Talks fail to deliver ‘cure’ for climate change

Europe’s climate commissioner has said world talks must provide a “substantial answer” to global warming in two years to remain relevant, after another United Nations conference gave only modest results.

Even if it succeeded, it was worth reconsidering whether the international conferences needed to be held every year and whether the scope of each session should be narrower, Connie Hedegaard said. “Maybe it would be time now to think if there should be themes for the conferences so that not each conference is about everything,” she said.

The UN talks have failed for 20 years to provide a cure to the world’s fever. Heat-trapping carbon emissions that scientists say are warming the planet are growing each year as most countries still depend on coal and oil to fuel their economies.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Besides those emissions, the UN talks deal with a range of complex issues, including monitoring and verification of climate actions, accounting rules and helping developing countries cope with sea level rise, desertification and other affects as they move to clean energy.

The latest two-week session in Warsaw, Poland, nearly collapsed in overtime before agreements were watered down to a point where no country was promising anything concrete.

On the final day, sleep-deprived delegates spent hours wrangling over the wording of paragraphs and bickering over procedure –Venezuela questioned why the US got to speak before Fiji.

As the gavel dropped, negotiators emerged with a vague road map on how to prepare for a global climate pact they are supposed to adopt in two years – work Ms Hedegaard says will be crucial in answering whether the world still needs the UN process.

“I think that it has to deliver a substantial answer to climate change in 2015,” the Dane said. “If it fails to do so, then I think this critical question will be asked by many more.”

Many climate initiatives are happening far from the UN negotiations as governments pursue low-carbon energy sources and energy efficiency. China and the US – the world’s two biggest carbon polluters – agreed this year to work jointly on energy efficiency, carbon capture technology and other projects.