KATOWICE, Poland (Reuters) - Talks billed as the most important U.N. conference since the Paris 2015 deal on climate change are in their crucial final week in Katowice, capital of Poland’s Silesian coal mining district.
The aim is to meet an end-of-year deadline for agreeing a rule book on how to enforce action to limit further warming of the planet.
Below is a flavour of the mood around the event, held in a sprawl of temporary passageways and meeting rooms next to the “Spodek”, a flying-saucer-shaped sports and concert venue built on the site of the former Katowice coal mine.
Ministers and heads of state from around 130 countries have been arriving and will start to give opening speeches this afternoon. Meanwhile, their negotiating teams are working behind closed doors to have a draft text on the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement ready by 1700 GMT.
Yesterday, France’s Laurent Fabius, who presided over the 2015 Paris Agreement, said he would be surprised if there was no deal struck on a rulebook by the end of the week but the level of ambition was an issue.
“Taking into context recent (scientific) reports we have had, the numbers are bad and we are not on track ... so we have to be more ambitious. That is where the negotiations will make or break in the final hours,” he told reporters.
The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has called for a new “loss and damage fund” to ensure payments from rich, industrialised nations go to those most affected by climate disasters.
“The idea of taxing the fossil fuel industry is an economically sensible approach, and a moral approach,” said Vanuatu’s foreign minister, Ralph Regenvanu.
Before the talks, Vanuatu announced it would explore taking legal action against fossil fuel companies and countries for their role in causing climate change.
Loss and damage compensation has always been a sticking point at U.N. climate talks.
In a central zone of the sprawling venue, countries have “pavilions” where they showcase their low-carbon efforts.
The Polish pavilion has been described as “provocative” by some environmentalists because one side has cages of coal on the wall with the slogan “black to green transformation” - implying coal can be used in a way that significantly reduces its carbon emissions.
Qatar is usually in the lavish Gulf Cooperation Council pavilion but has its own, smaller one this year. The country is in a diplomatic rift with other members and its leader boycotted a GCC summit on Sunday.
Last week, Qatar said it would quit OPEC to focus on gas, in a swipe at Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the oil exporting group which is trying to show unity in tackling an oil price slide.
Reporting by Nina Chestney, Bate Felix and Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Robin Pomeroy