United Nations climate talks limp toward finish line, key questions left

A demonstrator is surrounded by UN security staff members during a protest at the COP25 summit in Madrid Wednesday Dec. 11 2019. World leaders agree

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Green activists dumped horse manure and staged a mock hanging outside the venue of a United Nations climate summit in Madrid on Saturday, airing their frustration at the failure of world leaders to take meaningful action against global warming.

President, attends a plenary session during the ongoing climate negotiations, which have reached a deadlock, in Madrid, Spain December 15, 2019.

US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has proposed a "Green New Deal" bill to tackle climate change and greenhouse gas emissions in the US, called the summit an "utter failure".

Marathon worldwide climate talks ended Sunday with negotiators postponing until next year a key decision on how to regulate global carbon markets.

This was despite organisers adding two more days to the 12 days of scheduled talks in Madrid.

Climate activists take part in a Fridays for Future protest at the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid.

A major climate summit wrapped up in Madrid Sunday with a compromise deal that left little to show, prompting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to lament a "lost opportunity" to act.

"The global community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis", he said in a statement.

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"What we are seeing come out of these talks right now should set off alarm bells", said David Waskow, global climate director for Washington-based World Resources Institute.

Many wanted to see more explicit language spelling out the importance of countries submitting bolder pledges on emissions.

The Paris accord established the common goal of avoiding a temperature increase of more than 1.5C by the end of the century.

Negotiators worked into the early hours of Sunday to try to salvage a strong global commitment to fight climate change after some of the most vulnerable nations said they were being sidelined at a marathon UN summit in Madrid.

Setting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, the markets allow countries or companies to trade emissions permits that can be steadily reduced - encouraging the uptake of low-emission technologies.

"We were on the verge", she said, adding the goal was to establish markets that are "robust and environmentally sustainable".

Although no advanced economy is yet on track for the kind of action scientists say is needed to steer the climate onto a safer path, all the EU's 28 member states, bar Poland, agreed in Brussels on Thursday to target net-zero emissions by 2050.

"If there was one time in the history when I would say governments fucked up, I would say today in Madrid, governments f****d up", said Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa.

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Through the talks, youth activists and campaigners highlighted the disconnect between the negotiations and the demands of people protesting for climate action around the world.

Observers said the USA delegation repeated a pattern seen at past talks of blocking progress toward ensuring poor countries can secure compensation for climate-related losses.

The push for strengthening voluntary carbon-cutting plans is led by small-island and least-developed states, along with the European Union.

The result undercut principles of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, under which all countries agreed to deliver increasingly ambitious policies to cut pollution.

Climate experts said the two-week long talks produced a weak gesture toward raising climate targets and failed to agree for the second year in a row on rules to govern carbon markets.

President Donald Trump's retreat from US pledges to cut emissions sapped momentum. Last week, as COP25's negotiators were going into overtime, the European Union also set a goal to reach net-zero emissions by the same year and mobilize nearly 300-billion euros annually to finance the transition away from fossil fuels. In doing so, the family of nations urged countries to consider the gap between existing commitments and what is needed to limit warming "well below 2C", with a view to "reflecting their highest possible ambition". The AP is exclusively responsible for all content.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education.

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