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Sizzling weather may help 2018 U.N. climate talks in Poland

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By Reuters
Sizzling weather may help 2018 U.N. climate talks in Poland
People watch a wildfire raging in the town of Rafina, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis   -   Copyright  Alkis Konstantinidis(Reuters)

WARSAW (Reuters) – Sizzling weather this summer will put pressure on almost 200 governments to reach a deal in Poland in December on the details of a global plan to limit climate change, the incoming president of the U.N. talks said.

Environment ministers will meet in Katowice, the heart of Poland’s coal-producing region, Silesia, to agree rules for the 2015 Paris climate accord. That accord set a sweeping goal of ending the fossil fuel era this century, but the text was vague on details.

“Paris is empty without Katowice,” Michal Kurtyka, a former deputy energy minister of Poland who will preside at the Dec. 3-14 talks, told Reuters.

Poland, which generates most of its electricity from coal, is hosting the annual U.N. climate talks for the third time.

“The Paris agreement includes certain principles. However, the way they will be implemented will be described in the Katowice package. So the more detailed and concrete it is, the better,” Kurtyka said.

Hot weather this summer that set off wildfires from California to Greece has made officials more determined to reach a detailed deal in Katowice, he said.

“For sure this is something that affected millions of people all over the world.(…) Societies in particular countries will act on politicians. I think that this will increase political determination for the solutions to be as concrete and as detailed as possible,” Kurtyka said.

Many issues remain to be discussed at an extra session in Bangkok next month, he said, where “a vision of the whole should be built”.

Some of the sticking points include the way the countries report on their emission reductions, adapting to climate change and financing tools, he said.

Environmentalists have complained about foot-dragging by the countries involved. French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot resigned on Tuesday in frustration over sluggish progress on climate goals.

Writing the “rule book” – formally known as “implementation guidelines” – is the biggest test of the international commitment to the Paris Agreement since U.S. President Donald Trump said in June last year that he would pull out.

“If some countries, such as for example the U.S., conclude that they are not ready to follow the Paris agreement direction, then I’d assume that all other countries will seek to keep their presence so that they are part of the agreement,” Kurtyka said.

“I will strive for all parties to become signatories, whereas the question I will ask at the end will be: Do I hear a voice of objection? I hope not”.

The choice of Poland for the climate talks is itself a point of contention, because of its dependence on coal. In February, the European Union’s top court said the country had failed to uphold air-quality standards, one of several environmental conflicts between Poles and the EU.

“The opinions that Poland is not a reliable climate talks host due to the significant share of coal in power production, are formulated from the EU perspective. The world is more diverse than that,” Kurtyka said.

Kurtyka was appointed the climate talks president in April. He replaced the former Environment Minister Jan Szyszo, who had been initially named to preside at the conference in Katowice.

Szyszko had approved the increased logging in the ancient Bialowieza Forest back in 2016, another of Poland’s conflicts with the European Union.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; editing by Alister Doyle, Larry King)