UN climate talks in limbo as compromise sought

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Officials presiding over this year’s UN climate talks say they plan to propose a compromise to bridge yawning differences among countries that have been deadlocked on key issues for the past two weeks.

With the meeting already into extra time, draft documents presented overnight failed to achieve consensus.

Observers and environmental groups warned that they risked undoing or stalling on commitments made in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

On Saturday, Chilean diplomat Andres Landerretche told reporters that a fresh compromise would be circulated, but insisted that there would have to be trade-offs if there was to be a deal supported by all countries.

“It’s impossible to have a consensus outcome if you don’t compromise,” he said.

Asked whether some decisions might be postponed until next year, Mr Landerretche said: “We don’t foresee any suspension. We are working with a view toward finishing our work today.”

But observers said there were still huge obstacles to overcome.

“I’ve been attending these climate negotiations since they first started in 1991, but never have I seen the almost total disconnection we’ve seen here… in Madrid between what the science requires and the people of the world demand, and what the climate negotiators are delivering,” said Alden Meyer, a climate policy expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Spain Climate Talks
People shout slogans during a march organised by the Fridays for Future international movement of school students outside the COP25 climate talks congress in Madrid (Manu Fernandez/AP)

“The planet is on fire and our window of escape is getting harder and harder to reach the longer we fail to act,” Mr Meyer said.

Growing concern about climate change has been reflected in mass protests around the world over the past year, often by young activists concerned about the future they and their children might face as the planet heats up.

Demonstrations took place inside and outside the venue of the talks in the Spanish capital, with Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg one of the most prominent voices calling for urgent action to curb emissions.

Senior European officials, including ministers from Spain and Germany, and the EU’s top climate official, Frans Timmermans, were engaged in last-minute negotiations to prevent the talks from collapsing.

Among the countries holding out against agreeing new measures to help poor countries and set new emissions cutting targets was the United States, which under President Donald Trump has announced it is pulling out of the Paris accord.

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