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The U.S. Has Almost No Official Presence at COP25 But Is Still "Obstructing Any Progress"

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This week, Democracy Now! is broadcasting from inside the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain, where representatives from almost 200 countries have gathered to negotiate solutions to the climate crisis. Known as COP25 for "conference of parties," the summit offers a rare opportunity for all countries, especially those on the front-lines of the climate crisis, to have an equal say in negotiations. It comes four years after the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to "well below 2 degrees Celsius," or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But as the summit heads into its final days, representatives from the Global South say that the United States and other rich countries are obstructing the talks and trying to avoid their obligation to assist poorer countries already facing the worst effects of the climate crisis.

We speak with Harjeet Singh, climate change specialist at ActionAid, and Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want. He has worked on climate change issues for over a decade. "The U.S. is in all streams of discussions that are happening, be it finance, be it loss and damage," he says. "They're everywhere. And everywhere they are obstructing and not allowing any progress to happen."

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we're broadcasting from inside the U.N. Climate Change Conference here in Madrid, Spain. That's the U.N. climate summit, where representatives from almost 200 countries have gathered to negotiate solutions to the climate crisis. The climate summit, known as COP25 for "conference of parties" over the last 25 years, offers a rare opportunity for all countries to have an equal say in negotiations. The Madrid summit comes four years after the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius -- that's 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But as the summit heads into its final days, representatives from the Global South say the United States and other rich countries are obstructing the talks and trying to avoid their obligation to assist poorer countries already facing the worst effects of the climate crisis.

We'll be joined in a minute by Harjeet Singh, climate change specialist at ActionAid from New Delhi, India, but first we want to turn to a clip from his speech here at the COP, COP25.

HARJEET SINGH: This process was designed to deliver global justice. This is a place where Tuvalu is as powerful as European Union or United States. But the constant bullying of these big countries are making this process worse than useless. Their bullying hasn't stopped. They're not letting us make any progress in this space. There is no substitute for action. And what rich countries are doing, they are creating an illusion of action by just talking. When we demand action, they offer reports. When we demand money, they offer workshops. That is not going to help people who are suffering right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Harjeet Singh joins us now, along with Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want. He has worked on climate change issues for over a decade.

We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! It seems every U.N. climate summit we get to speak to each of you. Harjeet, you were speaking here at the climate summit on Monday. But I think for people to understand around the world what is taking place, especially as in the United States people understand that President Trump is pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, that they may think they have nothing to do with these negotiations. But, in fact, isn't it true that they are central to these negotiations?

HARJEET SINGH: Absolutely. So, at this very moment, what negotiators are discussing is how to deal with climate emergency. And what we call climate emergency on the outside is basically defined as loss and damage, as a third pillar of climate action. And this is a very crucial moment where they are putting concrete proposals on the table to help people who are suffering climate crisis. As we sit here, 45 million people in Africa are facing the wrath of climate change. And that is the reality. Women and children are far more vulnerable and are facing food destabilization situation at this very moment. And the drought that they are facing is worse than 35 years.

Now, this system, United Nations system on climate change, is broken, has not been able to help these people. And this particular COP is about creating that system so that money starts flowing in. And United States, which is not yet out of Paris Agreement, so in a way is serving the notice period, is obstructing any progress that we could have made here in fixing that broken system. It's not allowing any process that can take us closer to mobilizing money to help people who are facing climate emergency.

AMY GOODMAN: According to the climate news source Heated, the United States is circulating a "loss and damages" proposal here at COP that would make it even more difficult for poorer countries to receive financial support to recover from droughts, floods and other climate emergencies. What exactly is the U.S. proposing?

HARJEET SINGH: The proposal that U.S. is right now only sharing with heads of delegation and not putting it formally is a way to arm-twist developing countries, that if you want any decision on loss and damage process which can help people, you have to agree that we will continue to have a seat at the table, even when we are out of Paris Agreement. And even more worse is that you have to make sure that the liability waiver is extended to United States and its polluting industries. This is worst I have seen in the last 10 years of me attending negotiations. It can't get worse than that. It's arm-twisting and bullying at the highest level, where United States, which is not meeting its emission targets, is not giving any money to Green Climate Fund and not now even letting a system to be created that can help people who face climate emergency now. I mean, look at the audacity of United States, the way they are behaving in these negotiations.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this year, Mozambique was struck by two cyclones, Idai and Kenneth. Over a thousand people were killed, millions displaced. This was the first time in recorded history the country was hit by two powerful tropical cyclones in the same season. Cyclone Kenneth was the strongest storm ever to make landfall in Mozambique. In the wake of Idai, the International Monetary Fund loaned Mozambique $118 million for reconstruction. Sarah-Jayne Clifton, director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, blasted the international community for forcing Mozambique to borrow money to cope with a disaster brought on by climate change. She told Climate Home News, quote, "What's happening to Mozambique is going to happen to other places more frequently. Unless there is a more systematic approach for tackling debt problems of poor countries, there is going to be a climate debt trap spiraling out of control.... A climate debt trap. Harjeet, explain.

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Democracy Now!  is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Pioneering the largest public media collaboration in the U.S., Democracy Now! is broadcast on (more...)
 
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