Climate change talks to test global resolve on warming

Germany conference will set the stage for Cop27 summit later this year in Egypt

A gauge measures water levels on the Rio Nambe amid extreme drought in New Mexico. The world has warmed nearly 1.2°C so far — enough to usher in deadly heatwaves, floods and storm surges made worse by rising seas. Photo: Getty
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Negotiators from almost 200 countries will meet in Germany on Monday for climate talks to reignite momentum on tackling global warming, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine overshadows the threat from rising emissions.

The conference in Bonn will set the stage for a new round of major UN talks later this year in Egypt.

It will also be a chance to test the resolve of nations facing a catalogue of crises, including escalating climate change, geopolitical tensions, bloodshed in Ukraine and the threat of a devastating global food crisis.

"Climate change is not an agenda we can afford to push back on our global schedule," said departing UN climate change chief, Patricia Espinosa.

Firefighters try to keep a blaze away from a residential area of Panorama Voulas, south of Athens on Saturday. A wildfire whipped by gale-force winds blazed through vegetation in the suburb. Photo: AFP

She said it was imperative that nations arrive at the UN Cop27 meeting in Sharm El Sheikh in November prepared to show they are taking "bold, concrete steps — backed by specific plans — to deliver the urgent and transformational climate ambition we simply must see before it's too late".

Governments have already accepted that climate change is a grave threat to humanity and the planet, and have called for immediate action to cut fossil fuel emissions and prepare for the accelerating impacts of global warming.

The summary to this year's climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that any further delay in action "will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all".

But as things are going, the world is unlikely to be able to meet the Paris climate deal's commitment to limit warming to "well below" 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

"There is this disconnect between the scientific evidence of global crisis in the making, of potentially rushing towards unmanageable climate impact, versus the lack of action," Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told AFP.

"This is a deep worry."

The world has warmed nearly 1.2°C so far — enough to usher in deadly heatwaves, floods and storm surges made worse by rising seas.

Although the 10-day conference in Bonn is a largely technical meeting aimed at preparing for Egypt, there are a number of key issues up for debate.

A particular focus will be funding from rich polluters to help vulnerable developing nations least responsible for global heating to cope with its increasingly ferocious consequences.

A promise of $100 billion a year from 2020 to help them adapt to a warming world has still not been met.

Meanwhile, there are growing calls for "loss and damage" funding for countries already struck by devastating climate change, with a specific dialogue on the subject tabled for this week.

The Alliance of Small Island States has warned that the Bonn conference must not be "just another talk shop", calling for a "clear view" on when and how this financing will be put in place.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week warned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine risked slowing action to fight the climate crisis.

"But I think this war has demonstrated one thing: how fragile the world is in its dependence to fossil fuels," he added.

The invasion has prompted countries, particularly in Europe, to scramble to shore up energy supplies. It has also caused wheat and fertiliser prices to soar.

Fears of a food crisis have intensified in recent weeks, with India moving to ban wheat exports after the hottest March and April on record — blamed largely on climate change — hit harvests.

One opportunity for exhibiting political will comes on Wednesday when the European Parliament votes on several hotly debated planks of the bloc's sprawling Fit for 55 climate plan.

EU member states have set themselves the target of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990, and achieving carbon neutrality for the continent by 2050.

In May, an analysis from non-profit groups found that countries in the G20 group of major economies have yet to strengthen greenhouse-gas reduction goals, despite agreeing to revisit their plans.

Last year in Glasgow, countries made new pledges to slash methane emissions, stop deforestation and other measures that — in addition to existing national carbon cutting pledges — could theoretically cap warming under 2°C, said Mr Rockstrom.

But that means the focus at this year's meetings needs to be on "accountability", he said.

"We are now in the delivery phase".

Updated: June 06, 2022, 7:19 AM