Climate Change: US Denounced as ‘Threat to Humanity’ as COP25 Ends Without Deal on Big Polluters’ Responsibility to Frontline Nations

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

Climate action advocates who had spent two weeks demanding strong commitments from the COP 25 climate summit emerged from the conference  Sunday stunned and angry over its conclusion, which was deemed a “lost opportunity” by the United Nations secretary-general.

Because of the refusal of some of the world’s wealthiest countries to commit to more ambitious targets to reduce their climate-warming carbon emissions, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation, and finance to tackle the climate crisis.”

As Common Dreams reported Saturday, the summit was intended to wrap up Friday but negotiations lasted two extra days as delegations debated provisions for carbon markets.

The final deal acknowledged there was a “significant gap” between countries’ pledges to reduce their carbon emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and government’s ability to achieve that reduction.

Countries were urged in the final text to honor their emissions-reduction commitments, but high-polluting countries including China, India, and the U.S. arguedthey saw no need to set more ambitious reduction plans for themselves.

In the final hours of negotiations, Papua New Guinea’s climate envoy, Kevin Conrad, told Euronews, “90% of the participants have not been involved in this process.”

Developing countries especially took issue with a language that the U.S. successfully stonewalled, which would have addressed how the U.S. should be held liable to island nations for the damage the climate crisis has already caused to them, thanks in part to the activities of the world’s biggest carbon emitter historically.

The Tuvalu delegation reportedly said Sunday that the United States’ refusal to compensate other countries for loss and damage “could be considered a crime against humanity.”

“Unfortunately, the new text we adopted this morning does not reflect anything near what we would have wanted. It is the bare minimum and we regret that countries could not agree on a more ambitious text,” said Tina Eonemto Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands.

“With 11 months remaining, only some of the most vulnerable countries are showing the leadership and responsibility required to keep global temperature rise below 1.5C. This contrasts with the countries and actors most responsible for the climate crisis that have shown they have no intention of solving it,” said Sébastien Duyck, Senior Attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).

On social media, observers denounced the U.S. and other wealthy countries which had demonstrated, one critic said, that “the first civilization casualty of the climate crisis is government.”

The global climate action group Friends of the Earth (FOE) noted that the failure to reach a final agreement on carbon markets could be seen as a small victory.

Several larger countries wanted language allowing carbon markets  to “offset” instead of cut emissions, but the debate was pushed to next year’s COP 26 meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.

The decision to put the provision off was made “despite a last minute attempt by developed countries and a few big developing countries to push through a destructive deal that would have flooded the system with old carbon credits and opened the door to huge new trading mechanisms,” said Sara Shaw, climate justice and energy coordinator for FOE. “This is a small victory, with an even bigger fight ahead into COP 26 next year.”

“The bad news is virtually everything else—there is no new finance for loss and damage for developing countries hit hard by climate change, nor is there any agreed provision of long term climate finance,” she added.

In the coming year and at Glasgow next year, as the Paris climate accord officially goes into effect, countries must decide whether they want to stand on the side of millions of climate campaigners who have demonstrated on a weekly basis for over a year and of countries which are bearing the brunt of the climate emergency’s effects—or of big polluters.

“World leaders have a clear choice: stand by the blockers of progress such as the United States and Brazil that prioritize the profits of the fossil fuel polluters and big agribusiness over the well-being of their citizens, or listen to the voices of their people; the scientific community; and youth, indigenous, labor, business, environmental, social justice, faith and other leaders working hard to create a better world for current and future generations,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“It’s time to choose.”

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47 comments

    1. Louis Fyne

      China is no angel either. Can’t mention either without mentioning both.

      The US can disappear this afternoon and the world’s CO2 output and future ascent-path is merely dented. Just saying.

      PS, that sort of I-hate-my-country sentiment gave Labour its biggest loss in 80 years and put in on the edge of extinction at the national level. Just saying.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Everybody that uses fuel in the whole world is complicit, who are we kidding.

        But yeah, it looks bad when our bailiwick is willful ignorance as policy.

        Sure, it was a good ride while it lasted.

        Any American could have confidently took the reins of our internal combustion chariots and driven from here to Kalamazoo and back if we wanted to, no big deal.

        A Roman Emperor would have given his eye teeth and fleet of quadrigas for a Yugo.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Any one person is only as functionally complicit as the percentage of world fuel burned overall that that one person individually burns.

          If Mister A flies ten times as far per year as Mister B, Mister A is ten times more complicit for using air-travel carbon. For example.

