Obama tells COP26 to help poor countries, berates China, Russia

  • The aim of the negotiations is to keep the 1.5C target alive.
  • Developing countries wary of missed financial deadlines
  • ‘Let’s put the money on the table’, says Kenyan minister
  • Glasgow talks set to end on Friday

GLASGOW, Nov. 8 (Reuters) – Former US President Barack Obama on Monday called on rich countries to end years of standoff with developing countries over climate change money, and criticized China and Russia for their “lack of urgency” to reduce emissions.

At the start of the second and final week of the UN climate talks in Glasgow – known as COP26 – ministers focused on the details of trying to honor pledges to pay for the related loss and damage climate, and how to help nations adapt to the devastating effects of climate change.

“We must act now to help adaptation and resilience,” Obama said at a meeting of island nations at the summit, adding that his perspective on the immediacy of the threat had been shaped by his experience growing up in Hawaii.

Obama said too little progress has been made since the 2015 Paris Agreement in trying to curb warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and blasted China and Russia for their lack of it. commitment to making the Glasgow talks a success.

“It was particularly disheartening to see the leaders of two of the world’s largest transmitters, China and Russia, refuse to even attend the debates,” he said.

Their “national plans so far reflect what appears to be a dangerous lack of urgency and will to maintain the status quo on the part of these governments, and that’s a shame.”

The failure of rich countries to keep their promises of aid to developing countries has fueled mistrust and is seen as a major obstacle to progress in reducing emissions to limit the impact of rising temperatures. Read more

Vanessa Nakate, a 24-year-old Ugandan climate activist attending the Glasgow conference released a video showing that Obama made the same call to action, not words, to help poor countries as early as 2009, but with few results in the years that followed. .

“Everyone knows what to do,” Kenyan Environment Minister Keriako Tobiko said. “There have been too many and too many workshops, retreats and conferences. And it’s always ‘the time has come’, ‘the time has come’. In fact, there is no more time, let’s say. money on the table. “

At a United Nations climate summit 12 years ago in Copenhagen, rich countries pledged to hand developing countries $ 100 billion a year by 2020 to help them adapt to climate change . Read more

The target was missed, and at COP26 wealthier countries said they would meet the target no later than 2023, with some hoping it could be reached a year earlier.

In recent weeks and months, wealthy countries, including the United States, Japan, Spain and Italy, have upped their ‘climate finance’ pledges, but some are still falling short of what international organizations consider it a fair contribution.

Ghana Environmental Protection Agency chief Henry Kokofu said negotiations over funds for adaptation and resilience in countries hardest hit by climate change did not reflect levels of ambition publicly expressed by developed countries.

A billboard is seen during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, Scotland, Great Britain on November 7, 2021. REUTERS / Yves Herman

Read more

“It is really very unhappy and sad,” he said.


As developing countries want more money to help them adjust to higher temperatures that have caused more frequent droughts, floods and forest fires, developed countries have focused on channeling finance towards reducing emissions.

The cost of both is huge, but it will be even higher unless the Glasgow talks keep alive Paris’ target of capping global temperatures at 1.5 ° C (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Beyond this level, the world risks catastrophic climate impacts. Read more

“We are far from where we need to be,” Obama told the hearing, lamenting the lack of progress since Paris.

Besides China and Russia, the former Democratic president has also targeted US Republican Party lawmakers, who he said have expressed “active hostility to climate science” and made climate change a partisan issue. Read more

“For those listening in the United States, let me say this: It doesn’t matter whether you are a Republican or a Democrat if your house in Florida is inundated by rising seas, or your crops fail in the Dakotas or your house in the United States. California. is burning, ”he said.

While activist Greta Thunberg has already called the Glasgow talks a “failure”, richer countries need to strengthen themselves and deliver on the many pledges they made in the first week of the conference, which is expected to end. finish Friday. Read more

Highlighting the difficulties, COP26 President Alok Sharma said there was a desire among parties “to continue technical work with renewed urgency to make progress” on climate finance where there was “a large number of outstanding questions “.

“My priority now is the rhythm,” he added. “There must be a sense of urgency in all of our negotiations.”

Potentially more problematic for rich countries than meeting the $ 100 billion target is how they should compensate less developed countries for loss and damage caused by historic emissions, an area where concrete commitments do not exist. have not yet been taken.

Sharma acknowledged that this was a historically polarizing issue, but said he believed “the background music had changed somewhat.

“There is now a practical recognition that action is needed on this subject in the face of increasing impacts,” he said.

Additional reporting by Jake Spring, Simon Jessop, William James and Andrea Januta; Written by Elizabeth Piper, Gavin Jones and Barbara Lewis; Editing by Edmund Blair, Alex Richardson and Catherine Evans

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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