Climate change negotiations have concluded at the U.N. summit in Egypt. World leaders took a historic step to help developing countries pay for damages from climate impacts. But did they do enough?
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
World leaders have reached a new agreement on climate change after negotiations ran into overtime at the climate summit in Egypt over the weekend. The deal includes a historic step to help developing countries pay for the rising toll of climate disasters, but will it do enough to stop climate change? Lauren Sommer’s here from NPR’s climate desk to help answer that question. All right. Lauren, so this was a make-or-break moment for developing countries who say richer countries are not doing enough on climate change. Did they get what they want out of these talks?
LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: This was a pretty big step forward for them. You know, developing countries arrived at these negotiations with a very clear demand. They want compensation for the costs of the disasters they’re experiencing, things like rising sea levels and extreme storms and floods. Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate minister, arrived at the talks after flooding in her country displaced millions of people and caused more than $30 billion in damage.
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SHERRY REHMAN: Because if the planet is burning up, we are burning up in the front line. We are the ground zero of that climate change. So we are seeing that burn while we are not contributing to that burn.
SOMMER: You know, unlike richer countries, developing countries have done little to cause climate change. Their pollution is low. So that’s why they fought for compensation for this loss and damage, as it’s called.
MARTÍNEZ: OK, so will richer countries, such as the U.S., actually start to pay out for that soon?
SOMMER: Not exactly soon. Over the next year, countries will meet to figure out what a new fund for climate damages might look like. And there are already tensions over who will pay for it because the U.S. and Europe, they’re the biggest emitters, historically. China is the world’s largest emitter now, and China pushed back against this idea of being on the hook for these payments because, under the U.N. framework, they’re still considered a developing country. The U.S. will also have a challenge getting money for this with a divided Congress because Republicans are not likely to support paying for this kind of climate aid.
MARTÍNEZ: But a Republican delegation did go to these climate talks to argue that there’s a place for fossil fuels. So what did the global agreement have to say about oil and gas?
SOMMER: There was a big push at these talks to get countries to commit to phasing down all fossil fuels. The U.S. supported it. So did many developing countries, about 80 in all. In the end, though, it was not part of the agreement, and that caused a lot of frustration, like from Frans Timmermans, who leads the climate delegation for the European Union.
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FRANS TIMMERMANS: We should have done much more. Our citizens expect us to lead. That means far more rapidly reduce emissions. That’s how you limit climate change.
SOMMER: The pushback came from Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries that didn’t want fossil fuels singled out.
MARTÍNEZ: And I guess the big question is then whether global leaders did enough at these talks. So are emissions going to fall fast enough to make an actual difference on climate change?
SOMMER: Yeah, the short answer is no. The world was not on track when the talks began, and they’re not on track leaving this summit. In a best-case scenario, if the world follows through on their promises, emissions will be about 10% lower in 2030 than they would be without any reductions. But the science says emissions need to fall by 45% by then, and that’s to avoid impacts that get much more dangerous with more warming, you know, things like rising oceans and powerful storms. So, you know, this just ups the stakes for next year because the longer countries wait, the steeper the emissions cuts will need to be if countries want to avoid more catastrophic damage from rising temperatures.
MARTÍNEZ: That’s Lauren Sommer from NPR’s climate desk. Lauren, thanks.
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