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COP25: Developing Countries Charge Ahead with Bold Climate Plans as Rich Countries Drag Their Feet

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As this year’s United Nations climate summit wraps up in Madrid, Spain, many activists, scientists, indigenous and grassroots climate leaders say that rich countries most responsible for the climate emergency have spent the talks dialing back ambition and blocking progress. This comes as deadly droughts, flooding, cyclones and wildfires rage around the world. This week, more than 70 developing countries have announced they will accelerate their climate plans, and 72 countries have signed onto goals to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But major emitters Australia, China, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia have made no such promises, while the U.S. is slated to pull out of the Paris Agreement entirely by next year. For more on the negotiations at COP25, we speak with Saleemul Huq, climate scientist and the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh. He is advising the bloc of Least Developed Countries in the climate talks.

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we broadcast from inside the U.N. climate summit here in Madrid, Spain, in its final days.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: “While deadly droughts, flooding, cyclones and wildfires rage outside the conference center, the rich countries most responsible for the climate emergency have spent the talks dialing back ambition and blocking progress. That’s what activists, scientists, indigenous and grassroots climate leaders are charging in the last days of this year’s climate conference as two weeks of negotiations wrap up without crucial commitments from the countries most responsible for global emissions.

AMY GOODMAN: This week, more than 70 developing countries have announced they’ll accelerate their climate plans, and 72 countries have signed onto goals to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But major carbon emitters Australia, China, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia have made no such promises, while the U.S. is slated to pull out of the Paris Agreement entirely by next year.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Meanwhile, a new study finds that the climate crisis is already leading to a massive increase in the number of refugees being displaced around the world.

In Berkeley, California, we’re joined by a policy analyst with the Global Justice Program at the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. He’s the co-author of the new report, “Climate Refugees: The Climate Crisis and Rights Denied.”

AMY GOODMAN: And here in Madrid, Spain, we’re joined by Saleemul Huq, climate scientist, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, advising the bloc of Least Developed Countries in the climate negotiations.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Saleemul Huq, let’s begin with you. I mean, you have, as so many have said, these climate emergencies taking place around the world right now. You have got the wildfires in Australia. You’ve got the floods. You’ve got the droughts. You’ve got climate migration at a level we haven’t seen. What is happening here? Is this a cop-out? And what role is the U.S. playing?

SALEEMUL HUQ: Well, I think the year 2019 will, in hindsight, be seen as the tipping point, when human-induced climate change became reality. We can now attribute many of the things you just said, the magnitude of them being way over anything we’ve seen before. And that can now be attributed to the fact that we have already increased global temperature by well over 1 degree centigrade, and that is already having impacts. And we’re headed for 3 degrees and nowhere near the one-and-a-half degrees that we want to do.

So, what we are seeing in reality is that the impacts are causing damage. They’re causing loss of life, loss of biodiversity. And what we need the Conference of Parties to do is step up to that challenge that has been given from the rest of the world, particularly the young children of the world who were out here in Madrid, a half a million of them last Friday. But I don’t see a lot of signs of the negotiators responding to that. And the U.S. has been particularly difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the U.S. doing? I mean, on the one hand, Trump is pulling the U.S. out of the climate conference. But they are also, as each day goes by, working to dilute any kind of lead-up to next year, the evaluation of the Paris climate accord.

SALEEMUL HUQ: So, the specific technical point here in Madrid, in the 25th Conference of Parties, is something called the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage. The developing countries have a united front here. We want that review to take it forward with an implementation arm and a finance arm. And the finance part is something that the United States is completely against. And so far we haven’t got a decision on that.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain finance.

SALEEMUL HUQ: Funding for loss and damage, as opposed to funding for adaptation and mitigation.

AMY GOODMAN: Right. That’s a lot of U.N. speak.

SALEEMUL HUQ: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Most people don’t really get it.

SALEEMUL HUQ: All right. So, basically, giving some funding to the victims of the impacts of climate change that we are now seeing, allowing funding to be raised for the victims.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, you know, Saleemul, if you could just give a broader sense? I mean, we’ve been coming to the climate summit for many years, as indeed have you. Many people argue that even though the pace of change is very, very slow, it’s an important venue for developing countries to be able to express, in solidarity, their position to the richer countries. What do you see is the significance of these annual meetings, where it seems every year very little gets achieved that’s in the interest of the people who have been suffering the most from the effects of the climate crisis?

SALEEMUL HUQ: Well, we live in an unjust and unequal world. And as the vulnerable poor countries, the Least Developed Countries, that I advise — 47 of them in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, including my country, Bangladesh — this is the only game in town where we have a seat at the table, where we can actually say something and hope that the other side will listen. A lot of the time they don’t listen, but sometimes they do. We’re hoping in Madrid we will get them to listen within the next few hours that we have left here.

AMY GOODMAN: Describe what’s happening in your own country of Bangladesh.

SALEEMUL HUQ: So, my country, Bangladesh, is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. We are a delta — live on a delta of two of the major rivers of the world, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. We have a population of 160-plus million people living in less than 150,000 square kilometers, so a population density of over a thousand per square kilometer — very vulnerable, very generally poor, but nevertheless one of the most resilient countries. We have found — we have one of the best cyclone warning and shelter systems in the world. We can warn and evacuate more than two-and-a-half million people. We recently had a major cyclone where we did that. And so, we are struggling, but we are rising to the challenge of dealing with the impacts of climate change. But there’s a limit to what we can do. One-and-a-half degrees, we can manage. Three degrees, we can’t.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to a break, and then we’re going to come back to this discussion, and we’re going to talk about this massive crisis of climate migration. We’re talking millions and millions of people, the numbers only promising to grow. We’re with Saleemul Huq from the Bangladeshi climate movement, a climate scientist. Joining us also will be Hossein Ayazi at the University of California, Berkeley, who just left [sic] but did a report here on climate refugees. Stay with us.

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Climate Refugees: Climate-Fueled Drought, Sea Level Rise, Storms & Fires Displace Millions Worldwide

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