No breakthrough during ‘exhausting’ online climate talks


BERLIN — No breakthroughs have been made on key issues during three weeks of international climate talks that ended Thursday, officials said, with plans now for a select group of ministers to come together next month in the hope of making progress ahead of a U.N. summit in November.

The expert-level May 31-June 17 climate meeting that took place online was seen as a test of the new cooperative spirit following President Joe Biden’s decision to return the United States to the Paris climate accord.

While no formal decisions were expected, participants tried to tackle thorny topics including aid for poor countries and rules for international carbon markets — an issue that has firmly divided nations for years.

“I cannot say that there was really any breakthrough in the consultations that took place here,” said United Nations climate chief Patricia Espinosa.

“It is time that we try to have some guidance from ministers,” she added.

The chair of this year’s climate summit in Glasgow, Britain’s Alok Sharma, said he has invited “a representative group of ministers” for talks in late July to chart out the next steps.

Keeping alive the most ambitious goal of the Paris accord — limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) — was “absolutely vital to very many millions of people around the world who are facing the challenge of climate change head on,” he said.

The world has already warmed by about 1.2 C (2.2 F) and scientists say there’s not much time left to ensure the Paris target is met.

Climate campaigners have criticized rich countries for failing to fulfil their promise of giving developing nations $100 billion a year to tackle global warming, a pledge that Espinosa called “absolutely crucial” for the credibility of the ongoing negotiations.

Under the principles of the Paris accord, countries voluntarily set out their own contributions to international climate finance and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This has resulted in a delicate diplomatic dance in which governments have largely avoided making big steps without ensuring rivals follow suit.

Sharma said Britain aims to offer delegates who haven’t been able to get vaccinated before November an opportunity to do so as part of a special program, though details of that have yet to be worked out.

“My primary objective is to ensure that we have a physical meeting which all delegates can attend safely,” he said.

The virtual meeting, which saw numerous technical glitches and required participants to share the burden of joining meetings before dawn, during the afternoon or late at night — depending on their respective time zones — had been “exhausting,” Espinosa said.

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