BARCELONA – As young people took to the streets around the world again on Friday urging more action to curb climate change, analysts warn that the United Nations climate conference taking place over the coming two weeks will likely fall short of their expectations.

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has inspired a global movement of children who skip school on Fridays to hold marches and rallies demanding politicians treat climate change as an “emergency” and boost efforts to reduce planetwarming emissions.

'People power' reminds climate change delegates of impatience on the streets

On Friday, groups of young people in the United States were planning a “Black Friday Strike”, from Los Angeles to New York, to boycott the celebration of consumer discount shopping and to advocate for “a change to business-as-usual to confront the climate crisis”.

About six in 10 Americans say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming and 23 percent say they are “very worried”, according to a survey conducted by Yale and George Mason universities in March and April.

Andrew Steer, who heads the US-based World Resources Institute, noted the rise of “people power” over the past year, with more than 7 million turning out for protests in September as the UN chief convened a summit to drive climate action.

“The issue is rising on the agenda, both in the US and globally,” Steer told journalists ahead of the Dec 2-13 UN talks in Madrid, known as COP25.

In Britain and the US, political contenders have taken part in public debates on climate change ahead of planned elections.

Meanwhile, a growing number of governments at national and city level are declaring “climate emergencies”, joined on Thursday by the European Parliament.

Others, including small-island developing states and some Latin American and African countries, have pledged to work on cutting their emissions to net-zero by the middle of the century.

But ahead of COP25, climate experts said the biggest-emitters – including the US – would likely stay “missing in action” as opposition to winding down polluting fossil fuels sharpens among right-wing policymakers.

Former Costa Rica climate negotiator Monica Araya said the “very best” that could be expected from COP25 was “a promise” that countries would upgrade their national climate action plans by the end of 2020, in line with the 2015 Paris agreement.

But that outcome would likely seem out of step with the “more angry, urgent moral narrative” shaped by youth-led popular climate strikes around the world since 2018, she noted.

“Now more than ever in this COP, we will see a very big gap between the negotiations inside and the emotions outside,” said Araya, founder of clean development platform Costa Rica Limpia.

Ahead of the Madrid talks, Spain’s Minister for the Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said the meeting should mark “the start of a decisive year for climate ambition”.

It needed to lay the foundation for countries in 2020 to commit to cut emissions more steeply, as scientists advise, with the aim of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 C, the lower goal set in the Paris accord, she said.

“This is what societies are demanding,” Ribera said, noting that efforts would be made to “try to ensure that the demands by young people to raise climate ambition echo throughout COP25”.

Reuters – afp

(China Daily 11/30/2019 page7)

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