'We are not prepared to die,' says Maldives as small island states pile on pressure at UN climate talks

KATOWICE, Poland – Small island nations, among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, are piling pressure on big polluting nations at UN talks in Poland to commit to deeper emission cuts.

Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, agriculture and deforestation are driving up global temperatures, fuelling more extreme weather and causing sea levels to rise. Many small island states fear being wiped off the map by higher sea levels and more powerful storms, as well as destruction of coral reefs that are the lifeblood of their tourism and fishing industries.

The Maldives, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati and many others are among the most vocal nations at the Dec 2 to 14 climate talks in Katowice in Poland, urging big polluting nations and wealthy states to show more courage and ambition in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

They also want stronger support from the conference, called COP24, for the UN climate panel’s October special report outlining the need to keep global warming to 1.5 deg C. That report said deeper emission cuts of about 45 per cent had to be made globally by 2030 to have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 deg C, a level long backed by small island states.

On Thursday (Dec 13), COP23 president and Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama made an impassioned plea for nations to ramp up their ambition to curb global emissions.

He said: “We call for the meaningful inclusion of the IPCC’s special report on 1.5 deg C warming in the COP24 decision text. We express deep concern that the findings of the special report, which concluded that the effects of human-induced climate change are worse than previously projected, and that the risk to precincts from loss and damage are extensive.”

The United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have tried to water down the report’s importance, triggering condemnation.

“We are not prepared to die and the Maldives has no intention of dying. We are not going to become the first victims of the climate crisis. Instead, we are going to do everything in our power to keep our heads above water,” Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives, told reporters at an event hosted by the Marshall Islands on Thursday.

The president of the Marshall Islands, Dr Hilda Heine, said small island states are willing to increase their national climate action plans pledged in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to ensure they play their part in curbing climate change.

“As poor and vulnerable countries, we have committed to do all we can to take greater actions by 2020. We did so not to miss the chance to prevent the most dangerous levels of warming, not to go above 1.5 degrees. We have decided to act despite our limited capacities and we expect the world to also act.”

The Marshall Islands is chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a grouping of 48 nations.

Ms Genevieve Jiva, coordinator for the Pacific Islands for the Climate Action Network, said at a separate venue: “It is very clear that climate change will impact us (islands) the first and the worst, despite the fact that we have done very little to cause this problem, and this has given us a sense of urgency and determination to lead. Even though we may be seen as small in the international arena, when we speak, we often speak with one voice.”

The climate talks in Katowice aim to agree a set of rules, or rulebook, that will allow the 2015 Paris Agreement – a framework for keeping global warming to well below 2 deg C – to go into force by 2020. The hope is that the rulebook will be agreed by the end of the week.

Under the Paris pact, nations are meant to ramp up their national plans, called nationally determined contributions, or NDCs, every five years. At COP24, there is great focus on the conference ending with a decision to urge nations to pledge greater ambition in the next set of action plans for 2020.

“Rather than empty promises here, we need a COP decision that will commit countries to increasing their ambition,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.

“That means phasing out coal, going to 100 per cent renewables. But they need to send a signal to the world that they are responding to this report and they will increase their ambition and sign it in 2020,” she said on Thursday, referring to the UN climate panel report.

Mr Nasheed, head of the Maldives delegation, said the UN talks process had achieved little in 24 years since the first annual climate meeting under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was held.

“We are still using the same old dinosaur language, still making the same tedious points. Perhaps now it is time to tell ourselves some hard truths. Carbon emissions keep rising, rising and rising and all we seem to be doing is talking, talking and talking. We are not winning the battle.”

“Half of the problem is that we are still begging the big polluters to stop polluting on ethical grounds. But they were not listening to us. They never were. So instead, rather than asking for (emissions) cuts, perhaps we should be demanding an increase in investments in clean energy,” he said of a possible way to shift global action on climate change.

“We should ask the big emitters to invest so much into clean energy they will stop investing in and using fossil fuels. We need to reframe what we are demanding. Let’s demand something positive rather than something negative.

“We have spent 24 years on the same language on the same views. I have a daughter who is 21 and we have not achieved anything.”

At the Marshall Islands event, Ms Morgan said that people were no longer waiting for global consensus.

“They are suing their governments, they are suing the carbon major companies, they are blocking roads and bridges, they are organising school strikes and this is only the beginning.”

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UN climate negotiators sweat over detail as deadline looms

KATOWICE (REUTERS) – Half-way through crucial talks to breathe life into the Paris climate deal negotiators haggled over how to share out the cost of curbing global warming and struggled to pare down a sprawling text.

