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U.S. & Other Big Polluters Obstruct U.N. Climate Talks, Stalling Efforts to Reduce Carbon Emissions

StoryDecember 12, 2018
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The world’s worst emitters are hindering negotiations at the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, Poland, even as countries from the Global South warn that they could face annihilation without drastic action to confront climate change. We speak with Harjeet Singh, who has been observing how the U.S. and other big polluters are hindering climate talks. He is the global lead on climate change for ActionAid. He’s been working with climate migrants in several countries, and he is based in New Delhi, India.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, Poland. We end today’s show looking at how the world’s worst emitters are hindering negotiations at the U.N. climate summit here in Poland, even as countries from the Global South warn that they could face annihilation without drastic action to confront climate change. On Tuesday, the island of Vanuatu’s [foreign minister], Ralph Regenvanu, criticized the United States and other big polluters for obstructing climate talks.

RALPH REGENVANU: It pains me deeply to have watched the people of the United States and other developed countries across the globe suffering the devastating impacts of climate-induced tragedies, while their professional negotiators are here at COP24 putting red lines through any mention of loss and damage in the Paris guidelines and square brackets around any possibility for truthfully and accurately reporting progress against humanity’s most existential threat. It frustrates me to see those countries historically responsible for climate change causing—refusing to operationalize their legal obligations to assist developing countries in their efforts to achieve sustainable development and adapt to climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Vanuatu’s foreign minister. Yesterday I asked Trump adviser Wells Griffith what the U.S. is doing here at the U.N. climate summit.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the U.S. doing here, since President Trump said he’s pulling out of the Paris Agreement? Can you talk about—can you talk about President Trump saying that climate change is a Chinese hoax?

AMY GOODMAN: Our next guest has been observing how the U.S. and other big polluters are hindering climate talks here in Katowice. Harjeet Singh is the global lead on climate change for ActionAid. He’s been working with climate migrants in several countries, based in New Delhi, India.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Harjeet.

HARJEET SINGH: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I tried to get an answer from one of the top U.N. so-called climate advisers to President Trump. He wouldn’t answer what they’re doing here, because they’re pulling out of the talks, but, in fact, they’re very active behind the scenes. Is that right?

HARJEET SINGH: Absolutely. And it’s very frustrating to see United States enjoying a seat at the table, and they are using every single opportunity to destroy Paris Agreement. They’re colluding with Australia, Canada, Japan and their friends like Saudi Arabia to make sure that we don’t make any progress on increasing our ambition on emission reduction. They are making sure that not a single penny goes from their side to developing countries, who have to transition their economies, make them greener and also tackle climate impacts. So, we are not going to see a rulebook coming up here the way we expected.

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what happened. This weekend, the U.S. joined with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, in the U.S., I mean, many congressmembers, Republican and Democrat, senators, are deeply concerned about its involvement—

HARJEET SINGH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —with the murder of a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

HARJEET SINGH: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: But this weekend they joined again with Saudi Arabia, their ally, in saying they wouldn’t “welcome” the U.N. report on catastrophic climate change, they would only “note” it. Is this just language semantics, or does it really make a difference?

HARJEET SINGH: So, this is crazy. Imagine these parties had actually commissioned this report to IPCC, and then you kind of don’t welcome it? You just note it, which means we are going to ignore the findings? So, it’s a political message that we don’t accept the findings. And it’s not for the first time. Saudi Arabia made everybody’s life difficult in Korea when the summary for the policymakers was being developed in October. So it’s not for the first time it joined the U.S. in diluting the findings of the report. Now, the world has accepted the seriousness of this report and is beginning to act, but somehow Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are trying to undermine the importance of this very important report for us.

AMY GOODMAN: So, when you talk about the rulebook, in these last minutes we have, what does that mean, for a global community that doesn’t understand U.N. speak?

HARJEET SINGH: Yeah. So, in Paris, we came up with this agreement which largely talks about what we are going to do to keep the temperature below 1.5 and help developing countries to adapt, which means, you know, retrofitting their houses, building dikes, and keep their people safe, to put it simply. But now, here in Katowice, we have to talk about how and who does how much. It’s about making rules so that we are able to move forward on reducing emissions but also help developing countries tackle climate impacts. And a rulebook is going to be fundamental in determining whether Paris Agreement is real or not, and how we raise our ambition, going forward.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the U.S. is pulling out of the Paris talks, but it takes a few years, not until 2020, and meanwhile they’re here, actually, not absent—right?—but very active. Specifically, what are they targeting behind the scenes?

HARJEET SINGH: This is so frustrating. U.S. is setting the rules of a game which it is not going to play at all. So it is watering down the text. That means the rulebook is going to be much weaker on providing finance to developing countries. Let us understand that finance happens to be at the center of everything that we are talking about. Developing countries have put their plans on the table. It may cost trillions. What we are demanding at this moment is just $100 billion per year by 2020. And that money is to leverage trillions. If that amount of money is not going to be made available, all those plans that developing countries have put on the table are not going to be implemented.

AMY GOODMAN: In this last minute, talk about climate migrants. We just talked to someone from the Philippines, a survivor of Hurricane Haiyan, though many in her family did not survive. What is the scope of this problem?

HARJEET SINGH: It’s a very dire situation. Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, based in Geneva, came out with a report that in 2017, just in 135 countries, we had 18.8 million new displacements. And these migrants are increasing. And imagine this is just a 1-degree-warmer world that we are living in, and Paris Agreement is taking us to a 3-degree-warmer world. The recent report from IPCC talked about how that even 1.5 degree is going to be so devastating.

AMY GOODMAN: One-point-five degrees Celsius, 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

HARJEET SINGH: That’s right. So, even 1.5-degree difference means we are going to lose coral reefs forever—you know, the basis of marine ecology. Half of the plant and animal species are going to be extinct by end of century due to climate change in the most important natural spaces, like Amazon. Now, what does that mean? That means people who are depending on that ecosystem, people are going to lose their land. If I talk about Bangladesh, they will lose 20 percent of the land to sea. And it’s one of the most populated countries. What will happen to those people? Where are they going to go? There is no protection mechanism in place, neither in their country nor internationally, because some are forced to cross borders. Unlike refugees, they have no protection system in place. So this process has to deliver.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to do Part 2 of this discussion, post it online at democracynow.org. Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change at ActionAid. He’s been working with climate migrants in a number of countries, based in New Delhi, India.

And that does it for our show. We have an immediate job opening as a full-time social media manager in New York City. Résumés are—submit to democracynow.org.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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