Poor states warned not to trade away protection at climate talks
Poorer nations at U.N. climate negotiations in Paris may end up trading away some protections for the most vulnerable in pursuit of a tougher emissions goal that could stave off the worst impacts of climate change, analysts said on Friday.
Holding global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius – lower than a previous limit of 2 degrees – would make the world “a safer place” for people most at risk, Joeri Rojelj, an energy scientist at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, told journalists.
The problem, he and other scientists said, is that national plans to curb climate-changing emissions – the basis for a new global deal expected to be agreed this weekend – are not ambitious enough to make that lower temperature aim a reality.
Ministers from a coalition of “high-ambition” countries – uniting European states, small islands and some Latin American nations, among others – vowed on Friday to fight efforts by some nations to weaken the process for ratcheting up government pledges to curb emissions.
“There is now a real danger we will lock in low ambition for decades to come,” warned Norwegian environment minister Tine Sundtoft.
That risk means poor nations, in their eagerness to see a tougher goal inscribed in the agreement, may sacrifice elements that could be vital for them in a hotter and less stable future, including assistance to deal with losses and damage from climate change, and respect for human rights, analysts said.
“Trading 1.5 degrees for something that would have created real benefits does not appear a very good deal to me,” said Johan Rockstrom, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center.
Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Britain’s Manchester University, said the current draft agreement is “not consistent with science” and potentially weaker than a non-binding accord signed at the Copenhagen talks in 2009.
“To the poor climate-vulnerable… the current text is somewhere between dangerous and deadly,” he said. He called it “an appeasement to our desire to use fossil fuels rather than a progressive agenda for humanity”.
At the negotiations, poorer countries have been pushing hard for a goal of holding warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than the 2 degrees Celsius considered as a “planetary guardrail”, experts say.
Low-lying island nations, in particular, fear 2 degrees of warming may make their homelands uninhabitable, given the rate of sea-level rise, worsening storms and other impacts driven by the current 1 degree of warming since pre-industrial times.
But in order to win a lower “aspirational” temperature goal in the negotiations, poor countries appear to be under pressure to agree not to seek compensation from richer polluting nations in dealing with climate impacts.
Effective human rights protections for victims of encroaching seas, spreading deserts and intensifying droughts and floods also were stripped out of the binding part of the draft deal on Thursday, rights campaigners said.
To get a 1.5-degree goal into the agreement, “we are concerned the poor and most vulnerable will see their issues traded away”, said Asad Rehman, an international climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth International.
Brandon Wu, a senior policy analyst for ActionAid USA, said he believed the draft deal was “setting up the poorest for disaster, pretty clearly”.
Winning a goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius “doesn’t mean anything without a way to get there. It’s a purely aspirational target, and it makes no sense to trade off anything for it,” he said.
He said the proposed text was “better than expected” in promising to set targets to deliver financial resources after 2020 to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change impacts and adopt renewable energy.
But overall, the draft deal fell short of what was needed to protect those most at risk from climate change, Wu said.
“It gives us some building blocks but we have a really long struggle ahead of us (after Paris) to make those building blocks into something that’s going to be meaningful for the poor and vulnerable,” he said.
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