A delegate looks at a screen during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, Nov. 8, 2021.
Yves Herman | Reuters
The United Nations two-week COP26 climate talks in Glasgow exceeded a deadline on Friday as the conference president urged countries to make one final push to make commitments that would stem the rising temperatures that threaten the planet.
With an agreement expected sometime on Saturday, issues such as phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, carbon markets and financial aid to poor countries in combating climate change remained difficult.
A draft final deal released early Friday requires countries to make stricter climate pledges next year – to bridge the gap between current goals and the much deeper cuts that scientists say will be needed to avoid catastrophic climate change this decade avert.
“We have come a long way in the last two weeks and now need the final injection of that ‘can-do’ spirit that is present at this COP to get this joint venture across the line,” said the UK COP26- President Alok Sharma.
Late on Friday, Sharma announced that the meetings would last until Saturday and that he expected a deal later that day. A revised draft of the agreement will be released on Saturday morning to kick off the final round of talks, he said.
The overall goal of the meeting is to meet the ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, which scientists say would avert the worst effects.
As part of current national pledges to reduce emissions this decade, researchers say world temperature would rise well above that limit, causing catastrophic sea level rises, droughts, storms and forest fires.
The new draft is a balancing act – it tries to accommodate the needs of the most climate-sensitive nations like low-lying islands, the world’s biggest polluters, and countries whose fossil fuel exports are vital to their economies. Continue reading
“China believes that the current draft must go further to strengthen and enrich the areas of adaptation, finance, technology and capacity building,” said Zhao Yingmin, the climate negotiator for the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.
The draft kept its main call for nations to make stricter climate pledges next year, but phrased that call in weaker language than before, while not providing the ongoing annual review of the climate pledges that some developing countries have sought.
Nations are currently required to review their pledges every five years.
The latest proposal was a little weaker than a previous one when it called on states to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – which are the main culprit of human-caused global warming.
This upset some activists, while others were relieved that the first explicit reference to fossil fuels at a UN climate summit was in the text, and hoped it would survive the fierce negotiations that were to come.
“It could be better, it should be better, and we still have a day to do much, much better,” said Greenpeace.
“At the moment the fingerprints of fossil fuel interests are still in the text and this is not the breakthrough deal people in Glasgow have been hoping for.”
Some think tanks were more optimistic, pointing to progress in funding to help developing countries cope with the devastation of an increasingly hot climate.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s second largest oil producer and considered one of the nations most resilient to strict fossil fuel formulations, said the latest draft was “feasible.”
A final agreement requires the unanimous approval of the nearly 200 countries that have signed the Paris Agreement.
To increase pressure on a strong deal, protesters gathered outside the COP26 venue, where activists hung tapes with messages urging delegates to protect the earth.
The latest draft by recognized scientists says the world will need to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and to net zero by “around the middle of the century” to meet the 1.5C target.
This would effectively set the benchmark for measuring future climate commitments.
Currently, according to the United Nations, the countries’ pledges would mean a nearly 14% increase in global emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 levels
Fossil fuel subsidies remain a bone of contention. Kerry told reporters that trying to curb global warming while governments are spending hundreds of billions of euros to support the fuels that cause them “is a definition of insanity”.
Financial aid is also hotly debated, with developing countries pushing for stricter rules to ensure rich nations, whose historical emissions are largely responsible for warming the planet, offer more money to help them adapt to the consequences.
Rich countries have missed a twelve-year-old target of $ 100 billion a year in “climate finance” by 2020, undermining confidence and making some developing countries more reluctant to curb their emissions.
The amount, which falls far short of what countries would actually need according to the UN, aims to address “mitigation” to help poor countries with their ecological change, and “adaptation” to help them cope with extreme climatic events .
The new draft said rich countries should double the funds allocated for adjustment from current levels by 2025 – an advance on the previous version, which did not set a date or a baseline.
“This is a stronger and more balanced text than the one we had two days ago,” said Helen Mountford of the World Resources Institute of the current draft.
“We have to see what stands, what holds and what it looks like in the end – but at the moment it looks positive.”
Of the roughly $ 80 billion rich countries spent on climate finance for poor countries in 2019, only a quarter was for adaptation.
A more controversial aspect, known as “loss and damage,” would compensate them for the devastation they have already suffered from global warming, even though this is outside the $ 100 billion and some rich countries do not recognize the claim.
A group of nations at risk, including the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific, said the final deal needed to do more to address the issue. “Losses and damage are too central for us to be satisfied with workshops,” said Tina Stege, Climate Officer for the Marshall Islands.