The two weeks of talks, which began at the start of the week, are billed as the most important UN conference since the Paris 2015 agreement on climate change.

The goal is to meet an end-of-year deadline for agreeing a rule book on how to enforce action to limit global warming.

By the end of Saturday (Dec 8), negotiators aim to have a simplified draft ready for high-level ministerial debate that starts on Monday.

“We still have a lot to do,” Michal Kurtyka, the Polish president of the UN talks, told a news conference. “It is very technical, very complex, very difficult.” The challenge is to ensure any rule book agreed in Katowice is accompanied by ambition and to resolve deep-rooted tensions between the developed and developing world over how to finance change.

“We’re in the initial period, so everybody is flexing their muscles. It’s not the time for concessions yet,” one delegate said on condition of anonymity.

Delegates said a big issue was how to provide certainty for developing countries that promises of future finance from the richer world would be forthcoming.

“These talks are a question of rules for rules: rules on action such as reducing emissions in return for rules on the predictability of finance for developing countries,” Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s International Climate Lead, said.

He said there were still around 800 brackets in the text, indicating points of disagreement, but that compares with nearly 3,000 before the talks in Katowice began.

Territorial concerns have also complicated discussion.

“There are many discrepancies about emissions reporting and monitoring, especially when it comes to sharing the data with other countries,” one delegate said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sensitivities were acute, for instance, over whether Ukraine or Russia was counting Crimea’s emissions and over Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The challenge of overcoming divisions is greater in a global context of resurgent populism that has replaced the political unity surrounding the Paris deal.

The United States has said it will withdraw from the UN process and US President Donald Trump on Saturday seized on violent demonstrations in Paris, triggered by a fuel tax, to say people don’t want to pay for climate action.

“The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France,” he tweeted.

A peaceful demonstration in Katowice drew hundreds of marchers calling for a commitment of world leaders to prevent temperatures growing by more than 1.5 Celsius.

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Shy but iron-willed: Swedish teen Greta Thunberg's conviction to save the planet inspires many others

KATOWICE – What could have been a two-hour journey by plane turned into a two-day road trip for a Swedish teen and her father – all for the sake of the environment.

Instead of flying from Stockholm to Katowice, Poland, to take part in the ongoing United Nations (UN) climate change talks, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg and her actor father Svante, 49, drove the 1,600km in an electric car.

Speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of a climate protest in the Polish city on Saturday (Dec 8), Greta said: “There is a lot you can do as an individual to take climate action. First, you can make changes in your everyday life, by not flying, going vegan, and not buying new things.

“You can also learn more about the climate crisis, try to understand it, realise what it actually means, and to spread the word to other people, talk about it with them, and put pressure on people in power.”

Greta is not just dishing out advice – she also practises what she preaches.

Earlier this year, she made global headlines when she refused to go to school in order to pressure the Swedish government to take more drastic climate action.

She is still on this climate strike – but instead of skipping classes five days a week as she did in August, she now misses classes only on Friday to sit on the steps of the Swedish parliament.

Mr Thunberg, Greta’s father, told ST: “We were anxious before she got started with the climate strike, because when you do something like that, you expose yourself to huge risk.

“People don’t understand the risks of climate change, and they might think her strange. So we told her that if she wants to do it, she would have to do it by herself, that she would have to have all the answers and facts, and double and triple check whatever she says.”

It turned out that despite her diminutive appearance and shy demeanour, Greta had an iron will. She stuck to her guns, and the teen has since emerged as the face of the youth movement for climate action. In Katowice for COP24, she has given interviews and taken part in panel discussions. But she has her doubts about the success of these international negotiations.

Said Greta: “We have done this (organised conference) before and nothing comes out of it. We need to start treating a crisis as a crisis, because if we don’t, then nothing is going to change.” A tipping point is needed, Greta said, and that is where citizen action comes in. “Young people have always been underrated,” she said, but age is just a number.

Greta has inspired many others to take greater climate action, and her example has demonstrated the ripple effect that can spread from one person’s action. Scores of students around the world, from Canada to Australia, have also gone on climate strike to call on world leaders to clean up the environment for the next generation.

Greta’s parents, too, have been gradually influenced over the past five years by their green-minded child. The Thunbergs, including her 13-year-old sister Beata, now adopt an environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

They switched to a vegan diet, and Greta’s parents also invested in an electric car about three years ago. They avoid buying new things as much as possible, or opt to buy second-hand, said Mr Thunberg. Greta’s mother Malena Ernma, an opera singer, has also given up her international career in order to reduce her carbon emissions, according to the Guardian.

