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Major states snub calls for climate action as UN summit wraps up

A UN climate summit ground towards a delayed close on Sunday with a handful of major states resisting pressure to ramp up efforts to combat global warming, prompting sharp criticism from smaller countries and environmental activists.

The Madrid talks were viewed as a test of governments’ collective will to heed the advice of scientists to cut greenhouse gas emissions more rapidly in order to prevent rising global temperatures from hitting irreversible tipping points.

But the conference was expected to endorse only a modest declaration on the “urgent need” to close the gap between existing emissions pledges and the temperature goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

Many developing countries, and campaigners, had wanted to see much more explicit language spelling out the importance of countries submitting bolder pledges on emissions as the Paris process enters a crucial implementation phase next year.

“These talks reflect how disconnected country leaders are from the urgency of the science and the demands of their citizens in the streets,” said Helen Mountford, Vice President for Climate and Economics, at the World Resources Institute think-tank. “They need to wake up in 2020.”

Brazil, China, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United States had led resistance to bolder action, delegates said, as the summit – known as COP25 – began wrapping up.

It had been due to finish at the two-week mark on Friday but has run on for two extra days – a long delay even by the standards of often torturous climate summits.

Earlier, Chile’s president triggered outrage after drafting a version of the text that campaigners complained was so weak it betrayed the spirit of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The process set out in that deal hinges on countries ratcheting up emissions cuts next year.

The final draft did acknowledge the “significant gap” between existing pledges and the temperature goals adopted in 2015.