Fossil fuel fightback marks climate talks – POLITICO
Temperatures hit a record-breaking 45.9 degrees in France Friday during a week in which a group of countries fought hard to ensure that efforts to tackle climate change don’t undermine their traditional fossil fuel industries.
The same dynamic marked climate talks in Bonn, Germany, the battle over the final communiqué at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, and a bid by the European Union to establish a target to become climate neutral by 2050.
In Japan, G20 leaders on Saturday agreed a final declaration after a fight between the EU (which was backed by China) and the U.S. on climate change. Under the compromise, heads of state from 19 of the 20 countries backed the Paris Agreement, while the United States secured a carve-out under an “agree to disagree” framework — the same solution as in previous G20s since U.S. President Donald Trump was elected and vowed to pull the country out of the landmark climate accord.
Trump is famously skeptical that there is any human-caused climate change at all, and has pledged to revive his country’s coal industry. The U.S. is now one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, and an exponent of clean-coal technology.
“We [the G20] are increasingly disconnected from the rest of the world,” said French President Emmanuel Macron. “Our scientists every day remind us of our duty in matters of climate change and biodiversity, our youth every week in France and many countries remind us of our duty, while we at the G20 continue having debates on whether we can still cite the Paris Agreement.”
Something similar happened in Bonn, where climate negotiators met for two weeks to set the ground for this November’s global COP25 climate talks in Santiago, Chile.
Saudi Arabia created a loose coalition with Iran (normally a fierce enemy) to water down the implications of last year’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) spelling out in stark detail the enormous differences between a world where global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees and one where it goes up to 2 degrees.
The final report out of Bonn avoided the implications of the IPCC report — which would undermine the economies of countries that depend on oil and gas exports thanks to rapid decarbonization. While mentioning that the findings were based on the “best science available” it didn’t delve into how countries should ramp up their emissions reduction goals, and largely excludes the report from further consideration in future negotiations.
That caused dismay in countries that see a rising danger from climate change.
“Science is critical. Science has to drive this process, science has to drive action, science has to drive ambition,” Ambassador Janine Coy Felson of Belize, which chairs the Alliance of Small Island States, said from Bonn.
“The result leaves a bitter taste about the disconnect between the climate emergency … and this conclusion,” Yamide Dagnet, a former climate negotiator and senior associate at the World Resources Institute said from Bonn. “It doesn’t align with the 1.5 [degrees Celsius goal] and the IPCC, with the Paris Agreement, with the call for more ambition.”
The EU’s coal problem
Although the EU fervently advocated for the Paris Agreement in Osaka, it’s having problems at home.
An effort by EU leaders earlier this month to set a goal of carbon neutrality by mid-century — meaning the bloc would absorb as much carbon dioxide as it emits — was blocked by four countries led by coal-dependent Poland.
EU hopes of showing up at September’s U.N. climate conference with a climate neutrality pledge are in danger, despite a push to change the positions of Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Even among the like-minded there are deep differences.
On Friday, Brussels saw the third Ministerial on Climate Action (MoCA), a gathering of over 30 environment ministers hosted by the EU, China and Canada.
China, the world’s leading polluter, signaled eventual readiness to increase its ambition — but as part of a global effort.
“We need to step up, we need to be taking action. We can do it, but it’s gonna take a lot of effort — it is challenging, including in my own country” — Catherine McKenna, Canada’s climate minister
China will “ensure that there is 100 percent implementation of the Chinese [nationally determined contribution] by the year 2030, and we will try to go further than that,” said China’s Special Representative for Climate Xie Zhenhua. “Together with other parties we’ll make effort to keep [the] target to 2 degrees, hopefully 1.5 [degrees].”
Canada, which tries to project a green international image, last week announced a climate emergency.
“We need to step up, we need to be taking action. We can do it, but it’s gonna take a lot of effort — it is challenging, including in my own country,” said Catherine McKenna, Canada’s climate minister.
McKenna should know.
Amid outcry from environmental campaigners, Canada’s government in mid-June approved a major oil pipeline — in a sign that fossil fuel interests continue to have a strong grip on government policymaking.
The lackluster progress in climate talks and fierce resistance from fossil fuels lobbies comes as scientific warnings over climate change grow increasingly dire.
The World Meteorological Organization said Friday that from 2015 to 2019 the world will see its five warmest years on record. Arctic ice is at a record low, temperatures have hit more than 50 degrees in parts of South Asia and concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide are at levels not seen in 3 million to 5 million years.
“If you look at the real world, and especially what’s happening in the streets, it feels like parties haven’t got that memo, the pressure that’s mounting outside,” Mohamed Adow, international climate lead with Christian Aid, said from Bonn. “We’re also seeing this backlash from countries with fossil fuel interests … Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia — all the countries with fossil fuel interests don’t want a science-based global response to climate change.”