Two weeks of UN COP26 on climate negotiation in Glasgow took place last Friday after the conference chairman called on countries to make a last-ditch effort to secure commitments that will curb the rising temperatures that threaten the planet.
“The world is watching us,” COP26 President Alok Sharma told delegates tasked with keeping the Paris agreement on temperature targets alive even when climate-driven disasters hit countries around the world.
Sharma said he expected negotiations on an agreement to continue into Saturday afternoon when the Nov. 12 deadline passed without a final agreement.
The summit began with an explosion as world leaders descended on Glasgow armed with a string of headline announcements, from a commitment to reduce methane emissions to a plan to save the rainforests.
But late Friday there remained a difficult talk on issues such as the removal of fossil fuel subsidies, carbon markets and financial aid for poor countries to tackle climate change.
A draft of the final agreement, released earlier in the day, calls for countries to set stricter climate promises next year – in an attempt to narrow the gap between their current targets and the much deeper cuts scientists say it takes this decade to avoid. catastrophic climate change. .
“We’ve come a long way over the last two weeks and now we need that final injection of that‘ power-making ’spirit that is present at this COP, so we’re crossing this joint endeavor,” Sharma said.
The overall goal of the meeting is to keep within reach the aspirational goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, the limit, according to scientists, would divert its worst effects .
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Under current national promises to reduce emissions this decade, researchers say global temperature would soar far beyond that limit, triggering catastrophic sea level rise, droughts, storms and forest fires.
The new draft is a balanced action – trying to accept the demands of the most climate-vulnerable nations such as low-lying islands, the world’s largest polluters, and countries whose fossil fuel exports are essential to their economies.
“China believes the current draft still needs to go further to strengthen and enrich the parts of adaptation, finance, technology and capacity-building,” said Zhao Yingmin, the climate negotiator of the world’s largest greenhouse gas.
The draft retained its most significant demand that nations set more stringent climate promises next year, but voiced that request in a weaker language than before, while not offering the rolling annual review of climate promises that some developing countries have sought.
Nations are currently required to revisit their pledges every five years.
“Fingerprints of fossil fuel interests still on the text”
The latest proposal included a slightly weaker language than the previous one in asking states to remove subsidies from fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – which are the main cause of global warming by humans.
This shocked some activists, while others were reassured that the first explicit reference to fossil fuels at any UN climate summit at all was in the text, and hoped it would survive the furious negotiations to come.
“It could be better, it should be better, and we have one day left to do it much, much better,” Greenpeace said.
“Right now, the fingerprints of fossil fuel interests are still in the text and this is not the new deal people were hoping for in Glasgow,” the activist group added.
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Some think tanks were more optimistic, showing progress in funding to help developing countries deal with the ruins of an increasingly hot climate.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s second-largest oil producer and considered among the nations most resistant to strong wording on fossil fuels, said the latest draft is “workable”.
A final agreement will require the unanimous consent of the nearly 200 countries that have signed the Paris agreement.
To increase pressure for a strong deal, protesters gathered outside the COP26 site, where activists hung banners with messages begging delegates to protect the Earth.
The latest sketch acknowledged scientists say the world needs to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent from levels from 2010 to 2030, and to the grid zero before “about mid-century” to reach the 1.5 ° C target.
This would effectively set the benchmark for measuring future climate promises.
Currently, countries ’pledges would see global emissions increase by nearly 14 percent by 2030 from 2010 levels, according to the UN.
‘Cash on the table’
Subsidies for fossil fuels remain a bone of contention. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told reporters that trying to curb global warming as governments spend hundreds of billions of euros to support the fuels that cause it is a “definition of madness.”
Financial support is also hotly debated, as developing countries push for stricter rules to ensure that rich nations, whose historical emissions are largely responsible for global warming, offer more cash to help them adapt to its consequences.
On Friday, the country’s prime minister Boris Johnson appealed to rich nations to put more “money on the table” to ensure climate success.
Wealthy countries have failed to meet a 12-year target of allocating $ 100 billion a year in so-called “climate finance” by 2020, undermining confidence and making some developing countries more reluctant to curb their emissions.
The amount, which deviates from what the UN says countries would actually need, is aimed at tackling “mitigation”, helping poor countries with their ecological transition, and “adapting”, helping them manage extreme climate events.
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The new draft said that, by 2025, rich countries should double from current levels the funding they have set aside for adaptation – a step forward from the previous version that did not set a date or baseline.
“This is a stronger and more balanced text than what we had two days ago,” said Helen Mountford of the World Institute of Resources on the current draft.
“We have to see what stands, what holds and what it looks like in the end – but for now it’s looking in a positive direction.”
Of about $ 80 billion of rich countries spent on climate finance for poor countries in 2019, only a quarter were for adaptation.
A more contentious aspect, known as “loss and damage,” would compensate poor countries for the devastation they have already suffered from global warming, even though that is outside the $ 100 billion and some rich countries do not acknowledge the claim.
A group of vulnerable nations including the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific Ocean said the final agreement needs to do more to address the issue. “Loss and damage are too central for us to be content with workshops,” said Tina Stege, Marshall Islands ’climate envoy.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)