          If Mister A uses twice as much fossil carbon overall as Mister B does, then Mister A is twice as functionally carbon-complicit as Mister B is.

          Then there is moral-ethical complicity. The desirable city-centers are gentrifying into Social Class Johannesburgs. The non-rich are being driven out of the city-centers into the emerging Social Class Sowetos all around and beyond the city-centers. If their jobs are in the city-center and they can not afford to live anywhere near the city-center, they move to where they can afford to avoid and prevent their own personal and immediate homelessness.
          And if they then have to drive from their homelessness-prevention dwelling-modules to their places of work, how morally-ethically complicit are they? Really?

          You can’t take the bus if there’s no bus to take. You can’t take the train where no trains go.

          Reply
      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        For every seller, there is a buyer…or something like that.

        In the case of tobacco smoking, the focus was on tobacco companies. Buyers were victims.

        For oil, it is on the oil companies…multinational oil companies. Do we condemn all gas-consumers, directly, or indirectly (riding a gas consuming bus, for example)? We go after producers, again.

        When it comes to producing and consuming nations, can we ignore oil-producing countries, like Iran, Russia, Venezuela, etc?

        From above,

        Countries were urged in the final text to honor their emissions-reduction commitments, but high-polluting countries including China, India, and the U.S. arguedthey saw no need to set more ambitious reduction plans for themselves.

        Nothing here about producing nations. But what can these nations do? Pay a climate change fee to go with emissions reduction commitments on the part of the consuming nations?

        That would be more a ‘it takes a village’ approach – both consuming and producing nations contribute.

        Reply
      3. Massinissa

        I am REALLY tired that whenever people criticize a country, other people are always like “BUT OTHER COUNTRIES ARE REALLY BAD TOO!”

        That’s irrelevant. A dog is a dog regardless of how other dogs there are. Its meaningless deflection.

        Reply
  1. The Rev Kev

    Australia would like to step on stage with Brazil and accept the prize for countries that helped sabotage these talks the most with their intransigence and lack of responsibility. Special mention goes to the Coalition government here. Meanwhile, back in Australia itself, our firefighters today in record heatwave conditions had to deal with fires that were some 70 meters tall – over 200 feet.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/16/australia-took-a-match-to-un-climate-talks-as-back-home-the-country-burned

    Reply
    1. xkeyscored

      It sure does nothing to awaken any sense of optimism I might try persuading myself to feel, or even fake.
      Thirty years ago it was understandable that people questioned climate scientists’ warnings of droughts, heatwaves, floods, storms, rising seas and so on. How many of us knew anything about CO2 infrared absorption bands and all that? And where was the evidence? Not much more than a few computer models running on patchy data.
      Today the evidence is all around us, exactly as predicted. Just about wherever you live in the world, the symptoms of a changing climate are there in your face when you step outdoors, never mind when you watch the nightly news. Records are broken almost weekly in countries on every continent. Yet still we pump increasing amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the air every year, and still we hear that it’s at best a low priority and more of the same is the only way forward.
      Sometimes I despair.

      Reply
    2. jsn

      We are actually burning the world while corporate media accuses fire fighters of being utopians.

      The US won’t lead for at least five more years, even if we’re mind-bendingly lucky and get Sanders in November.

      Real leadership will need to come from somewhere else for the foreseeable y.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        That’s a rather impenetrable wall, wow.

        Best of luck to you, in the opening innings of your summer, and it looks to be the never ending variety.

        Reply
      2. The Heretic

        California better mobilize an army to clear the old growth forests of excessive underbrush. Excessive underbrush is dangerous fuel, and If a fire event hot enough large enough to ignite those majestic trees ever occurs… God help us… and what a horrible loss of such a priceless treasure.

        It will make the australia fire look like a pleasant campfire

        Reply
  2. salvo

    “What is happening to prevent these forest fires, droughts, severe storms, powerful hurricanes, floods? What is happening to lessen them at least? Absolutely nothing!

    “Nothing is going to come out of this COP with regards to doing anything. That was decided on the first day. I heard, that the parties, under the control of the big emitters, made the decision that they are not going to look at any improvement of their national emissions targets.

    “What do you call this? This is a terrible, terrible crime! It is unbelievable what these high-emitting fossil fuel companies are doing. Pope Francis who wrote an Encyclical on ecology a few years ago said that it is a sin against God, and very recently he said it was a crime. That means in moral terms it is evil, right?