Mr Thunberg said: “Greta gave us articles, and we read more about climate change, and I was shocked that I didn’t know. I was shocked by my own ignorance, and society’s ignorance, about climate change.”

Adults today have failed her and those in her generation, said Greta. She added: “We need to make our voices heard, and say this is enough. This is the biggest crisis that humanity has ever faced, and we have to do something about it now, because tomorrow it might be too late.”

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Opinion | Welcome to COP24!

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Patrick Chappatte is an editorial cartoonist for The New York Times. View more of his work, visit his website or follow him on Twitter. @PatChappatte

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New Zealand defence report says climate change is greatest security risk

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) – New Zealand released a defence policy statement on Thursday (Dec 6) calling climate change its greatest security threat and stressed the importance of the issue to the geostrategically contested Pacific region, which is seeing increased influence from China.

The assessment came on the heels of a defence policy earlier this year that warned China’s rising influence in the South Pacific could undermine regional stability, drawing a complaint from the Asian giant.

“It identifies climate change as one of the most significant security threats of our time, and one that is already having adverse impacts both at home and in New Zealand’s neighbourhood,” said Defence Minister Ron Mark in an e-mailed statement.

The report said that states could look to use assistance on climate change as a way to boost their influence and access in the region.

“Working with Pacific Island countries on climate change, including in the security sphere, is an opportunity to learn lessons from each other while further strengthening strategic partnerships,” it said.

That underscored comments from Samoa’s Prime Minsiter Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi who told Reuters in November that Australia and the United States should follow the lead of China and do more to prevent climate change, which would devastate many island nations.

“Traditional powers in the region have this anxiety about China’s intentions and so they are looking to assure Pacific islands that they are listening to their concerns,” said Wesley Morgan, an expert in Pacific politics at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji.

The emergence of China as a key aid donor and major lender for Pacific countries has led to friction between the Asian giant and western nations, which boiled over at a recent Apec summit in Papua New Guinea.

China’s foreign ministry has said it is helping Pacific nations with much needed assistance according to their wishes and is promoting their social and economic development.

New Zealand’s defence minister said he was using the assessment on climate change to inform defence spending and investment plans set to be released next year.

New Zealand’s government led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put combating climate change at the heart of its policies and on Wednesday announced a NZ$100 million (S$94.1 million) investment fund to spur growth in projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels to hit record this year, says study

SINGAPORE – Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) powered ahead this year, reaching a new record and deepening the challenge the world faces in trying to limit the impacts of climate change.

CO2 is the main greenhouse gas that is heating up the atmosphere and oceans, fuelling more extreme weather and rising sea levels. About 80 per cent of global CO2 emissions come from burning coal, oil and gas, with coal use in power stations a major source.

In its latest annual assessment, published on Thursday (Dec 6), the Global Carbon Project (GCP) says global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry are projected to rise 2.7 per cent, with China and India accounting for much of the increase, with a rise in coal CO2 emissions.

The strong growth is the second consecutive year of increasing emissions after flatlining in 2014-16 and comes as delegates from nearly 200 nations are meeting in Poland to try to agree on a crucial rulebook that will put the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement into action.

Pressure is growing on negotiators and governments after a series of scientific reports in recent weeks spelled out the peril the world faces if CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions are not cut drastically by 2030 to limit the damage from stronger storms, floods, heatwaves and droughts.

Another year of CO2 growth – to a record 37.1 billion tonnes in 2018 – makes the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit warming to below 2 deg C or even 1.5 deg C, that much harder to achieve.

Emissions rose 1.6 per cent in 2017 and were likely to increase further in 2019, the GCP says in the assessment, published in several scientific Journals, including Nature. The reason was the return to strong global economic growth.

“The 2018 rise in fossil fuel CO2 emissions places us on a trajectory for warming that is currently well beyond 1.5 deg C,” said lead researcher, Professor Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

The GCP brings together scientists who use climate and industrial data from around the world to develop a comprehensive picture of greenhouse gas emissions.

The authors found that rising coal use fuelled some of the increase this year, though globally CO2 emissions from coal are still slightly lower than a peak in 2013.

China is the world’s top CO2 emitter and largest coal consumer and it relies on coal for about 60 per cent of its power generation. But it is also the world’s top renewable energy investor. India is also heavily reliant on coal, though investment in coal has been declining while renewables are growing quickly from a low base.

