Sources say US is hindering UN talks on climate change

AFP, BANGKOK

Sun, Sep 09, 2018 - Page 1

The US, despite withdrawing from a landmark accord aimed at curbing climate change, is stonewalling vital UN talks over how to fund poorer nations as they battle global warming, multiple sources said yesterday.

US President Donald Trump caused global outrage by withdrawing from the Paris accord last year, but the US is still committed to the deal’s road map, giving Washington leverage over the Bangkok conference.

The issue of how funds are made available to developing nations has emerged as a key sticking point at the talks, which have made little headway since they began on Tuesday.

The Paris deal — hailed as a game-changer when struck in 2015 — promised US$100 billion annually from 2020 to poor nations already coping with floods, heat waves and rising sea levels exacerbated by climate change.

However, it left room for debate over how that money should be provided, as well as how donor nations would source and report their contributions.

Washington has put forward a proposal with support from Japan and Australia that seeks to remove rules on how countries account for their climate action funding, sources close to the negotiations told reporters.

This would mean that developed economies — responsible for the lion’s share of planet-warming carbon emissions — could still count commercial loans and pre-existing state funding as part of their finance obligations.

Observers in Bangkok said the US and some other developed economies were also refusing point-blank to discuss the contentious issue of how rich nations inform other states of their future funding plans.

A US Department of State spokeswoman declined to comment when contacted by reporters.

The US position is starkly at odds with that of developing nations, which have said that transparent and predictable finance is needed to effectively plan investment in new technologies and carbon reduction.

A senior climate negotiator told reporters that the US delegation in Bangkok was “poisoning” discussions aimed at creating a clear road map to implementing what nations agreed in the Paris deal.

“The US is no longer playing the game, but it’s still setting the rules,” said the negotiator, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Activists rounded on the US, accusing Washington of endangering hard-earned gains on a global initiative to stop runaway global warming.

“The role of the US negotiators at the talks is actively hindering progress at this critical stage,” said Harjeet Singh, the global lead on climate change for pressure group ActionAid.

He also said that other negotiating blocs, including the EU, were “standing on the sidewalk” by failing to stand up for developing countries.

The talks in Bangkok, which end today, aim to narrow down options to present to ministers and heads of state at a UN Climate Change Conference in Poland in December.

Protests were planned yesterday in cities across the world to call on leaders to accelerate efforts to tackle climate change.

In Bangkok, dozens of workers and fisherman from the Gulf of Thailand, whose livelihoods are threatened by rising sea levels, joined demonstrators.