COP: Small nations hit out at US and EU after target snub – No democracy, power game

Shelagh Fogarty slams criticism of UK's climate change action

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The COP26 climate change conference has started in Glasgow as world leaders gather to discuss how to curb humanity’s impact on the environment. Some 200 countries have sent representatives along to the two-week UN summit hosted by the UK. Among the aims of the event is for countries to commit to limit global warming by 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

To achieve this, countries would need to ensure they reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The targets were set out in the Paris Agreement, the legally binding international treaty that was adopted in 2015 at COP21.

Under the agreement, almost 200 countries agreed to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the temperature rise this century to 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit the rise to 1.5°C.

In the run-up to the agreement being signed off, the world’s largest blocs, including the EU and US, backed the less ambitious target of 2°C.

A string of smaller and low-lying countries, including many island nations, hit out at the global powers’ apathy for the 1.5°C target.

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The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) group of countries, which counts Bangladesh and the Maldives among its member states, was critical of larger nations’ approach.

The CVF’s spokesman, Saleemul Huq, blasted the alleged lack of democracy during the climate change negotiations.

He said: “We are the countries who will suffer the most from climate change and against whom all the big [negotiating] groups like the US, EU and G77 are aligned.

“We are the majority: 106 of the 195 countries of the world want this 1.5°C target.

“But there is no democracy here. It’s a power game and the powerful are not on our side.

“We accept it is not realistic, but it is the right thing to do.”

The Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) was also critical of the 2°C goal set out in the Paris Agreement.

Thoriq Ibrahim, the environment and energy minister of the Maldives and chairman of Aosis, spoke about many countries’ vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

He said: “Our members are particularly vulnerable to climate extremes and climate change impacts, and we are acutely aware of the vanishingly little time remaining to adopt a legally binding climate treaty.

“We are very concerned that the INDCs [intended nationally determined contributions] have us heading for about 3°C of warming.

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“This would spell disaster for many small island states and other vulnerable countries.

“It is therefore critical that the Paris agreement is ‘designed for ambition’ to quickly get us back on track.”

Although the Paris Agreement was adopted at COP21, the 1.5°C target faced further opposition from the major developed countries in 2018 at COP24 in Poland.

It came as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report warning that the world was on track for a 3°C temperature rise, rather than the limit of 1.5°C.

Despite many countries praising the report, the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait all objected to the conference “welcoming” the study.

At this year’s conference COP26 president Alok Sharma said the meeting of world leaders in Glasgow represented “our last best hope” to meet the 1.5°C target.

The Conservative MP said: “We know our shared planet is changing for the worse, and we can only address that together.

“We need to hit the ground running to develop the solutions that we need. And that work starts today – and we succeed or fail as one.”
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