Finland minister downbeat on prospects for Warsaw climate breakthrough

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic
Environment Minister Ville Niinistö says the meeting is producing only vague decisions that won't do much to stem climate problems. Kathryn Hansen/NASA photo

Finnish Environment Minister Ville Niinistö is pessimistic about the prospects for concrete decisions at the UN climate talks in Warsaw — which are likely to end late Friday night.

Environment Minister Ville Niinistö, who is also chair of Finland’s Green League, says that only vague political decisions are being made at the meeting, which will not be enough to limit global warming.

The talks, which began 11 days ago, were to have set a deadline for countries to set emission targets within the next year. That now looks unlikely.

“Expectations were modest when we arrived here,” Niinistö told Yle. “We knew that administrative decisions would be made here and that we would then prepare the big political decisions. We’re now heading for a preliminary political decision that will be satisfactory at best. So the climate will not be saved by these decisions.”

Niinistö notes that the EU has tried to pressure reluctant countries to commit to announcing carbon targets next year, but points to China and India among those holding the process back.

China is now the world’s biggest emitter of CO2, with India in fourth place after the United States and Europe.

NGOs walk out in frustration

Gathering some 195 nations, the annual negotiations are meant to pave the way to deal to be signed in Paris by December 2015 to tame climate-altering greenhouse gases emitted by burning coal, oil and gas.

On Thursday around 800 observers from Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and 11 other NGOs walked out of the talks. They said they were protesting a lack of commitment to cutting greenhouse emissions. However Finnish representatives of the groups did not walk out, as they are part of the nation’s official delegation.

UNFCCC members have vowed to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Rich countries have also promised to muster 100 billion dollars a year in climate aid by 2020.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.