China has led a group of four major developing economies in attacking "imbalances in the negotiations" at COP25, the United Nations convention on climate change in Madrid, Spain, calling on wealthier nations to provide more funding to deal with the environmental crisis.
Nearly 200 nations in attendance are scrambling to reach agreement before the conference, which has been in session since December 2, draws to a close on Friday. The joint statement by China, Brazil, South Africa and India on Wednesday laid bare major differences in financing and carbon markets rules between the more- and less-developed countries.
"(The four) countries have already set forth climate policies and contributions reflecting our highest possible ambition, above and beyond our historical responsibilities," the signatories contended. "The time for action is now, and not next year or thereafter."
A Chinese delegate, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "Time is running out and we need to put some pressure on the (developed) countries to try to reach some agreement."
Zhao Yingmin, who led the Chinese delegation at COP25, said on Wednesday that developed countries "should provide new, extra support based on public funds … the strength of which shall correspond with the level of efforts of developing countries."
He added that China remained committed to rolling out a nationwide carbon markets scheme in 2020.
The tension on the negotiating tables aside, COP25 - which moved to Spain after Chile was rocked by social unrest last month - has been filled with excitement among the public as well, as teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed an event on Wednesday, the same day she was named Person of the Year by Time magazine.
Creating a global carbon market has proved to be the trickiest question for COP25 participants, as they try to clarify the sixth article of the Paris Agreement, an accord reached exactly four years ago and signed in 2016 dealing with the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and finance.
At the time, 196 nations signed the accord, but in 2017 US President Donald Trump said he would pull the world's largest economy out of it, and last month took the formal step of announcing the withdrawal, making the US the only country on the planet not part of the agreement.
Behind the scenes at Madrid, UN experts and representatives of developed countries cited China - the world's biggest producer of carbon dioxide emissions - for doing too little in reducing its reliance on coal power plants.
They also blamed Brazil for lacking commitment to preserve the Amazon rainforest.
The four countries sought to shift the focus on developed countries - partly led by the European Union - saying wealthier nations had failed to help developing countries deal with rising carbon emissions. They said the developed nations had not yet followed through with financing as well as technology development and transfer for poorer states to switch over to less polluting power sources.
"There has been a lack of progress on the pre-2020 agenda, adaptation and issues related to means of implementation support, in the form of climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building support … This imbalance needs to be immediately rectified," they said.
The 2020 target is a key element in the Paris accord.
According to the four countries, commitments made by developed countries in the pre-2020 period - despite the US withdrawal - "must be honoured" because they are essential in "building the basis for mutual trust and ambition in the post-2020 period".
The call came as the EU on Wednesday rolled out a green deal that set out its own ambition to make Europe a "climate neutral continent" by 2050 - defined as not adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere beyond what can be absorbed.
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