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Climate of talks improve…rest of world still waiting

The UN negotiations on climate change that took place in Copenhagen last year were acrimonious — riven by distrust, dispute, mismanagement and secrecy. The result – which was not even fully agreed — was only secured by heads of state getting involved in line-by-line text drafting and ministers negotiating through the night and well into the next day.

Now, just over 6 months later, the first really substantive resumption of talks on climate change is taking place in Bonn, Germany and things are both very different and oddly the same.

The tone of negotiations is much improved — country negotiators are listening to each other, responding to new ideas, accepting suggestions for moving the process forward and generally the atmosphere is one of cooperation and progress. The backroom intrigues of Copenhagen are a distant memory.

But the gulf between different countries’ positions is as big as ever. Much of the constructive engagement is on relatively minor issues — leaving the major areas of difference untouched.

Progress from here will rely on a number of things — but most importantly movement must be seen on rich countries providing genuinely new money to compensate poor countries for the damage that climate change is already causing, and to allow them to transform their economies. A difficult ask in today’s economic context, but a necessary one if the millions of poor people affected by climate change are to see a reasonable future.

Many countries — including the UK — have already played down the chances for sealing a new climate change deal this year.

This may be a fair reflection of political realities and the gap between different country positions. But Save the Children has estimated that around 250,000 children die every year from climate change. Action cannot happen too soon.

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