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A man sleeps during marathon talks at the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid. Photo: Oscar Ddel Pozo/AFP via Getty Images

Extended United Nations climate talks ended early Sunday with a modest agreement that punts key decisions and, activists argue, fails to reflect the urgency needed to confront the problem.

Why it matters: The latest round of annual UN negotiations in Madrid, which ended two days after Friday's scheduled close, are the last before nations are slated to offer revised emissions-cutting pledges next year under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Where it stands: Negotiators from over 200 countries, for the second straight year, also failed to reach an agreement on rules to govern international carbon credit trading markets.

  • In addition, "they also couldn’t agree on language about how to spur finance for green projects," per Bloomberg.

The big picture: The talks opened two weeks ago amid fresh signs of how the world is far, far off track from meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement — holding temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels and ideally limiting it to 1.5°C.

For instance, a UN report just before the talks found that by 2030, global emissions — which are still rising — "would need to be 25 percent and 55 percent lower than in 2018 to put the world on the least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to below 2˚C and 1.5°C respectively."

  • The agreement Sunday calls for tougher commitments when nations submit new pledges next year.
  • But Nathaniel Keohane of the Environmental Defense Fund tells Axios via email that "many parties (and observers) wanted a stronger and more explicit call for enhanced ambition."

What they're saying: Helen Mountford of the nonprofit World Resources Institute said in a statement there was "no sugarcoating" the conclusion of the talks.

  • "The negotiations fell far short of what was expected. Instead of leading the charge for more ambition, most of the large emitters were missing in action or obstructive."
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres tweeted: "The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle the climate crisis. But we must not give up, and I will not give up."

The intrigue: Elliot Diringer, a veteran of global climate talks with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, tells Axios that the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the Paris deal is affecting the negotiations.

  • "U.S. withdrawal is beginning to compound the deep and inherent challenges of decarbonizing the global economy. Some see an opening to be less ambitious in their own efforts," Diringer, who worked in the Clinton White House, said in an email Sunday morning.

Go deeper: Longest UN climate talks end with no deal on carbon markets

Go deeper

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.