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Why are the billionaires laughing?

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Fridays for Future striker Vanessa Nakate of Uganda holds a placard reading "climate can't wait" during a protest on climate emergency, called by environmental groups including Extinction Rebellion and Fridays For Future, outside the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP25 at the 'IFEMA - Feria de Madrid' exhibition centre, in Madrid, on December 13, 2019.

Fridays for Future striker Vanessa Nakate of Uganda holds a placard reading "climate can't wait" during a protest on climate emergency, called by environmental groups including Extinction Rebellion and Fridays For Future, outside the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP25 at the 'IFEMA - Feria de Madrid' exhibition centre, in Madrid, on December 13, 2019. (Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP via Getty Images)

'We Are Furious': As COP 25 Draws to Close, Green Campaigners Fume as Rich Nations Move to Gut Paris Agreement

"Just as we thought the slow pace and weak ambition shown at the climate talks couldn't get worse, along comes COP 25."

Andrea Germanos

With just hours left in the COP 25 climate conference taking place in Madrid, Spain, international climate campaigners said Friday they are "furious" over rich countries' refusal to adequately commit to addressing the urgency of and pay for their role in fueling the climate crisis.

"Just as we thought the slow pace and weak ambition shown at the climate talks couldn't get worse, along comes COP 25," said Sara Shaw, Climate Justice and Energy Program coordinator for Friends of the Earth International (FOEI). She also criticized "the advance of dodgy carbon trading that will only exacerbate the climate crisis and harm Southern communities."

As crunch time hits, hammering out a deal on controversial carbon markets is proving to be sticking point. Politico's "Morning Energy" newsletter noted Friday:

A group of large developing economies—China, Brazil, India, and South Africa—are pushing back on efforts to write the rulebook for international carbon trading regimes. That's a major priority for the meeting, and the nearly 200 countries attending the talks need to get that out of the way if they're going to move on to the next big task: preparing their new domestic climate targets for 2020's meeting in Glasgow. A failure to get a set of rules on trading in place is threatening to push back that effort to raise the world's climate "ambition"—and could undermine the entire Paris agreement.

Climate Action Network International (CAN), in Twitter thread Friday, said the plans which have thus far emerged from the conference on carbon trading bode ill for the prospect of reducing emissions.

The climate campaigners' comments came on the final day of a conference that saw activists including Fridays for Future youth stage protests within the event hall demanding climate justice. The activists were kicked out of the conference, in their view, had their voices suppressed over those of corporate polluters.

Speaking about the unrest at the conference, Nnimmo Bassey of Health of Mother Earth Foundation told Democracy Now! Wednesday that "the protesters here are saying that the trajectory on which the COP negotiation is moving, which is towards market mechanisms rather than real climate action, is the wrong direction and that this cannot be accepted."

"We're seeing a situation where the rich, polluting countries are not ready to fund climate adaptation and mitigation to pay for loss and damage," said Bassey.

Some countries, though, have made good pledges, as Jake Schmidt, Brendan Guy, and Han Chen wrote at NRDC's expert blog Thursday. "The 80 countries that have committed to put forward stronger steps to curb climate change here at COP25 in Madrid are impressive."

But the 80 countries represent only about 10% of global emissions. The 20 major emitters that account for approximately 80% of global emissions have stood nearly mute in Madrid. They've dithered over side issues and done absolutely nothing about the 800-pound gorilla in the room—the continually rising global emissions of greenhouse gases hurtling us toward catastrophe. The eyes of the world are squarely on them.

It's no secret who those major emissions produers are.

"The United States," which last month began withdrawing from the Paris agreement, "is not a good actor here," Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan told CNN, adding that Saudi Arabia and Brazil are also thwarting progress. DeSmog blog also reported Friday that "almost a third of Saudi Arabia's representatives attending the Madrid meeting, known as COP25, are associated with the oil and gas industry."

"The voices of people defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples, women, and Southern communities were aggressively pushed out of the COP in a clear attempt to silence them."
—Karin Nansen, FOEI
"I think that the climate politics are quite dark," Morgan continued. "You have the oil majors working with the Trump administration, with others, to try and slow things down here. And you have others that just aren't prioritizing it." That means "the role of countries or units like the European Union becomes even more important, but... it's like they're tired and they're not rising above the daily kind of issues and there's no time for that."

FOEI's Shaw, in her statement, suggested such inaction and active thwarting of progress was sabotaging the prospect of global temperature rise to below the threshold agreed to in the Paris climate accord.

"Here, we have witnessed the gutting of the already weak Paris Agreement" as well as "a refusal by developed countries to pay up for loss and damage finance, while they try to introduce language that would remove their liability for the impacts their emissions have caused," she said.

"We are furious that while so many are already suffering the impacts of climate change, corporations and rich country governments are working to destroy any hope of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees," said Shaw. "And when we stood up in peaceful protest at COP 25, we were aggressively suppressed."

FOEI chair Karin Nansen from Uruguay was equally dismissive of that silencing.

"The 'ambition' claimed by developed country governments is a false one," she said. "They are serving the interests of corporations aiming to profit from the crisis and secure capital accumulation. The voices of people defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples, women, and Southern communities were aggressively pushed out of the COP in a clear attempt to silence them."

"But peoples—in Madrid, Santiago, and around the world—are rising up and will continue to fight for environmental, social, gender, and economic justice and system change," Nansen said. "We will continue to demand that governments be accountable to people, not to corporate polluters."


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