PARIS - The United Nations’ longest climate talks ever ended in Madrid Sunday with countries agreeing to increase carbon cutting commitments next year, but postponing clear-cut decisions in key areas.
Critics accused several of the world’s biggest polluters, including the United States, of blocking progress to address a growing climate crisis.
There was some progress and compromise. The European Union, with the exception of Poland, pledged this past week to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Delegates agreed to enhance emissions cutting plans. But they failed to agree on clear targets, rules for carbon markets or financing for poorer nations to adapt and respond to climate change. That adds pressure for next year, when the 2015 Paris climate agreement begins to be implemented.
"We did not get there this time, but we have progressed. As many others have expressed, we were disappointed that we have once again failed to find agreement," Costa Rica's delegation said.
The talks were backdropped by a series of alarming findings on the growing impact of climate change on our oceans, forests and glaciers — even as greenhouse gases continue to rise to record levels. Critics accuse big-emission countries like Brazil, Australia and the United States, which is set to leave the climate pact next year, of blocking progress in Madrid.
As the talks overshot their Friday deadline, frustrated activists dumped manure outside the conference center.
"What we are seeing come out of these talks right now should set off alarm bells," said David Waskow, international climate director for Washington-based World Resources Institute. "The biggest emitters are not moving at the pace and scale that they need to to get us on track for a safe world."
World Wildlife Fund also accused a number of big polluters of holding the talks hostage, saying their position sharply contrasted with science, real-life evidence and rising calls from the street for more climate action, especially from young people.
Earlier in the week, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg accused countries of clever accounting to get around emissions cuts.
Speaking to delegates as the Madrid talks wrapped up, another youth leader, Sophia Mulwick from Norway, urged leaders to do more.
"Youth are finished being your inspiration. Please use our solutions. Take the right decisions for our future and all the people suffering the consequences of climate change today," she said.
She urged countries not to let young people down.