Climate talks tackle the divide between rich and poor nations

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) – Big rifts remain as United Nations climate talks near Friday’s deadline. Much of the divide comes down to money, which nations have it and which don’t. It is therefore time for the diplomatic cavalry to enter the scene.

Members of the Democratic Congress also joined the two-week climate conference in Glasgow on the sidelines on Tuesday to bolster the Biden administration’s efforts to increase climate action.

At the start of the conference, government leaders explained how the fight against global warming is a struggle for survival. Leaders focused on the big pictures, not on the complex wording crucial to the negotiations. Then, for about a week, the technocratic negotiations focused on those key details, getting some things done but not solving the really sticky situations.

Now is the time for “high-level” negotiations, when government ministers or other high-level diplomats rush to make the policy decisions that are supposed to break technical dead ends. The United Nations has three goals outside of Glasgow, all of which so far are out of reach: halving carbon dioxide emissions by 2030; rich countries give poor countries $ 100 billion a year to fight climate change; and ensure that half of that money is spent on adapting to the growing harms of climate change.

In order to forge a compromise, they have a big gap to fill. Or more exactly, multiple gaps: there is a confidence gap and a wealth gap. A north-south ditch. It is a question of money, history and the future.

On one side of the gap are the nations that developed and became wealthy thanks to the coal, oil and gas powered industrial revolution that began in the UK On the other side are the nations that have not yet developed and have not become rich and are now being told that these fuels are too dangerous for the planet.

The main financial problem is the pledge of $ 100 billion per year made for the first time in 2009. Developed countries have still not reached the mark of $ 100 billion per year. This year, rich countries have increased their aid to $ 80 billion a year, still below what is promised.

As the conference chief briefed countries on the progress – and the lack, in some ways – of talks on Monday, developing country after developing country responded by noting how rich countries’ financial commitments have failed. not been required.

“Everyone here is livid,” said Saleemul Huq, climate science and policy expert and director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh.

It’s not as if that $ 100 billion alone would make a big difference, as trillions of dollars worldwide in payments, not pledges, would be needed to fight climate change, and not $ 100 billion, Huq said. Providing the money is important to bridge the trust gap between rich and poor nations, he argued.

“They broke their promise. They failed to deliver it, ”Huq said. “And they don’t seem to care. And, so why should we trust anything they say anymore? “

As the crowd at the conference on Monday applauded former US President Barack Obama when he urged nations to do more and rich nations to help the poor, young Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate tweeted: “J was 13 when you pledged $ 100 billion in #ClimateFinance. The United States has broken that promise, it will cost Africa lives. The richest country on earth is not contributing enough to rescue funds. You want to meet the young people of # COP26. We want action. Obama and @POTUS #ShowUsTheMoney. “

Nakate told The Associated Press that she was not criticizing Obama, who was targeting young climate activists with her message, but that she was “telling the truth … The money was promised, but did not delivered “.

Huq said the rich and polluting nations had also failed relative to the rest of the world in failing to meet emission targets that would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As it stands, it is the poor who are paying for the destruction caused by climate change, he said. Studies have shown that poorer countries, like Bangladesh, are hit harder by climate change than rich countries, which also have more resources to adapt to extreme weather conditions.

There have long been issues of trust in the annual UN climate talks, said Niklas Hohne, a climate scientist at the New Climate Institute in Germany who has been attending the conference for more than 20 years and follows up on commitments and actions. to translate what they mean to reduce projected warming.

Hohne said poor countries have good reason to be suspicious, but nations are coming together “at this conference to build that confidence.” And trust can only be built by showing real action.

While China is now the number one carbon polluter and India the third, carbon dioxide remains in the air for centuries. Based on historical emissions – substances still in the atmosphere trapping heat = the United States and European nations are most responsible for climate change, Hohne said.

Hohne said it was only fitting for high-level ministers to come to the rescue in the second week of the climate talks.

“There are certain questions that go to ministers and these are the delicate points and only ministers can resolve them. And once they solve them, they go back to the technical level for implementation, ”Hohne said. “I think we have the normal amount of delicate pieces right now.”

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday brought her power as a climate star to the UN climate talks as part of a congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ocasio-Cortez told reporters his main hope is to see the United States establish itself as a world leader in reducing climate-damaging fossil fuel pollution.

When asked if she had a message to send to the young activists who have helped pressure governments to reduce climate-damaging fossil fuel pollution, Ocasio-Cortez told reporters at the inside the conference site: “Well, I would say, ‘Stay in the street’. Keep pushing. ‘”


Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report from Glasgow.


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The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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