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COP24-Poland

Countries fight to the bitter end to avert COP24 failure

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrives for a meeting with representatives of various NGO organisations before the final session of the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, December 14, 2018.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrives for a meeting with representatives of various NGO organisations before the final session of the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, December 14, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Delegates at UN climate talks in Poland were scrambling Friday to come to an agreement committing world leaders to implementing the 2015 Paris deal.

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With barely 24 hours left before the conference ends, nations were still worlds apart on crunch issues Friday, foremost of which was finance.

"There is a lot to be done to make sure that the Paris rulebook and the decisions taken are compatible with the commitments made three years ago to stay below the 1.5C threshold," says Fanny Petitbon, an Advocacy Manager with the NGO CARE France.

Ministers worked late into Thursday night to weave dozens of strands into a "rule book" that would bring to life the Paris Agreement on climate change.

But disputes over how to finance the fight against global warming and the levels of help given to countries already experiencing its effects, continue to hamper negotiations.

"Developing countries have really been asking for more clarity on what sort of finance will be put on the table and how to ensure there's a new process to establish a new finance goal post 2025," Petitbon told RFI.

Ambition, or lack of it, has been another stumbling block during the 14-day talks, with many rich countries refusing to scale-up their commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

Polluters pollute talks

In the case of the world's top fossil fuel producers: the US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia, they have refused to consider altogether the latest science warning about catastrophic climate change unless a cap on emissions is reached.

"Progress again is a little slow. It just feels like there's a lot of distraction and not much ambition," comments Eilidh Robb, a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition.

"This year, there's a real presence of the fossil fuel industry," she told RFI, referring to the hundreds of fossil fuel lobbyists at the COP24 conference, this year hosted by coal-reliant Poland, and sponsored by three major coal companies.

"That's really disheartening when we're trying to push for more ambition, when there are people in the room who care more about money than they do our future," she said.

Environmental activists have slammed oil firm Shell for trying to influence some of the outcomes of the Paris Agreement, repeatedly campaigning to "kick the polluters out of the COP”.

Putting people at the centre

Going forward, Robb says she wants to see "courage from countries in the global north, who have the most resources and who are going to be the least impacted by this [climate change], to be brave and make commitments that are hard, but which matter."

Recent yellow vest protests in France over high fuel taxes have nonetheless illustrated the pain of an energy transition that is rushed.

"Any climate action that leaders take must promote human rights," says Care France's Petitbon.

"You can't accelerate climate action if you don't put people at the centre of that climate action."

The next 24 hours will be critical in ensuring that leaders reach a consensus for avoiding the threat of global warming? Petitbon though insists, "the talks are not just about a text, they are about people."

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