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US And Its Dirty Fuel Allies Bring World’s Biggest Climate Conference to a Halt

US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait undermined the recently released special report of Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) and rich nations hiding behind US blocked any progress on climate finance resulting into a stalemate.

Hridayesh Joshi |

Updated:December 13, 2018, 11:34 AM IST
US And Its Dirty Fuel Allies Bring World’s Biggest Climate Conference to a Halt
Protests have intensified at Katowice over the last few days against representatives of big fossil fuel companies attending the summit.

Before the ministers arrived early this week, the diplomats from around 200 different countries burned the midnight oil to prepare a “cleaned up draft” for them to negotiate the climate rule book in Katowice, Poland.

The target of the summit is to formulate a rule book by the end of conference which will operationalise the Paris climate deal signed by all nations in 2015. Under the Paris deal, all countries have committed to take steps to reduce the carbon emission to combat the dangers of climate change.

Until Thursday morning, ministers were mulling over the text presented to them for negotiation. The Polish presidency has formed pairs of ministers (one from developed and developing countries each) on various crunch issues between developed and developing world such as climate finance, transparency, accounting and loss and damage.

Developing nations had to fight to get their options included in the text of the draft rule book that was earlier deleted on Saturday.

Meanwhile, four big oil producing nations kept safeguarding the interest of large fossil fuel companies in Katowice. US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait undermined the recently released special report of Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) on 1.5ºC and rich nations hiding behind US blocked any progress on climate finance resulting into a stalemate.

The special report of IPCC has clearly warned that breaching the threshold of 1.5º C warming will be devastating for the planet. It says the earth is already warmer by almost 1ºC and the impacts are obvious in the forms of rampant forest fires, severe droughts, cyclonic storms and frequent floods.

During the joint press conference by the BASIC group of countries that include Brazil, South Africa, India and China, stress was put on the importance of IPCC report.

“We think the report is very important and we need to take that into account and it creates the kind of urgency that is required. Our reaction as a group (Basic) would be that this group believes that this report is important and needs to be taken into account and we need to move on that.” Said AK Mehta, India’s lead negotiator.

Notwithstanding, the climate denier Trump administration held an event at the climate talks venue on Monday to promote fossil fuels and nuclear energy proposing it as a solution to the climate crisis. A similar event was held by US administration in Bonn climate summit last year as well. As expected, the event drew sharp protests from different quarters, especially by the youth and indigenous community groups present in the conference.

They barged into the event and protested by saying the presence of Trump administration at summit is “a joke”. US president Donald Trump had withdrawn from Paris deal in early 2017 saying the “scare” of climate change is a “hoax” created by developing countries like China and India.

Some protestors of Indian origin at the US event raised concerns over the extreme weather events taking place frequently back home in India.

“His (Trump’s) only priority is ensuring fossil fuel CEOs squeeze every last dollar out of our communities. I remember listening to my mother’s voice over phone saying that our home in Chennai was flooded from a hurricane. The next year we didn’t have water because of drought,” said Aneesa Khan, 23 a SustainUS youth delegation leader.

Such protests have intensified at Katowice over a few days by the poorest and developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable nations who are on the edge facing the worst of climate impacts. This anguish was reflected in the demonstration by civil society members who demanded that the entry of “business representatives” of big fossil fuel companies be banned at this climate summit. They charged that presence of fuel promoters is a serious conflict of interest and UN Climate body should not allow this to happen.

"Today what do we say? Polluters out of the room," chanted the protestors from various countries as they raised banners and placards with angry messages written on them.

“We don’t want those who are causing the problem to pretend to be among those who are proposing the solution. Oil, gas, coal and mining companies should be kept clearly out of this climate change conference meeting,” said Nnimmo Bassey, an activist from Nigeria.

Although India heavily depends on coal for its energy production and more than 60% of India’s electricity comes from thermal power plants, it has set ambitious renewable energy targets under Paris deal. At the start of the Poland summit, India told the world that it will achieve its clean energy target committed under Paris deal much ahead of set deadline.

On the contrary, several rich nations in the summit continue to safeguard their huge business interest in coal, oil and gas. Laggards like Russia, Canada and Japan are trying to dilly dally the process of a robust rule book which will may cripple the objective of Paris Climate Deal.

Big fossil fuel companies are lobbying hard to influence the text of agreement. Last year, a report published by non-profit Carbon Disclosure Project (CDT) revealed that just 100 big companies of the world are responsible for the 71% of industrial greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

Poland, the host of this climate summit too boasts of its large coal reserves which produce 80% of its energy. President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, said in the very start of the summit that using coal in not in conflict with climate objectives. He even assured his coal workers that he won’t allow anyone to “murder” polish mining.

Activists and observers in the summit believe that such circumstances have emboldened the “agents” of oil and gas companies who are present to promote the interest of big corporates and it may truly jeopardize the formation of rule book.

“There are companies at the UN climate conference who even brag about their influence across the board, including how they shaped the language of the Paris deal to suit their interests. In such a scenario how can we expect that the rule book will be fair, robust, and advance the needs of people affected by the crisis today?” said Sriram Madhusoodanan, Deputy Campaigns Director at Corporate Accountability.

| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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