Nations begin 3 weeks of grueling climate talks online

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FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2021 file photo, emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Independence, Mo. Officials from around the globe begin three weeks of grueling online climate talks organized by the U.N. climate office in Bonn, Germany. The talks will involve grappling with a number of thorny climate and political issues, without the benefit of face-to-face meetings, due to pandemic restrictions. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

BERLIN – Officials from around the globe begin three weeks of grueling climate talks Monday that will involve grappling with a number of thorny political issues without the benefit of face-to-face meetings, due to pandemic restrictions.

The U.N. climate office in Bonn, Germany, has designed a schedule of virtual sessions that will see negotiators share the burden of joining meetings before dawn, during the afternoon or late at night — depending on their respective time zones.

“This is not ideal at all,” said Marianne Karlsen, who chairs one of the two international bodies holding talks. “We wanted to have all these interactions that we have when we are in an in-person setting, but we do not have any other options.”

Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, who chairs the second body at the talks, said that although negotiators would not be able to encourage each other “with a friendly tap on the shoulder,” he hopes that ”we're going to be engaging on substantive issues and really try to make progress."

Negotiations will focus on resolving some of the outstanding issues arising from the 2015 Paris climate accord, including rules for international carbon markets, harmonizing countries' timeframes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing aid to developing nations. Progress on all of those issues is seen as key to making the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November a success. However, due to concerns about the format, no official decisions are expected at the virtual talks that run until June 17.

“We need to show up in Glasgow with decisions ready to be taken,” said the head of the U.N. climate office, Patricia Espinosa.

In particular, a pledge to provide $100 billion in financial support each year to poor countries to tackle climate change has yet to be fulfilled.

“The $100 billion has become one element that is crucial to building trust, but it goes beyond the $100 billion,” Espinosa told reporters.