EU commissioner: The annual U.N. climate talks are nearing irrelevance

After a disappointing two weeks in Warsaw, some are questioning the utility of the international meetings

By Lindsay Abrams

Published November 25, 2013 3:32PM (EST)

After two weeks of attempted negotiations, the U.N. climate talks at Warsaw limped/ambled their way to a wholly unsatisfying conclusion. The missed opportunity, Connie Hedegaard, Europe's climate commissioner, told the Associated Press, raises the issue of whether we should even be having the annual gatherings:

As the gavel dropped, negotiators emerged with a vague road map on how to prepare for a global climate pact they're supposed to adopt in two years — work Hedegaard said will be crucial in answering whether the world still needs the U.N. process.

"I think that it has to deliver a substantial answer to climate change in 2015," Hedegaard said. "If it fails to do so, then I think this critical question will be asked by many more."

The two years Hedegaard gives the U.N. to prove it's still relevant may be a a tall order. It was only after an all-night session of marathon compromising that this year's participants were able to settle on a vague and underwhelming deal: the nearly 200 countries involved agreed they'd start preparing proposals to help curb global greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the 2015 meeting in Paris. Modest agreements were also made to curb deforestation and assist vulnerable countries threatened by extreme weather -- albeit in a way that was "vague enough to make rich countries feel comfortable that they weren't going to be held liable for climate catastrophes in the developing world."

Jake Schmidt, a climate expert at the Natural Resource Defense Council, concurred with Hedegaard, saying, "If we go to Paris and say we didn't completely get this done I think ... the world will draw the conclusion you really cannot trust the U.N. to deliver on this process."

Lindsay Abrams

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Climate Change Climate Talks Greenhouse Gas United Nations