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The annual international climate meeting kicks off later this week in Dubai


The United Nations climate summit starts this week in Dubai. Average global temperatures keep rising, leading to questions about the point of the talks. Here's NPR's Michael Copley.

MICHAEL COPLEY, BYLINE: People were angry when U.N. climate talks ended last year. Big oil and gas producers blocked language from a final agreement calling for a phase out of fossil fuels, the main drivers of global warming.

SANDRINE DIXSON-DECLEVE: There was a great sense of despair for many of us.

COPLEY: That's Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, co-president of the Club of Rome. It's a nonprofit in Switzerland that works on climate change. She called the U.N. meetings a circus run by oil producers - part negotiation, part trade show - where the number of fossil fuel lobbyists has multiplied. And because pavilion space at the event has gotten so expensive, corporations with deep pockets can get more access to decision-makers.

DIXSON-DECLEVE: Those that have pavilions might be able to invite certain governments to come and have a conversation.

COPLEY: She says those interactions can amount to indirect lobbying.

DIXSON-DECLEVE: So I think it's incredibly important that we take into consideration this aspect, which has created a very unfair playing field.

COPLEY: David Waskow of the World Resources Institute shares some of those concerns. But he says the U.N. meetings are still really important, in part because every country has a seat at the negotiating table.

DAVID WASKOW: At the G20, for example, you know, you have the big guys. And so the little guys who are getting hurt and aren't the major emitters are not really well represented.

COPLEY: Waskow says the U.N. talks aren't designed to solve the problem of climate change on their own, but that they do act like a kind of lighthouse.

WASKOW: They sort of give us a sense of the direction we need to travel in and also can be a catalyst.

COPLEY: Right now, the world's moving in the wrong direction on climate change, according to a recent U.N. report. Emissions of planet-warming gases keep going up. Dixson-Decleve says the consequences of that are starting to become clear.

DIXSON-DECLEVE: In Europe, most of the conversations over the summer were around either floods, droughts or fires. And we could say that globally.

COPLEY: The host of this year's gathering is the United Arab Emirates, a major oil producer. Dixson-Decleve says the country could use that expertise to help chart a path for getting the world off fossil fuels. But right now fossil fuel producers, including the UAE, plan to boost production in the coming years.

Michael Copley, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE ROBOHANDS' "STRANGE TIMES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michael Copley
Michael Copley is a correspondent on NPR's Climate Desk. He covers what corporations are and are not doing in response to climate change, and how they're being impacted by rising temperatures.