World

Chile blames 'big polluters' for 'insufficient' agreements out of climate summit

Chile's president is defending his nation in the wake of the international climate change negotiations at COP25, saying it did all it could, but four big polluting countries got in the way.

2-week conference end with no agreement on regulating global carbon markets

Carolina Schmidt, Chile's environment minister and COP25 president, came under fire on Saturday for circulating a draft text that campaigners said threatened to undermine the landmark 2015 Paris agreement on carbon reduction. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Chile defended itself on Monday against criticism it was too weak in presiding over international climate change negotiations, saying it did all it could but that four big polluting countries got in the way.

President Sebastien Pinera described as "insufficient" the agreements reached on Sunday after marathon talks, but said it was not for the host's lack of trying, and criticism of its role was unfair.

"You have to convince 195 countries, and so if just one opposes, there is no agreement," Pinera said in comments to local media. When it came to rules governing carbon markets, he said: "The four big countries didn't accept the proposals."

Pinera said he personally lobbied other presidents to reach a deal, but would not identify who he called and did not name the countries he said blocked the deal.

"The countries that pollute the most did not live up to the challenge and remain in debt," he said in a subsequent tweet.

Diplomats have listed Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United States among those resisting bolder action.

Schmidt, shown at the close of the climate change conference on Sunday, 'did all that was humanly possible' to reach agreements among countries that met in Madrid, said Chilean President Sebastien Pinera, describing the agreements as 'insufficient.' (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Chile had stepped in to preside over the talks after Brazil pulled out following the election victory of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro. It was then forced to host them more than 10,000 kilometres away in Spain due to unrest at home.

Chilean Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt, president of the UN summit known as COP25, came under fire on Saturday for circulating a draft text that campaigners said threatened to undermine the landmark 2015 Paris agreement on carbon reduction.

"If this text is accepted, the low-ambition coalition will have won the day," David Waskow of the World Resources Institute said in the cavernous venue at the time.

Greenpeace International said the Chileans were being "irresponsibly weak."

Pinera said it was not fair to blame her.

"She did all that was humanly possible," he said.

By extending the talks, Schmidt salvaged a face-saving compromise text during late-night discussions. It cited the "urgent need" to close the gap between existing emissions pledges and the temperature goals of the Paris agreement to avert catastrophic global warming.

Future challenges

Schmidt said she was "sad and pained" at how nations had failed to find consensus, but the issue of carbon markets — a key sticking point — had tied down the last four summits.

"Neither the will nor the political maturity yet exists from some of the big emitting countries to be able to reach agreement on this," she told a news conference.

Laurence Tubiana, CEO of European Climate Foundation, said to win commitments more in line with the warnings of climate science, the next host would need to build broad alliances and force those blocking progress to explain themselves openly.

"It means deploying an intensive diplomatic effort right now."

Britain will preside over the next summit, in Glasgow in November 2020.

Challenges include Brazil's insistence on a carbon accounting approach others say is baffling and Australia's insistence on carrying over old credits to meet its Paris emissions targets, which others see as an accounting trick.

Brazil and developing countries, in turn, accused the European Union and other industrialized economies of stymieing progress on financial aid for poorer countries, saying they could not be more ambitious on their climate goals unless they received more assistance.

Chile did manage to coax some governments into joining a new Ambition Alliance of mostly small countries, cities and businesses committed to slashing emissions.

But the world's poorest and most vulnerable nations felt marginalized as Chile tried to force deadlocked major players into a compromise.

Belize's Carlos Fuller, who represented small island states, told Reuters he was forced to assert himself by striding into a side-gathering of delegates from the United States, Brazil and European Union so they would be sure to see him.

"We should have been invited into that room," he said.