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Sun, 15 Dec 2019 13:05 - Updated Sun, 15 Dec 2019 13:05

Major states resist calls for bolder action as U.N. climate summit grinds to close

MADRID (Reuters) - A U.N. climate summit ground towards a delayed close on Sunday with major economies reluctant to issue a bold new call for action to combat global warming, prompting sharp criticism from smaller states and environmental activists.

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The Madrid talks were viewed as an indicator of governments’ collective will to crystallise the decisive action scientists say is needed to slash greenhouse gas emissions in time to prevent rising global temperatures from hitting irreversible tipping points.

But with the conference on track to endorse only a modest declaration lacking a clear, unambiguous call for countries to next year raise their targets to cut emissions, the mood was subdued.

“These talks reflect how disconnected country leaders are from the urgency of the science and the demands of their citizens in the streets,” said Helen Mountford, Vice President for Climate and Economics, at the World Resources Institute think-tank. “They need to wake up in 2020.”

Bleary-eyed delegates were expected to conclude the meeting on Sunday.

It had been due to finish at the two-week mark on Friday but has run on for two extra days - a long delay even by the standards of often torturous climate summits.

Earlier, talks president Chile triggered outrage at the summit - known as COP25 - after it drafted a version of the text that campaigners complained was so weak it betrayed the spirit of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The process set out in that deal hinges on countries ratcheting up emissions cuts next year.

A later draft published by Chile did contain language acknowledging the need for greater ambition, observers said.

However, it was still seen as a weak response to the sense of urgency felt by communities around the world afflicted by floods, droughts, wildfires and cyclones that scientists say have become more intense as global temperatures have risen.

“COP25 demonstrated the collective ambition fatigue of the world’s largest (greenhouse gas) emitters,” said Greenpeace East Asia policy advisor Li Shuo.

Scientists say the world will only have a chance of avoiding catastrophic warming if countries move fast to slash emissions under the Paris agreement, which enters its crucial implementation phase next year ahead of another summit in Glasgow.

But the talks become mired in disputes over potential loopholes in rules governing international carbon trading, favoured by wealthier countries to reduce the cost of cutting emissions. Brazil and Australia were among the main holdouts, delegates said.

Carlos Fuller, chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, said the 44 low-lying nations in the bloc wanted strict rules but were being sidelined as larger countries dominated the talks.

“Are we a party to this process or not?,” Fuller asked reporters outside a meeting hall, before delegates began drawn-out formal procedures to bring the summit to a close.

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