The UN Climate Negotiations Are Officially a Disaster and the US Helped Screw It Up

Each year, the United Nations holds a conference on climate change to try to nudge the biggest polluters toward containing warming under well below 2 degrees Celsius. Now, that goal seems more fantastical than ever; the world is on track for the absolute worst-case, business-as-usual scenario of more than twice that warming by the end of the century.

The stakes are high enough that even in a normal year the conference is a grueling marathon of all-night negotiating sessions. But this year’s conference in Madrid, known as COP25, entered into overtime on day 12 as an indisputable mess, as the world moves further away from the goals outlined in Paris in 2015. At the center of this mess, of course, is the United States.

The US, along with Australia, Brazil, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, has helped create a gridlock in this year’s negotiations. The vacuum left by the US has led countries interested in maintaining the status quo—including Australia, a major coal exporter, and Brazil, led by a right-wing government promoting deforestation of the Amazon—to block stronger rules for a global carbon-emissions trading system that are supposed to go in effect next year.

Fundamentally, COP25 brings to a head a widening chasm between the richer, historic polluters that prefer to maintain the status quo and the poorer nations that suffer the most consequences despite contributing the least to the crisis.

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