will enable the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change to be put into practice across the world.

For the past two-weeks, marathon talks of more than 100 ministers and a thousand negotiators from 196 countries have produced a weak draft text on the so-called Paris rulebook, finance and renewed emissions reductions, extending the negotiations through the weekend.

The climate talks come in the wake of the UN’s special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius warming with a stark warning that the world needs to take drastic measures to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avert catastrophic events in the coming decades. This report, however, stirred a debate as it was blocked by the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait saying that the report must only be “noted” and not officially “welcome” it in the text.

The Polish Presidency of the 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change said that “a preliminary version of the package implementing the Paris Agreement, has been worked out”.

 “The Polish Presidency is committed to ensuring that all groups are heard and that the final version of the document is the result of a consensus that satisfies all those involved. It is so important because in the rules elaborated in Katowice the Parties shall adopt a path that each of them will follow for the intensification of their climate protection efforts,” according to a statement issued on Friday night.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said while there are complexities in the negotiations process, key political issues remain unresolved.

“But we are running out of time. We need to have a strong transparency framework to monitor and assess progress on all fronts: mitigation, adaptation and provision of support, including finance, technology and capacity building,” Guterres said.

In the final hours of the negotiations, emerging economies-China, India, Brazil and South Africa- stood their ground on financial aid and the division of rich and poor countries.

In 2015, developed countries agreed to provide US$100 billion of new and additional fund each year to developing countries by 2020. But no progress on additional funds was indicated in the draft text setting new targets for long-term finance beyond 2020.

 An urgent appeal from the climate-vulnerable nations

Small, low-lying nations made impassioned pleas for progress as many issues are still at stake, particularly on finance.

“ We appeal to you to set aside political differences, and come together with an open hand and an honest heart. We must work together to salvage what we can. All we seem to be doing is talking and talking and talking. We are not winning the battle,” said Mohamed Nasheed, former President of the Maldives.

Nasheed further said: “Half of the problem, is that we are still begging the big polluters to stop polluting on ethical grounds. But they are not listening to us. So instead, rather than asking for cuts, perhaps we should be demanding increases in investments in clean energy.“

Climate Change Commission (CCC) Secretary Emmanuel M. De Guzman, who leads the Philippines delegation said world leaders to “demonstrate climate action and leadership.”

 “ Climate action and leadership resolve must be demonstrated by all. Now is the time for leadership, not cowardice. There is no excuse for inaction among the world’s most powerful nations,” De Guzman said.

Philippines is among countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels, prolonged droughts floods and changes in rainfall patterns.

 “ It is our moral duty to be clear about where we stand. We are in Poland in the name of the children of tomorrow whose interests we must secure, compelled by science and duty,” De Guzman further said. “The success of these talks will determine countless lives and existence. The choices leaders weigh here spell the difference between annihilation and hope that we may live far into the future with requisite happiness, peace, and security.”

As President of COP23, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama also called on all nations to “demonstrate the political will” needed to overcome the complexities of the challenge of addressing climate change.

“ Together, we can overcome the greatest threat humanity has ever faced, with the entire global community eventually emerging more prosperous and more resilient,” Bainimarama said.