As a new report showed the world backsliding on curbing carbon emissions, observers at global climate talks said Monday it might fall to ministers to break a deadlock over issues such as compensation for countries hardest-hit by global warming.
The talks in Bonn, Germany, now in their second week, are intended to hammer out some of the nitty-gritty details for implementing the 2015 Paris climate accord. Participating countries agreed to keep global warming significantly below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F.)
Key topics include how to measure individual countries' efforts, taking stock of what's been achieved so far and setting new emissions reduction targets needed to reach the Paris goal. But developing countries also want rich nations to pay for some of the devastating impacts climate change inevitably is going to have, particularly on poor communities around the world.
Formal decisions on most issues won't be taken until next year's meeting in Poland, but few want to leave progress until the last minute.
"Without that support forthcoming from the developed countries, there's going to be some real fireworks at the end of this week," said Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group in Washington.
Poor nations see the issue of financial compensation, known in U.N. parlance as "loss and damage," as a matter of fairness. They argue that rising sea levels and more extreme weather will hit them disproportionately hard even though they have contributed only a fraction of the carbon emissions blamed for global warming.
Rich countries counter that they are already paying billions of dollars to help developing nations reduce emissions — such as by switching to renewable energy — and to adapt to climate change.
Much of the focus at the Nov. 6-17 meeting is on the United States, following President Donald Trump's announcement that he would pull out of the Paris accord unless he can get a better deal for Americans. While other developed countries reject the Trump administration's stance on the agreement, their views on loss and damage are largely in step with Washington's.
"It's fair to say that other developed countries are hiding behind the U.S. on the loss and damage," Meyer said. "They need to be called out on this."
The other issue that's being hotly debated in Bonn is what emissions-cutting measures are necessary before 2020. While some countries already have taken reduction steps, activists say they fall far short of what's needed to ensure emissions peak in three years' time — after which it would become much harder to achieve the most ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F.)
Scientists say new figures show global carbon emissions will reach a record high in 2017, dashing hopes that levels of the heat-trapping gas might have plateaued following three consecutive years when they didn't go up at all.
Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said it was up to countries like Germany, which is hosting the meeting together with Fiji, to show leadership and commit to ending the use of heavily polluting coal for electricity.
The U.S. delegation raised eyebrows ahead of the talks by announcing that it would hold a public event to promote the use of coal and nuclear power as viable sources of energy — ideas that environmentalists reject.
Several U.S. governors, mayors and business leaders have distanced themselves from the Trump administration in Bonn, saying they're committed to the Paris accord .
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