x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Cancun climate talks in race with the clock

Negotiators at the UN's climate change summit were searching for solutions yesterday as the climate conference entered its final hours.

CANCUN, Mexico // Negotiators at the UN's climate change summit were searching for compromises yesterday as the conference entered its final hours.

Among the main debating points at the gathering on the Mayan Riviera were:

- Whether the Kyoto Protocol, the only existing treaty on climate, will be extended after 2012, when it expires.

- Whether China and the United States, the world's top two polluters, will reduce their carbon emissions.

- How to create a billion-dollar fund to help the world's poorest and most vulnerable states.

"There is still a deal to be done," said Lykke Friis, Denmark's climate and energy minister. "We could also end up with a belly flop."

Intense negotiations were in progress yesterday and were expected to continue today and possibly even early tomorrow. Today is scheduled to be the final day of the summit.

Meanwhile, ministers and heads of state have been addressing the conference plenary, stating their positions on how the world should share the burden on reducing emissions.

The UAE's delegation of more than 20 people from government departments and other agencies is being led by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the minister of foreign affairs. Yesterday, he for the first time addressed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"Emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise year after year but we don't believe the situation is entirely bleak," Sheikh Abdullah said. "The opportunity [to act] has not passed. The UAE is trying to play its part in this context."

He went on to list domestic efforts by the UAE, including Abu Dhabi's target for a seven per cent share of renewable energy by 2020 and its plan for nuclear power generation to provide a quarter of energy needs by the same date.

He also mentioned Abu Dhabi's new energy efficiency building standards, the construction of the carbon-neutral Masdar city, and the emirate's plan to capture carbon dioxide emissions from industry and bury them underground. The UAE is also one of the most generous donors to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to the negative consequences of climate change, he said.

Yesterday's official proceedings opened with a statement by Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, who compared rich countries' inaction on climate to genocide.

Millions of families lack water, he said, and "some of them have no water because of climate change and because of warming. If this family has not water because of climate change, they have no food, and then they have no work, no income."

"Let us assume our responsibilities, let us make history here in Cancun."

* The National, with agencies