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Finland 'disappointed' by Madrid climate talks failure

The US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement made a new deal more difficult, according to the Environment Minister.

Ympäristö- ja ilmastoministeri Krista Mikkonen Madridin ilmastokokouksessa
Environment Minister Krista Mikkonen. Image: Antti Lähteenmäki / Yle

UN climate talks in Madrid ended without a breakthrough on Sunday after extended wrangling, leaving Finland to rue the missed opportunity to finalise measures to complete the Paris agreement.

"This conference was expected to send a strong message that next year every country is ready to do more: tighten the emissions targets, show ambition," said Finland’s Environment Minister Krista Mikkonen at the Madrid talks.

"Therefore this is a real disappointment from the EU’s perspective."

It was agreed in Madrid that discussions over new cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will continue at next year's conference in Glasgow, with each country now expected to present their targets in Scotland.

Carbon market indecision

Divisions over carbon markets and other issues were not resolved in Madrid, with next year's meeting in Glasgow the new scene for the showdown.

Environmental groups have already characterised the failure of the Madrid talks as a 'catastrophe'.

Mikkonen was scathing about the talks, saying that a mistrustful atmosphere reigned. The talks were moved to Madrid from Chile after unrest in Santiago.

Host nation Chile did not inspire confidence, according to Mikkonen.

"There has never before been such a gulf between the negotiations themselves and the climate debate outside of those discussions," said Mikkonen.

USA obstacle to progress

Finland’s and the EU’s main goal in the talks was to secure agreement on an international market in carbon. Those rules were not agreed in Madrid.

Brazil, led by President Jair Bolsonaro, has been a big brake on progress, according to Mikkonen.

The US stance was also an influence on the talks after Donald Trump announced the country’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement. Many countries were asking why they should act if others, such as the USA, did not.

"The situation was quite confused," said Mikkonen. "That the USA has announced its withdrawal caused some confusion among other big countries. Before China and the USA had moved together and wanted to cut emissions."

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