“The biggest change in CO2 emissions in 2018 compared with 2017 is a substantial increase in both energy consumption and CO2 emissions in China,” the authors say.

The GCP said China’s CO2 emissions were predicted to grow nearly 5 per cent this year, India about 6.3 per cent and about 2.5 per cent for the US after several years of decline.

Dr Pep Canadell, the GCP’s executive director, said the numbers show how closely tied the world economy still is to fossil fuels. He said the recent uptick in global growth meant major economies are relying on readily available coal, oil and gas and that the rapid growth in renewables, from a low base, still is not enough to meet demand growth for energy.

“We’re still years away from having renewable energy to truly be replacing and fulfilling the demand for new energy,” he told The Straits Times.

But the good news is that “we have now renewable energy capacity which is doubling every four years”. And coal, he said, seems to be on the way out globally, albeit still slowly. The US, for instance, has been shutting down coal-fired plants and switching to gas and renewables.

“We are not going back to growth in global coal emissions but certainly we are not stopping natural gas and oil emissions anytime soon.”

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Climate crusading schoolgirl Greta Thunberg pleads next generation's case

KATOWICE (AFP) – By the time 15-year-old Greta Thunberg is 45, tens of millions of people are expected to have fled their homes as climate change unleashes a maelstrom of extreme weather, crop failures and devastating forest fires.

Although it is her parent’s generation and those before who have made climate change possible, it is the billions of young people like her who will bare its brunt.

And she has had enough.

“It’s us who are going to live in this world. If I live to be 100 I will be alive in 2103 and that is a long time in the future,” she told AFP at the COP24 climate talks.

“We will have to live with the mess that older generations have made. We will have to clean it up for them. That is not fair.”

Greta has become a leading name in the growing campaign from youth across the planet, pleading on lawmakers and corporations to slash greenhouse gas emissions and avert runaway global warming.

Officials from nearly 200 nations are at a UN climate summit in Poland trying to agree on a rulebook that will make good on the pledges they made under the 2015 Paris agreement.

That treaty aims to limit global temperature rises to well below two deg C and beneath the safer threshold of 1.5 deg C if at all possible.

But with just 1 deg C of warming so far, Earth is already being buffeted by superstorms, droughts and flooding made worse by rising seas.

And the World Bank has warned that if action is not taken by world governments, 143 million “climate migrants” will be displaced by 2050.

Greta and her actor father Svante are at the COP24 talks in the Polish mining city of Katowice to call on lawmakers to act now for the good of future generations.

And they want everyone else to do their bit.

After learning about the impacts of our carbon emissions, Greta insisted that her family become vegan and give up flying.

“For me none of this is sacrifice, I don’t need those things,” she said. “I understand that some people see it as sacrifice. People don’t want to stop flying but it’s just something we have to do. There’s no other option.” .

 

HUMANITY’S BIGGEST CRISIS

Greta shot to fame back home after she began a one-child strike outside the Swedish parliament, which she said she will continue until the government commits to action that will honour the promises it made in Paris.

She said that despite the irrefutable evidence of the dangers posed by climate change, politicians still refuse to take the issue seriously.

“If they would have the emissions would have gone down by now. They are still rising,” said the 15-year-old.

“This is an existential threat we are facing and it’s the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. We need to do something now because tomorrow it might be too late.”

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Denmark, Britain top global league for climate measures: Report

LONDON (REUTERS) – Denmark and Britain are the top countries when it comes to implementing measures to fight climate change, although Britain has lagged in phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, a report published by academics said on Wednesday (Dec 5).

The report was launched as delegates from more than 190 nations meet in Poland to flesh out how to reach commitments made under the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep the rise in global temperature below 2 deg C this century.

Denmark, Britain and Canada have made the most progress in transforming their energy sectors towards meeting the targets, said the report by researchers from Britain’s Imperial College, commissioned by British power generator Drax.

“We researched how the world is progressing on uptake of the five key technologies and measures needed to limit climate change to 2 deg C. This reveals Denmark, UK and Canada to be world leading,” said Imperial’s Iain Staffell.

The five technologies are clean power, fossil fuels, electric vehicles, capacity for carbon storage, and energy efficiency of households, buildings and transport.

Denmark has decarbonised its electricity sector, moving away from coal, installing renewables and reducing fossil fuel subsidies by 90 per cent over the last decade.

Britain has invested heavily in offshore wind and plans to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2025.

Canada has also installed renewables and is building facilities to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions.