    “The countries that are blocking any progress on emissions are acting in the most evil way that anybody could imagine.

    We are looking at the destruction of Earth, of oceans, and land!”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oa13KrOvE2s&t=778s

    according to Hannah Arendt evil is the indifference towards the suffering one is causing to others (in my view, the other means not just a human being) . She said this from the perspective of the experience of the Holocaust

    Reply
  3. Ignacio

    Unfortunately this outcome was expected. Climate Change is not forefront in the agendas of so many including governments, CEOs, managers or citizens. Awareness is not enough and we all succumb to any argument that gives us excuse to do nothing. Remarkably we all enjoy the blaming game and wish to identify the failures of the others call them Bolsonaro, Trump or Thunberg. We are all failing and the future is grim.

    Reply
    1. Joe Well

      Igancio, what are 99% of people supposed to do, seriously?

      I am volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Some other people near me are physically blocking pipeline construction. What else can we do?

      Reply
      1. Ignacio

        Internalize your awareness. From campaigning or voting for politicians compromised with climate action to arguing with friends and family (arguing, better than blaming or lecturing), taking personal decisions that reduce your carbon print. Demonstrating that you are not only aware but responsible within your scope and limits. In my experience most people I talk to haven’t made it internal and resort to blaming someone else. For example “it is not my diesel car, why not changing all those diesel boilers before?” And then we have the general case of “it is because overpopulation”.

        Reply
        1. Joe Well

          Individual actions do not make a dent. Only national policies can help now.

          Also, reinforcing the wrongheaded idea that conservation requires sacrifice (when for instance the vast majority of travel is joyless work travel) is very dangerous.

          Reply
          1. jrs

            We all know only politics/societal level change can provide any sort of solution (to the extent that any solution is possible).

            I understand those who retreat primarily into modifying their own behaviors out of despair at ever changing society and the political situation (I mean the political situation is HORRENDOUS, and even Trump might get reelected, despair is the right word!). And I understand those who do both activism/electoral politics and personal behavior modification just out of an attempt to do 100% of what it is possible for one human being to do.

            But what I will NEVER understand is primarily blaming relatively powerless people (who don’t by any means support or vote for those currently in power) for the actions of the powerful. That’s just whack.

            Reply
          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            It sounds like the chicken-and-the-egg running-in-the-hamster-wheel paradox. If a chicken and an egg are both running as fast as they can in the same hamster wheel, which one will reach the finish line first?

            Reply
        2. jrs

          Blaming someone else is 100% rational. The powerful are making these decisions. How to leverage whatever power the non-powerful may possess IS an interesting question, but we aren’t going to address it by pretending that differences in power don’t exist.

          But all the non-powerful aren’t all on board either? Well of course that’s true (I think it’s mostly a problem with the anglosphere, but it’s true in those countries). And part of this is because they are propagandized heavily by the powerful, and part of it is just because, and sure it may not help, but that doesn’t mean power differentials don’t exist.

          I mean yes if we can amplify the power of those without much it helps, so raise awareness, talk to anyone and everyone about climate change, but ultimately we need to change who has power.

          Reply
      2. Eclair

        Joe Well, I hear you. I have been struggling with the question of ‘what else can we do?’ I put life on hold in 2004 to work on the first Obama campaign (ok, big mistake), actively supported Occupy Denver, attended hearings for a state-sponsored universal health care project, spent weeks at at pipeline and tar sands protest camps in Oklahoma and Utah, prayed for ten days at Standing Rock. Wrote angry, plaintive, excited FaceBook posts. Read NC every day. And got Trump.

        But, I have worked alongside of people I never would have met otherwise; Indigenous leaders, committed young people, old hippies from the ’60’s (well, my kids would call me one of them), trans and gay and lesbian people of all ages. Plus, disillusioned Democrats, Marxists, Socialists and a couple of Communists. But, all united in a vision of how we should be living in harmony with Nature and our four-footed and winged and swimming relatives. And with each other. It has been for me a transformative decade, a time of intense intellectual and, more importantly, spiritual growth.

        What’s next? For me, it’s finding and solidifying local community relationships. Building trust with a core group of people, who are interconnected with other local groups. We are developing a vision of what we want our society to become.

        Your journey has already begun with your work on Bernie’s campaign. Don’t let the relationships you will have built up there dissolve after the election.

        Reply
      3. Louis Fyne

        consume less. meet up w/others who consume less.

        learn how to fix your own stuff—-the car or pre-digital appliances is a great place.

