UN climate change conferences: Action on the hot air needed

UN climate change conferences: Action on the hot air needed
Mark Carney, UN special envoy on climate change

Here’s a question that might be useful for readers who organise pub quiz nights, and for those who are interested in the future of our planet.

What links these places: Bonn, Buenos Aires, Marrakech, New Delhi, Kyoto, Montreal, Bali, Doha, Cancún, Paris, Katowice and Madrid? They have been the venues of some of the no fewer than 25 United Nations climate change conferences that have been held since 1995.

Attended by thousands of politicians, civil servants, climatologists and commentators — most of whom would not have travelled by solar-powered, carbon-neutral yachts — all of them have emitted mega-tons of hot air but very little on what has to be done to deal with peril facing every part of our world.

The 2019 conference in Madrid was no exception.

After two weeks of debate characterised by regional-interest conflicts, it settled on half-hearted pledges on action to deliver previously promised reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Many governments, including those of a number of EU states, pressed for a tough text calling on universal action to cut emissions more widely and earlier those already agreed.

No tough text came, while decisions on controlling an international carbon market were dodged and put aside for next year’s conference — the 26th — in Glasgow.

Mark Carney, the departing Bank of England governor and now a UN special envoy on climate change, has warned companies that the “tragedy on the horizon” could reduce fossil fuel assets to ashes on balance sheets and urged political leaders to tackle future problems today.

Let’s hope he can make a difference next November in Glasgow.

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