November 26, 2019 / 11:36 AM / 9 days ago

Summit host Spain chides 'silent complicity' in climate crisis

MADRID (Reuters) - Climate summit host Spain criticised some nations’ “silent complicity” with the global environmental crisis and said the upcoming U.N. meeting must not be treated as a “trade fair.”

Spain's Energy and Environment Minister Teresa Ribera poses before an interview with Reuters at the ministry headquarters in Madrid, Spain, November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Susana Vera

With wildfires from the United States and Australia plus flooding in Europe all being linked to climate change, public pressure is rising on governments to find urgent solutions at the United Nations’ summit in Madrid on Dec. 2-13.

Spain’s acting energy minister told Reuters delegates must combine enthusiasm with credible proposals to implement the Paris pact on curbing emissions enough to limit temperature rises to within 1.5-2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.

“This is not a trade fair, a showcase of who is doing more, it is about consolidating what is being done to be able to do more,” Teresa Ribera said at her ministry in Madrid.

“Sadly, those making progress get criticised more than the people who stay silent,” said the 50 year-old, who headed the France-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations think-tank before becoming a minister under Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez.

“The worst thing in a situation like ours is silent complicity. And that is all around us.”

To the frustration of environmental activists and many scientists, there is high-level global disagreement over the causes and solutions for environmental warming.

President Donald Trump has begun withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has taken heat for accelerated rainforest destruction.

“It has not been easy to work with Brazil on this subject in recent years,” acknowledged Ribera, warning that losing Amazon forest cover would be a “carbon bomb” for the world.

“But things are changing and there is a responsiveness which we must work with.”

China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, has made no statements against the Paris Agreement but is bringing back projects related to new coal-fired plants, she said.

“This is worrying. All the effort to close thermoelectric plants in the rest of the world would reach a dead end if China started building new plants again.”

A U.N.-led global trading system for carbon emissions would be excellent, but must not be rushed, Ribera said.

Her country stepped in to host the summit after riots over inequality prompted Chile to withdraw.

That change obliged Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who refuses to fly, to set out on a catamaran across the Atlantic.

Ribera said she expected the 16 year-old to arrive on time.

Reporting by Isla Binnie and Belen Carreno; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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