Countries sign climate deal at UN summit to limit heating

COP26 President Alok Sharma (L) Deputy and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change speak at the beginning of the plenary on the thirteenth day of COP26 at SECC on November 12, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Ian Forsyth | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries at the COP26 summit on Saturday reached an agreement to try to prevent gradually worsening and potentially irreversible climate impacts.

The announcement comes a few hours after the scheduled Friday evening deadline.

Delegates struggled to address major bottlenecks, such as coal removal, fossil fuel subsidies and financial support to poor countries.

India, among the world’s largest coal burners, has lifted a last-minute change from a fossil fuel language in the pact, going from a “phase out” of coal to a “phase down.” After initial objections, opposing countries finally conceded.

In an emotional speech to assembled delegates, UK COP26 President Alok Sharma said he was “deeply sorry” for the way the process had unfolded. “I understand the deep disappointment. It is also essential that we protect this package,” Sharma said.

The UN meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, was proclaimed as humanity’s last and best opportunity to preserve the most important goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius. This temperature threshold relates to the aspiration target enshrined in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

In order for average temperatures not to exceed this level, it requires the world to almost halve the emission of greenhouse gases in the next 8 years and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. It is important to prevent the worst of what the climate crisis has in storage.

The world’s foremost scientists have warned that the world has already warmed to around 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and the latest projections, despite many promises at the Glasgow summit, show that the world is on track for a rise of 2.4 degrees Celsius before the end of the world. the century.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres bluntly warned that the promises of coal cutting on the table during the final actions of the marathon negotiations were “very likely” not enough to avert a climate catastrophe. He told the Associated Press that the goal of keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius alive is on “living support.”

Climate activists and activists have been sharply critical of COP26, describing it as an “exclusive” half-month of talks focused on “trade as usual and blah, blah, blah.”

“The road to 1.5 has simply become more difficult when these negotiations should have cleared the way to make it much easier,” Rachel Kennerley, a climate activist from environmental group Friends of the Earth, said in a statement on Saturday.

Fossil fuel policy

The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first time the outcome of an international climate summit has explicitly mentioned fossil fuels. However, an earlier commitment to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies was later watered down to refer only to “incessant” coal and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. India then raised a last-minute intervention to change the wording to replace it with “phasing.”

Several countries have expressed their grievances about this change and environmental experts are deeply concerned that the updated terminology is creating a loophole to delay urgently needed climate action.

An analysis released by Global Witness on Monday found that there were more delegates associated with the fossil industry at COP26 than from any country. It raised important questions about the credibility of the negotiations, especially since the burning of fossil fuels is the main driver of the climate crisis.

Researchers have repeatedly stressed that the best weapon to deal with rising global temperatures is to cut greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.

The two-week summit saw a snowstorm of climate promises destined to deliver on the moment, with countries promising to stop and reverse deforestation, get rid of coal and reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

The United States and China, the world’s two largest emitters, have surprised many by agreeing to work together this decade to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius. And a new first-class alliance has also been launched with countries and sub-national groups committing to set a deadline for oil and gas use and stop issuing new licenses for exploration.

Business leaders and financial institutions, meanwhile, have promised to invest more in “net zero-aligned projects”. This was later criticized, however, for missing the point about fossil fuels.

Climate finance

Low-income countries have arrived in Glasgow determined to secure compensation for climate-related “loss and damage”, a term used by the UN to refer to the destruction already caused to lives, livelihoods and infrastructure.

Those on the fronts of the climate crisis, who are the least responsible for climate change, have long sought financial support from high-income countries to compensate them for this damage. Wealthy nations, such as the United States, the UK and the European Union, are reluctant to accept responsibility.

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The agreement lacks the establishment of a fund to compensate countries for climate-related loss and damage. The G-77 group of developing countries has expressed “extreme disappointment” over this omission.

Shauna Aminath, environment minister for the Maldives, said on Saturday: “For some, loss and damage may be the beginning of conversation and dialogue, but for us, this is a matter of survival.”

“This does not bring hope to our hearts, but serves as yet another conversation where we introduce our homes while those who have other options decide how quickly they want to act to save those who don’t,” Aminath said.

—CNBCs Jessica Bursztynsky contributed to this report.

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