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Negotiators are in the home stretch on the final day of UN climate conference

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Audible rage today from activists and protesters who are disappointed that the final hours of this climate summit have not produced the binding commitments they want to see.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Wake up. All of us here, wake up.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: The revolution is...

SHAPIRO: Negotiators are in the home stretch of hammering out an agreement with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. NPR climate correspondent Dan Charles has been covering the summit from the beginning, and he's here to see it over the finish line. Hi, Dan.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So representatives right now from countries all over the world are looking at a draft agreement that the conference president released this morning. Give us the main points of what's in that draft.

CHARLES: So this draft shifts the goalposts a little bit for cutting greenhouse gas emissions compared to what we had before. So in Paris six years ago, countries agreed to limit the warming of the planet to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees compared to preindustrial times. But there has been a lot of science since then pointing to the need to hit that lower target, the 1.5 degrees. And this draft really focuses on that goal. It says countries have to cut their emissions by 45 percent within a decade. And it asks countries to come back within a year to update their emissions cutting plans, get them more in line with that goal.

SHAPIRO: So more ambitious goals. Unclear whether the policies will get countries to those goals. Cutting emissions are one side of the coin. There has also been so much talk here about how to cope with the existing effects of the warming climate, and that's about fairness, how to help developing countries that did not cause the problem but are feeling the effects. What's the state of play there?

CHARLES: This draft does call on richer countries to provide more money for that, including this idea of loss and damage, helping to pay for some of the damages from, you know, rising sea levels, more intense storms.

SHAPIRO: And so how are countries reacting to this latest draft?

CHARLES: Yeah, it's been interesting. A few hours after the draft came out, the delegates all gathered for a big plenary session. A lot of countries said, we think this draft is pretty good. We're close. But there are still some big sticking points. And countries are pushing from all different directions. So, for instance, Saudi Arabia, big oil producer, did not like the more aggressive targeting of fossil fuels compared to Paris. The country's delegate, Ayman Shasly, criticized the accelerated timetables for cutting those greenhouse gas emissions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AYMAN SHASLY: It would rewrite some of the provisions of Paris Agreement. It would emphasize certain parts of Paris Agreement at the expense of others.

CHARLES: Other countries want even tougher language on fossil fuels. Right now the draft calls for phasing out most coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Tina Stege from the Marshall Islands, which is losing territory as the sea rises, wanted the language to go even further.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TINA STEGE: We should strengthen this language by referring to unabated coal and to all fossil-fuel subsidies, not only inefficient ones. Fossil-fuel subsidies are paying for our own destruction.

SHAPIRO: That idea of destruction returns us to this question of loss and damage, compensation for countries that are suffering the most. Activists have been talking about this relentlessly for the last couple weeks. What's the status of that?

CHARLES: This point is where we heard the harshest criticism today. A lot of developing countries want a new institution or program to handle that loss and damage money. The current draft turns the job over to an existing network that really was set up to provide technical assistance to developing countries on this. Kenya's top negotiator, Keriako Tobiko, ridiculed that idea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KERIAKO TOBIKO: What we have in mind here is not giving money to consultants to fly around the globe to come and educate us, teach us about what loss and damage is.

CHARLES: So we'll see how this plays out. In theory, they have to hammer out a compromise tonight, but a lot of people are thinking this may go into overtime.

SHAPIRO: If something like this draft language is adopted, would that be considered a success? I mean, would that mean something significant in the struggle against climate change?

CHARLES: As far as the goals here, yes, I think a lot of longtime observers would say this is a real step forward. There are more specific targets both for cutting emissions and also sharing the burden of climate change. But the reality is this could all fall apart when it comes to actually accomplishing the goals, you know, passing laws and allocating money to make it happen.

SHAPIRO: Putting words into actions.

CHARLES: That is the next challenge.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Dan Charles, it's been great spending this time in Scotland with you. Thanks.

CHARLES: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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