Developing world says rich nations shirking on climate pledges

Former US Vice President Al Gore poses for selfies with delegates and observers of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference 2017, hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, Germany, Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Developing world says rich nations shirking on climate pledges

PARIS: The failure of wealthy nations to deliver on short-term climate commitments could hinder the rollout of a landmark treaty, a bloc of 134 developing countries, including India and China, warned at UN negotiations in Bonn.
The diplomatic spat has underscored the difficulty of reaching a consensus at the 196-nation talks.
“If we do not respect decisions that we have made, then how can we build trust among the parties?” said Chen Zhihua, China’s senior negotiator, referring to long-standing pledges by rich nations to enhance financial support and “revisit” targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions before 2020.
“And how can we lay a good foundation for the implementation of the Paris Agreement?” he added at a press conference Thursday, flanked by diplomats from India, Iran, Nicaragua and Ecuador.
The treaty, inked outside the French capital in 2015, calls on the world to cap global warming at “well below” 2˚C (3.6˚ Fahrenheit), and even 1.5˚C if possible.
With one degree of warming so far, the planet has already seen an increase in drought, deadly heatwaves and superstorms engorged by rising seas.
The pact rests on voluntary carbon-cutting pledges from virtually every country in the world.
But those pledges are not enough to keep Earth in the safe zone, and would still see global temperatures rise a devastating 3˚C (5.6˚F) by century’s end.
Moreover, they don’t kick in until 2020, and developing nations say that’s too long to wait to ramp up action.
“The science is clear: If we don’t get our act together before 2020, you can forget about the 2˚C and 1.5˚C targets,” said Paul Oquist, Nicaragua’s chief negotiator at the talks.
“There has been a failure to comply with existing commitments,” he added.
Under the terms of the UN’s core climate convention, the burden for action before 2020 falls mainly on wealthy countries historically responsible for the rapid rise of greenhouse gases.
China is the world’s top carbon polluter, followed by the US, the European Union, India and Russia.
Developing countries sought to have a “pre-2020 agenda” formally added to the negotiating process, but the move was shelved at the start of the 12-day talks. Efforts to resolve the issue have so far been fruitless.
“It would be a bad thing if this hangs over into the second week and becomes a political issue for ministers,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC.
“It has been a pretty sterile debate that has degenerated into a finger-pointing exercise,” he told AFP.
Some 20 heads of state, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are scheduled to appear at the UN climate forum next week.
The European Union, Australia and the United States — which continues to participate in the talks despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris pact— have balked at training a spotlight on the issue, but are looking for a middle ground.
“There is no disagreement about the pre-2020 urgency,” Elina Bardram, head of the EU’s delegation for COP23, told AFP.
“But we must find solutions that ... do not compromise progress on the agreed negotiations program” for the Paris Agreement.
For Teresa Ribera, director of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris, the stand-off also reflects the negotiating process.
“It is in part tactical positioning to deflect mounting pressure” on some emerging economies — China and India, in particular — to deepen their own carbon-cutting pledges, she said.
Both countries are projected to easily meet their Paris targets.
But the poor nation-rich nation split that bedevilled these talks for many years has not entirely disappeared.
“This is creating a trust deficit,” said Mohamed Adow, international climate lead for Christian Aid. “How can developing countries trust these very same countries that haven’t taken seriously their previous commitments?“


US commander says pressure on North Korea key to nuclear diplomacy

Updated 22 August 2018
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US commander says pressure on North Korea key to nuclear diplomacy

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a historic summit with President Donald Trump in June
  • North Korea has demanded the US fast-track discussions on a declaration to formally end the Korean War

SEOUL, South Korea: The commander of US forces in South Korea said Wednesday that he’s cautiously optimistic nuclear diplomacy will work out with North Korea. But he also said Seoul and Washington must continue to apply pressure so that “there’s not a reason or even an ability” for the North to back out.
Gen. Vincent Brooks told reporters that reports about continuing nuclear and missile development activities in North Korea show that Pyongyang currently lacks confidence that it can take real steps toward denuclearization and still be safe.
“While I do seek to have empathy to understand why North Korea is doing what it’s doing and where it’s coming from, nevertheless, this is a condition North Korea created for itself,” Brooks said in a news conference in Seoul. “They will have to take the risk to move into the direction toward peace, given that they created the circumstances we are in.”
Following a provocative year in weapons development, during which it tested a purported thermonuclear warhead and demonstrated potential capability to strike the US mainland, the North has shifted to a diplomatic approach in 2018.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a historic summit with President Donald Trump in June. They issued aspirations for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when or how it would occur.
Post-summit talks aimed at mapping out a denuclearization process got off to a rocky start, with North Korea accusing a senior US delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of making unilateral demands for the country to relinquish its arsenal. North Korea has also been demanding that the United States fast-track discussions on a declaration to formally end the Korean War, which stopped with an armistice and not a peace treaty.
Nuclear diplomacy with North Korea has been littered with failures in past decades. But Brooks said the chances of success are better this time around because of the change of governments in Washington and Seoul and also because the threat posed by the North’s nuclear and long-range missile program is greater than ever. For diplomatic efforts to succeed, it would be critical for the allies and North Korea to overcome distrust and misperception, where “actions taken by one party are not understood the way they were intended to be by the actor when the receiver sees it,” Brooks said.
He noted that the United States and North Korea have made important trust-building steps in past weeks, such as the North returning 55 sets of remains of what are believed to be US servicemen killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.
“It was a very important step, but it’s akin to one plank being put down on a long bridge that crosses a long gap of distrust,” Brooks said.
Analysts say a declaration to officially end the war would make it easier for Pyongyang to steer the discussions with Washington toward a peace treaty, diplomatic recognition, security assurance and economic benefits.
Washington has maintained that Pyongyang wouldn’t be offered sanctions relief and significant rewards unless it firmly commits to a process of completely and verifiably eliminating its nuclear weapons.
“There clearly is an urgency for this, especially on part of North Korea. But this is one that really has to be understood among especially the three countries — South Korea, North Korea and the United States.” Brooks said. “What it means has to be very clear, that needs to be understood in advance, and what it doesn’t mean also perhaps need to be understood.”