The report assessed the climate change measures of 25 major countries, including all of the Group of Seven and Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), which together represent 80 per cent of the world’s population and 73 per cent of its carbon emissions.

Britain, however, remained the sixth-largest subsidiser of fossil fuels among the 25 countries, the report showed, based on data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) up until 2016.

According to the OECD definition of a fossil fuel subsidy – which includes direct expenditures by governments, foregone tax revenues and other concessions – Britain’s fossil fuel support amounted to around £10 billion (S$17.3 billion) a year.

Coal has provided two-fifths of the world’s electricity for the past 30 years, barely changing over the last decade as the falling share in most developed countries is being countered by growing electricity demand in coal-reliant Asian countries, the report said.

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COP24, the New Round of Global Climate Talks, Has Begun. We Answer Three Key Questions.

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WASHINGTON — With the world still struggling to get global warming under control, diplomats from nearly 200 countries are scheduled to meet in Poland over the next two weeks to try to put global climate negotiations back on track.

The focus of the meeting? To hammer out a key set of rules for the Paris climate agreement that, delegates hope, will help prod countries to cut fossil-fuel emissions far more deeply in the years ahead than they’re currently doing.

Under the Paris deal, signed by world leaders in 2015, virtually every country on Earth agreed to submit a plan for curbing emissions and vowed to ratchet up efforts over time. But key questions about how that process would unfold were left unanswered: How thoroughly should countries report their progress on emissions? How detailed should their plans for making further cuts be?

Delegates at the conference — being held in Katowice, at the heart of Poland’s coal-mining region, and which is known as COP24, shorthand for its formal name — will haggle over a “rule book” that will lay out the answers to those and other key questions. The debates are often technical, but highly contentious: China, for instance, has suggested that developing countries should be held to looser reporting standards, but Europe and the United States have pushed back.

“This is going to be one of the most difficult negotiations we’ve seen yet,” said Andrew Light, a senior climate change adviser at the State Department under President Barack Obama. “There are so many moving parts.”

The stakes are high: While countries agreed in Paris to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels, the plans that various countries have written so far are wildly insufficient to that task. Currently, the world is on pace for around 3 degrees Celsius of warming or more, bringing far higher risks of deadly heat waves, floods, the collapse of polar ice caps and other potential calamities.

What’s more, some countries are now backsliding. The Trump administration has disavowed the Paris deal and plans to pull the United States out by 2020, though the country will nonetheless send officials to Poland to participate in talks. Australia and Brazil also have newly elected leaders opposed to more forceful climate action, and some analysts are now finding signs of a “Trump effect” that could undermine global efforts on climate change.

What’s the point of these climate talks?

To understand the Katowice meeting, it’s useful to recall that the Paris climate agreement was largely intended to work through peer pressure among nations.

Under the Paris agreement, countries aren’t required to submit legally binding plans for reducing emissions. Instead, each country submits a voluntary plan tailored to its own domestic situation. This structure, the architects of the Paris deal said, was the most realistic way to get every world leader to agree to participate.

But those architects also realized that countries aren’t doing nearly enough to keep the world below 2 degrees Celsius of warming. So, under Paris, countries are required to meet periodically, assess their collective progress and see where stronger action can be taken. World leaders could then push each other to ratchet up their ambitions over time.

At least, that’s the theory.

But for this peer-pressure dynamic to have any chance of working, analysts say, countries will need to track and report their progress on curbing emissions in a transparent, standardized way. And they’ll need to offer much more detail on how they intend to cut fossil-fuel emissions in the future, so that outside experts can scrutinize their plans and point out exactly where current climate policies are falling short.

Right now, this is often difficult to do. For instance, many countries, like Indonesia, have pledged to reduce their emissions below a “business as usual” trajectory. But without a clearer sense of what counts as business as usual, it can be hard to track how much these countries are really doing.

So, in Katowice, negotiators will hash out these thorny details, like how rigorously countries should track their progress or what level of outside scrutiny future pledges should face. One current draft of the negotiating text is 236 pages long, and, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief, contains more than 3,700 items where countries still disagree on wording. Negotiators have until Dec. 14 to resolve all of them.

What are the big disagreements?

The rule book is expected to provoke fierce debate. Some developing countries have argued that they should be given much more leeway in how they report and track their progress, especially if they have limited technical capacity to measure their emissions. China, in particular, has long been wary of outside scrutiny.

Other countries, like the United States and Europe, are leery of holding countries like China, India and others to a lower standard because developing nations account for 60 percent of global emissions today.

