The Trump regime pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords may be a massive, intractable problem for the world, but the rest of the planet isn't exactly coming together on climate solutions either.
Marathon international climate talks ended Sunday with major polluters resisting calls to ramp up efforts to keep global warming at bay and negotiators postponing the regulation of global carbon markets until next year.
Those failures came even after organizers added two more days to the 12 days of scheduled talks in Madrid. In the end, delegates from almost 200 nations endorsed a declaration to help poor countries that are suffering the effects of climate change, although they didn’t allocate any new funds to do so.
The final declaration called on the “urgent need” to cut planet-heating greenhouse gases in line with the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris climate change accord. That fell far short of promising to enhance countries’ pledges to cut planet-heating greenhouse gases next year, which developing countries and environmentalists had lobbied the delegates to achieve.
The Paris accord established the common goal of avoiding a temperature increase of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. So far, the world is on course for a 3- to 4-degree Celsius rise, with potentially dramatic consequences for many countries, including rising sea levels and fiercer storms.
Negotiators in Madrid left some of the thorniest issues for the next climate summit in Glasgow in a year, including the liability for damages caused by rising temperatures that developing countries were insisting on. That demand was resisted mainly by the United States.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “disappointed” by the meeting’s outcome.
“The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis,” he said. “We must not give up and I will not give up.”
“It’s sad that we couldn’t reach a final agreement” on carbon markets, admitted the climate summit’s chair, Carolina Schmidt, Chile’s environment minister.
“We were on the verge,” she said, adding that the goal was to establish markets that are “robust and environmentally sustainable.”
Economists say putting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, would allow countries or companies to trade emissions permits that can be steadily reduced — encouraging businesses to transition to low-emission technologies.
The carbon-market failure did not upset everyone. Countries in Europe and elsewhere had said that no deal on how to govern the exchange of carbon credits was better than a weak one that could undermine a dozen or so existing regional carbon mechanisms.
“Thankfully, the weak rules on a market based mechanism, promoted by Brazil and Australia, that would have undermined efforts to reduce emissions has been shelved,” said Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a campaign group.
Helen Mountford, from the environmental think-tank World Resources Institute, said that “given the high risks of loopholes discussed in Madrid, it was better to delay than accept rules that would have compromised the integrity of the Paris Agreement.”
So the world will try again in 2020, as they have for decades, and that too will most likely end in failure. A quarter-century after Kyoto should have been ratified and put into place globally at the cost of billions, we're now arguing over who will pay for the planetary triage that will cost trillions instead.
I'm a great uncle these days, my brother's daughter gave birth this week to an adorable baby boy, and I'm wondering what world the little one will grow up in.
When he becomes an adult, what will he think of the world he will inherit from us, and how much will he despise us for it?