“Hope and frustration are close together”

ÜThey were all exhausted after the marathon sessions at the world climate conference, which had dragged on all night from Saturday to Sunday. When the result finally came out around 6 a.m. after 36 hours of overtime, it was hard to tell from the tense faces whether it was disappointment, joy at what was achieved or simply relief that it was over. Of course, the emotional states also had something to do with the respective negotiating positions, and like much of what is in the final document, these often did not differ fundamentally from the front lines of the past, especially at last year’s conference in Glasgow.

The EU and allied states wanted to achieve an acceleration in the reduction of greenhouse gases, the “mitigation”. They insisted on the expansion of renewable energies and the reduction of fossil energies, they wanted to cement the global warming target of no more than 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, and they pushed for an ambitious work program that would run until 2030, if possible, to comply with, tighten up and control the national Reduction contributions from the industrialized countries (NDC). Annual reduction targets were desired, specifically tailored to the individual emission fields, e.g. for traffic, industry, power plants and buildings. Something similar already exists in the EU and in Germany.

Beijing wants to continue to be treated as an emerging country

At the other end of the spectrum were the usual slowdown countries such as the oil and gas producers, above all Saudi Arabia, and China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, and its allies; often states that are dependent on the money or the economic power of the People’s Republic. For years, the Chinese have blocked or watered down anything that could cause them to lose their privileged status as an emerging economy and rise to the ranks of the industrialized countries, that is, to move from a taker to a giver.

The fact that there were only dry compromises in “Scharm” is also due to the fact that Beijing sees itself as a coming superpower and always claims that as a strengthened “born again nation” it wants to take on more responsibility in a “multipolar world”, but that it actually does acts as a recipient country rather than as the second largest economy in the world.

Somewhere between the two poles of the EU and China, the USA is acting, not wanting to release its big competitor in the Far East from responsibility through overzealousness and playing for time when it comes to possible new commitments of its own. This also has to do with the fact that international climate policy is strongly determined by Congress, not by Democratic President Joe Biden and his chief negotiator John Kerry, so that Republicans have great influence.

Hardly any progress on the “Glasgow Climate Pact”

One must not forget: its last President Donald Trump had terminated the Paris climate agreement of 2015 and withdrew from the world conferences called “COP”; in this respect, the return of the USA to the climate stage in 2021 was already viewed positively. Similar to the appearance of future Brazilian President Ignacio Lula da Silva this year.

India, another population, economy and carbon heavyweight, played a bewildering role at COP27 in Egypt. Last year, the government watered down the final declaration together with China. Coal combustion should not be phased out (“phase out”), but only be phased out (“phase down”). This time, however, New Delhi proposed phasing out all fossil fuels at once, and was backed by the EU, US, UK and many other nations, big and small.

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