Heat wave outside has little effect on UN climate talks

2019 on track to be hottest ever and would mean last five years the world's hottest half-decade period on record.

    While extreme weather proliferates, governments continue to delay major action on climate change [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]
    While extreme weather proliferates, governments continue to delay major action on climate change [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

    UN talks on tackling climate change made limited progress over the past 10 days with several issues still unresolved ahead of three key meetings later this year.

    Governments wrapped up their regular meeting in Bonn, Germany, amid a record-setting heatwave in parts of Europe.

    Australia, South Asia and the Middle East have also experienced extreme temperatures this year in what scientists warn could be a sign of future conditions in a warming world.

    "We can no longer afford incremental progress when tackling climate change," UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said in a statement at the end of the talks.

    Europe is currently experiencing a major heatwave with out-of-control wildfires burning in Spain.

    This year is on track to be among the hottest ever and would mean that 2015-2019 would be the world's hottest five-year period on record, the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday.

    It is too soon to definitely attribute Europe's current blistering heatwave to climate change, but it is "absolutely consistent" with extremes and "heatwaves will become more intense, more drawn out, will start earlier and finish later", WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told a briefing in Geneva.

    European heatwave: Wildfires burn across Spain

    Espinosa called for "deep, transformational and systemic change throughout society" to achieve the most ambitious target in the 2015 Paris climate accord - capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

    Hiding climate change

    Campaigners and vulnerable countries lamented further attempts by oil-rich countries to undermine a key scientific report on meeting that target. The effort was led by Saudi Arabia, but also received overt or tacit support from other fossil fuel exporting nations such as Iran and Australia.

    "To reject a report that looks at what life might be under temperature increases that we are very close to is fundamentally problematic," said Tyrone Hall, an adviser for the Alliance of Small Island States who took part in the talks.

    Average global temperatures have already increased by about 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times. Scientists say it is becoming increasingly unlikely the 1.5C goal can be achieved if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions continue.

    Most countries present at the talks said the 1.5-degree report remains the benchmark for discussion.

    "We think all countries should use that report as the basis for their policy making and for their action," said Swiss diplomat Franz Xaver Perrez, wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan "science is not negotiable".

    A growing number of countries, including major industrialised economies such as Britain, say they want to stop adding carbon - the main greenhouse gas - to the atmosphere by 2050.

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    Low-carbon economy

    This goal, known as "net zero emissions", failed to get the support of all 28 European Union members earlier this month, but campaigners hope that may still happen before a September 23 summit hosted by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, at which governments from around the world are expected to pledge greater ambition on tackling climate change.

    A month later, countries will come together to decide how much money to give to the Green Climate Fund that helps poor nations cope with the impacts of global warming and shift to a low-carbon economy.

    Among the issues left unresolved in Bonn were the rules by which countries and businesses can pay to cut greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere and count this towards their own targets.

    This is likely to become one of the main negotiating points when Chile hosts the annual UN climate summit in December.

    "I urge governments to use the rest of this year to find solutions, allowing solid rules for carbon markets to finally take shape," said Espinosa. "Businesses want this and they are looking for positive signals from governments that they will do this. They know it's a good way to reduce emissions globally."

    Climate change: Coping with extremes

    Earthrise

    Climate change: Coping with extremes

    SOURCE: News agencies