Money is another perennial sticking point. India and African countries, for example, have long insisted that wealthy nations need to provide more financing to help poorer governments shift to clean energy or adapt to the impacts of global warming. They have pushed for much more detailed pledges on aid.

Looming over all these debates is the uncertain role of the United States, which played a critical part in bringing countries together to finalize the initial Paris agreement in 2015.

While the State Department is still sending a team to negotiate the rule book, the Trump administration has largely repudiated the Paris deal and has refused to send an additional $2 billion in climate aid that had been pledged by the Obama administration at Paris. It is still unclear how much influence the United States will have at this newest round of talks, or whether any other countries might step in to take a leadership role.

“The global political environment is really challenging right now, with nationalism taking hold in many countries,” said Samantha Gross, a fellow in the Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate, in a recent telephone call with reporters.

How will this affect climate change?

The most important work on climate change policy will continue to be done by national and local governments around the world; by private businesses, investors and individuals; and by scientists and engineers developing clean-energy technologies.

“While this multilateral process is important, it is not the solution to climate change,” said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. “At best, it can help facilitate climate action over time.”

In that regard, few countries are expected to come to Poland with sweeping new climate policy announcements. For instance, Germany, which has been discussing when to set a date for phasing out its coal consumption, has postponed any major decision until after the meeting.

One big question is whether the negotiators will wrap up the talks with a strong rule book in hand. Under the Paris deal, countries have informally agreed to consider revising their near-term emissions pledges by 2020 to make them stronger. Analysts will be watching to see if countries emerge from Katowice with a clear intent to increase their ambitions, or if the Trump administration’s refusal to tackle climate change might persuade other leaders to slacken their own efforts.

If negotiators at Katowice struggle to agree on a robust rule book, or the talks deadlock entirely, that could further sap global momentum for climate action.

“The worst case is a complete collapse of talks, which would be seen as an unraveling of the Paris agreement,” said Mr. Diringer. “But for that reason, I think that’s an outcome most governments would like to avoid.”

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.

Brad Plumer is a reporter covering climate change, energy policy and other environmental issues for The Times’s climate team. @bradplumer

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Nations not moving fast enough on climate change: UN

KATOWICE (Poland) • The world is “way off course” in its plan to prevent catastrophic climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said yesterday as the COP24 climate summit officially opened in Poland.

After a string of damning environmental reports showing that mankind must drastically slash its greenhouse gas emissions to avert runaway global warming, Mr Guterres told delegates “we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough”.

The nearly 200 nations that signed up to the 2015 Paris climate deal must this month finalise a rule book to limit global temperature rises to well below 2 deg C, and to the safer cap of 1.5 deg C if possible.

But the rate of climate change is rapidly outstripping mankind’s response.

With just 1 deg C of warming so far, the earth is blighted by raging wildfires, extreme drought and mega storms made worse by rising sea levels.

“Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption,” Mr Guterres said.

Some of the nations most at risk from climate change had the chance yesterday to plead the case for immediate action.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who was president of last year’s COP climate talks, said nations must act now to stave off disaster.

“Or, God forbid, (we) ignore the irrefutable evidence and become the generation that betrayed humanity,” he said.

The World Bank said yesterday that it will give equal weight to curbing emissions and helping poor countries deal with the “disastrous effects” of a warming world, as it steps up investments to tackle climate change in the first half of the 2020s.

The bank and its two sister organisations plan to double their investments in climate action to about US$200 billion (S$270 billion) from 2021 to 2025, with a boost in support for efforts to adapt to higher temperatures, wilder weather and rising seas.

The latest figures on climate funding for developing countries show that barely a quarter has been going to adaptation, with the bulk backing adoption of clean energy and more efficient energy use, aimed at cutting planet-warming emissions.

“We must fight the causes, but also adapt to the consequences that are often most dramatic for the world’s poorest people,” said World Bank chief executive officer Kristalina Georgieva.

Of the US$100 billion that the World Bank plans to make available in the five years from mid-2020, half would go to adaptation measures, it said. Those include building more robust homes, schools and infrastructure, preparing farmers for climate shifts, managing water wisely, and protecting people’s incomes through social safety nets, Dr Georgieva said.

British broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough, who was given a “People’s seat” yesterday at the two-week climate conference in the Polish coal city of Katowice alongside two dozen heads of state and government, urged world leaders to get on and tackle “our greatest threat in thousands of years”.

“The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands,” said the naturalist.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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