Campaigners target coal at UN climate summit

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KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 4, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Campaign groups representing
citizens from across the world demanded Tuesday that big energy leaves coal
in the ground as COP24 host Poland pushed for protections allowing it to
continue burning fossil fuel.

With nations locked in UN climate talks aimed at heading off runaway global
warming, many parts of the world are already dealing with the storms, floods,
fires and droughts our heating planet will suffer.

Man-made emissions have increased annually since the landmark 2015 Paris
climate accord was struck and with political progress slowing, people who
will bear the biggest burden issued their clearest plea to date: end fossil
fuels now.

“The urgency of the climate crisis is very real on the ground because our
people are suffering the different impacts of extreme weather,” said Lidy
Nacpil, co-coordinator of the Asia Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development.

“Crops will be destroyed not just by flooding and rain but also by
droughts. Yet this urgency is not reflected in the actions of governments,”
she told AFP.

The People’s Demands (https://www.peoplesdemands.org/) initiative has been
signed by nearly 300,000 people from over 120 nations.

It calls on richer states — who are responsible for most greenhouse gas
emissions — to honour their promises to help fund at-risk countries to adapt
to climate change, and developed economies to be fully green by 2030.

They also want a ban on fracking and an immediate, worldwide moratorium on
new fossil fuel exploration and extraction.

The UN’s independent panel of climate experts in October issued its
starkest findings yet: emissions from fossil fuels must be slashed by half
within 12 years in order to hit the Paris goals of limited temperature rises.

But most Western economies remain heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

Poland, which gets roughly 80 percent of its electricity from coal, this
week called for nations to weave measures into the UN climate framework that
critics fear would allow it to keep polluting for decades.

President Andrzej Duda used his address at the COP opening Monday to say
Poland’s dependence on coal “does not clash with climate protection and
progress achieved in this vein”.

Poland and other fossil-fuel reliant economies say they need a gradual and
“just transition” towards renewables that protects miners and national energy
security.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told officials at negotiations
Tuesday that “the dialogue with industries is sometimes difficult and
complex”.

“But we believe that even in the oil and gas industry, there is a growing
conscience that the present trend is not sustainable.”

– ‘Detached from reality’ –

Paris committed countries to limiting temperature rises to well below two
degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) and to the safer cap of 1.5C if possible.

But a UN body warned last month that the gap between greenhouse gas
emissions and levels needed to hit the Paris targets was bigger than ever
before.

Air pollution alone is now estimated to kill as many as nine million people
every year.

“More and more communities are understanding the need to transform our
energy systems and their immediate reason is they can see how damaging coal
plants or oil drilling are,” said Nacpil.

“It’s becoming a popular cry that there has to be a swift transition away
from these kinds of energy.”

Groups representing big energy are present at COP negotiations and
environmentalists fear they may embolden nations to stick by old coal.

Jesse Bragg, of the Corporate Accountability group, told AFP fossil fuel
influence at UN climate talks had “succeeded in making what goes on in those
rooms very, very detached and different from the needs of the world.”