US accused of seeking climate funding waiver

Updated: 12 December, 2019 13:45 IST | Agencies | Madrid

Delegates at climate change summit claim Washington pushing for change in rules of the UN climate convention that could let it be largely off the hook for 'loss and damage' funding for developing nations

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was on Wednesday declared Time magazine's 2019 Person of the Year, the youngest so far. Pic/AFP
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was on Wednesday declared Time magazine's 2019 Person of the Year, the youngest so far. Pic/AFP

Madrid: The United States was accused Wednesday of using crunch UN talks to avoid compensating poorer nations hit by climate change, despite its decision to leave the process to limit global warming.

Delegates and observers at the COP25 negotiations in Madrid told AFP that Washington was pushing for a change in the rules of the UN climate convention that could let history's largest emitter largely off the hook when it comes to so-called "loss and damage" funding for developing nations.'

Under the bedrock UN climate treaty, adopted in 1992, rich nations agreed to shoulder more responsibility for curbing global warming, and to help developing countries prepare for unavoidable future impacts — the twin pillars of "mitigation" and "adaptation".

But there was no provision for helping countries already reeling in a climate-addled world, such as Mozambique — recently hit by devastating cyclones — and small island states literally disappearing under the waves.

A new mechanism was established in 2013, but with damage estimates running to $150 billion a year by 2025, there is no agreement on where the money might come from. One of the tasks facing delegates in Madrid is reviewing the framework for how countries might pay.

A document said to be circulated by US negotiators to delegation heads, seen by AFP, proposes to transpose a key provision under the 2015 Paris agreement — from which the United States is withdrawing —and apply it to the wider COP process, where the US will maintain a seat at the table.

The clause in question was adopted by countries in 2015 to specify that the landmark climate deal "does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation".
By seeking to apply the wording to the UN process as a whole, observers say the US is essentially proposing a liability waiver for richer countries in financing blameless poorer nations' fight against climate impacts. Delegates representing developing countries said the US proposal was "unimaginable" and vowed to block it. The US delegation said it had no comment on the issue.

'Pledges misleading'
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg on Wednesday accused wealthier nations of inventing ways to avoid slashing their greenhouse gas emissions, branding their climate action "misleading" at the summit.

The UN climate forum has become an "opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition" to act on climate, the 16-year-old told delegates. "Countries are finding clever ways around having to take real action."

"Recently a handful of rich countries pledged to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases by so and so many percent by this or that date, or to become climate neutral or net zero in so and so many years," she said. "This may sound impressive at first glance, but even though the intentions may be good this is not leadership. This is not leading, this is misleading."

Australians protest

Up to 20,000 protesters rallied in Sydney on Wednesday demanding urgent climate action from Australia’s government, as bushfire smoke choking the city caused health problems to spike.

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First Published: 12 December, 2019 12:15 IST

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