        Don’t be smug to people who are CO2 hogs. One doesn’t attract bears with sanctimony.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Live smarter, not harder.

          Live smarter not hotter in the Summer.

          Live smarter not colder in the Winter.

          At least as much as technologically feasible.

          Once that is achieved, then one lives as much harder as necessary. But that should not be the first choice. Not if one wants to model the tolerable to the neighbors . . . in case they are watching. One doesn’t attract bears with Virtue Hairshirting either.

          Reply
    2. jrs

      Remarkably we all blame the powerful rather than powerless nobodies. Or maybe RATIONALLY we do so!

      I mean there is a case to be made we possess more power than we think we do (I think this especially applies to pressuring local government). But to think someone who would never vote for Trump, right wing governments in the UK, Austrialia etc. etc. and is in despair about the situation, and isn’t rich, has more power than the Trump administration etc. is just DELUSIONAL.

      An analysis of actual power is not a blame game. That psychologizes it excessively, as if it was a family dispute or something, and I don’t think that’s a very accurate analysis of power.

      Reply
  4. Joe Well

    Unfortunately, Americans have heard every kind of denunciation by some hypereducated foreigner and long ago stopped listening. But now the enemy of humanity charge is actually true for the first issue other than nuclear weapons (which so far haven’t killed us).

    How do we get people to listen? The screaming denunciatory tone hasn’t worked but the positive tone of “America can save the world” has been even more badly discredited.

    Reply
    1. pretzelattack

      sue the oil and coal companies into oblivion if they continue to fund the climate change denial they’ve been using since iirc the late 80’s.

      Reply
    2. Susan the Other

      I think the screaming denunciatory tone has worked. FWIW I think we are looking at victory for COP25. Because it was a standoff where there used to be some agreement that failed to meet the urgency. This time there was no agreement to do a little here and a little there. Instead there was a showdown between those who are incrementalists and want to do carbon market boondoggles and those who see carbon markets as a means to escape the necessity for cutting emissions. That’s progress. And, not to get too optimistic, I don’t see the US, the EU, India and China as “doing nothing.” I see us leading the way to reducing manufacturing and adjusting the market ever downward. In fact I think the effort has been huge. A huge reduction. The business statistics don’t really reveal this sea change because they talk about “the markets” – not the underlying manufacturing. Look at the auto industry. Look at the new trade deal with China – it is about necessity – agricultural produce. The other tariffs remain. Because we don’t need all that junk. Science is focused like a laser on cleaner forms of energy. I’m more optimistic with this standoff at COP25 than I have ever been.

      Reply
  5. Synoia

    Humankind, or intelligence as we practice it, appears to be an ecological dead end.

    To Illustrate, SETI has found nothing. If civilizations similar to our were successful, the radio spectrum would be full of civilizations transmissions. It is not. Given our progression, a radio emitting civilization like ours cannot be long lived because of resource depletion.

    Resource depletion is a facet of entropy, which always increases. There is no similar collection of resources near our planet which will sustain life as we know it.

    We’ve used radio for about 100 years, or 100/13,800,000,000 of the life of the universe. The probability of a simultaneous rise and fall of a Radio Emitting civilization like ours is very small.

    If our form of civilization is an ecological dead end, that is it will perish, then the probability of finding another civilization similar to ours is minuscule,

    Another way of putting this is to consider what we know about the history of our planet:

    1. Massive collision which stirred up the composition of the planet
    2. Planet in the liquid water zone, (Water is strange, at room temperature it should be a gas).
    3. Massive collision which produced our Moon as a large fraction of the earth’s mass producing tides.
    4. Several extinction cycles, without which mammals would not have become the moment species, only one of which has produced “intelligence.”
    5. Any dream of colonizing space is impracticable. There are no resources there, and the energy cost to provide resources seem to require the continual use of the energy output of Saudi Arabia.
    6. As a conjecture it appears than any system which becomes very successful appears to have its eventual failure integrated into its success. Aka “Rise and Fall.”

    Reply
    1. Lorenzo Raymond

      Sounds perfectly reasonable. This is too much truth for most people in our civilization to digest unfortunately.

      Reply
    2. Louis Fyne

      For some escapism, the premise of the sci-fi TV series “The Expanse” offers one fictional solution to the conundrum.

      Can’t mention it as it’s a mild spoiler.

      Reply
    3. BlakeFelix

      That there are no resources in space is obviously wrong, but none harvestable with current tech is true enough. We aren’t that far off being able to though, we arguably have the tech to profitably grab an asteroid, some of which have zany amounts of precious metals. It’s quite possible that you are right and we are a flash in the pan, but a great and huge universe is there for adventures if we decide to go bring it to life. Not that that is a reason to trash the earth obviously, I’m just saying it isn’t hopeless and we have a lot more to lose than a couple thousand years on one rock. There is a LOT on the table the way it looks now, and we shouldn’t family blog it up for everyone with our petty greed and laziness. IMO anyway.

      Reply
  6. Grumpy Engineer

    The final deal acknowledged there was a “significant gap” between countries’ pledges to reduce their carbon emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and government’s ability to achieve that reduction.

    Great. Various governments made pledges that we know will be broken. What was the point of this exercise again? Until we know HOW to reduce CO2 emissions by 80+% in a manner that people will actually accept, there is little point in making pledges or plans.

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      Yes. The UN’s IPCC answers that very question—a 500% increase in fission by 2050. And of course that’s dead on arrival to most eco-activists

      https://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf (page 16)

      I point the finger square at activists who will never accept any form of fission and think that the world will be solved by Elon Musk’s battery fairies. just saying

      Reply
      1. jrs

        would you be willing to compromise and talk about radical conservation in addition, or must that forever be off the table? Because it seems it always is.

        Reply
        1. Grumpy Engineer

          Define radical conservation. What steps would actually be taken? Would people have to abandon their cars? Would people have to quit heating their homes in wintertime? Would people have to move?

          Reply
      2. John Wright

        I believe a good part of the opposition to nuclear traces to the USA’s handling of nuclear weapons plants (Hanford, for example) in that bad news was hidden/covered up leaving a large, maybe technically impossible, cleanup.

        https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/05/the-60-year-downfall-of-nuclear-power-in-the-us-has-left-a-huge-mess/560945/

        This causes the public to be skeptical of US government pronouncements about the need for nuclear power.

        There are powerful industries, other than “eco-activists”, that will oppose nuclear power plants in their neighborhood such as the USA Real Estate industry.

        Even nuclear friendly France plans to decrease its use of nuclear power.

        From: https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/france.aspx

        “France derives about 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy, due to a long-standing policy based on energy security. Government policy is to reduce this to 50% by 2035.”

        “France is the world’s largest net exporter of electricity due to its very low cost of generation, and gains over €3 billion per year from this.”

        “The country has been very active in developing nuclear technology. Reactors and especially fuel products and services have been a significant export.
        About 17% of France’s electricity is from recycled nuclear fuel”

        Perhaps you are ascribing too much power to “eco-activists”.

        They seem rather ineffectual in influencing much conduct in the USA in any other environmental cause (more mass transit, lower consumption, lower use of plastics, lower CO2 production).

        Reply
        1. sharonsj

          I’d also trace the opposition to Chernobyl and Fukushima. Rather than nuclear, first choices have to be solar, wind or hydro. And I’d like to know what France is doing with all the nuclear waste?

          Reply
  7. Eclair

    “World leaders have a clear choice: …. ” First of all, stop conferring on them the honorary title of ‘world leaders!’ With few exceptions, these people are only obstructing the mechanisms for change. They are ‘leading’ us nowhere.

    Reply
  8. Anonymouse

    It does seem that nothing short of war, the overwhelming use of force, will be enough to curb emissions. The whole process is premised on changing the minds of those who never will do so: the largest polluters who have the most to lose. And war is simply too impractical, unwinnable. There is nobody to wage it.

    Perhaps Synoia’s comment above is true: perhaps humanity truly has no way of transcending its resource limits and is inevitably an ecological dead end.

    Reply
  9. Mael Colium

    The only way to avoid climate catastrophe in the current capitalistic world is to build into the pricing of production the external costs which are currently kicked down the road by producers. This can be done by all Governments of all nations agreeing to a taxation formulae which no longer subsidises producers directly or indirectly. The alternative is social and economic chaos at a global level.

    Unfortunately, this will only occur when we are past the point of no return and TINA kicks in, not only because of the infective nature of capitalism, but also by a lack of coherence among the nations of the world. COP25 has shown us that if nothing else. Meanwhile, stop talking, as it too adds to carbon emissions.

    Reply
  10. CoryP

    We really do seem to be beyond screwed at this point.
    I’m not sure I would have felt any better if all the politicians finally saw the light at this late date.

    Reply

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