Glasgow Climate Summit: Further Retreat on Promises to Cut Gas Emissions

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Climate activists take part in a demonstration outside the venue of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Friday.
Climate activists take part in a demonstration outside the venue of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Friday.Credit: Scott Heppell,AP

GLASGOW, Scotland – After the climate change talks in Glasgow continued several hours past the scheduled end of the United Nations conference, a third draft text of the international agreement, which further softened countries’ commitments, was issued early Saturday. Negotiators were expected to return to the bargaining table later Saturday ahead of a final agreement to tackle climate change.

The call to end subsidies to the coal and fossil fuel industries was weakened from the previous draft, and now calls on countries to “accelerate efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” It also “recognizes the need for support towards a just transition” from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources on the part of emerging economies.

Also added to the third draft was a retreat from demanding that states submit revised emission-reduction targets by the end of 2022, after efforts to set appropriate targets in Glasgow failed. That demand is now a “request.” All the countries have been asked to submit revised emission-reduction targets before their representatives leave Glasgow, in accordance with the obligation in the 2015 Paris accords to revise these targets every five years. This is one of the most important provisions of the agreement, due to the assessment that the current 2030 targets will cause a global temperature rise of 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. According to many scientists, if the countries fail to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent by 2030, the world won’t be able to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Room F5

One of the remaining critical issues in the agreement is “loss and damage,” which refers to the compensation demanded from developing nations for the disproportionate destruction the climate crisis has already caused them. While the previous draft spoke of creating a reparations fund, the latest requires the states to hold talks to create a structure for financial compensation. It also calls on wealthy nations to double, at the very least, their financial assistance to developing nations by 2025 to help them adapt to the effects of climate change, such as heat waves, flooding and wildfires.

In 2009 the wealthy countries promised to raise $100 billion every year until 2020 for this purpose and to wean these nations off fossil fuels. The promise was not kept, and the third draft of the Glasgow accord mentions the great gap between the amounts promised and those actually delivered.

Climate activists protesting outside of the UN Climate Conference in GlasgowCredit: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

UN Secretary General António Guterres said Saturday after the climate talks that "the COP26 outcome is a compromise, reflecting the interests, contradictions and state of political will in the world today. It's an important step, but it's not enough. It's time to go into emergency mode. The climate battle is the fight of our lives & that fight must be won."

Commenting on the third draft, Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said: “This draft deal is not a plan to solve the climate crisis, it’s an agreement that we’ll all cross our fingers and hope for the best. It’s a polite request that countries maybe, possibly, do more next year. Well that’s not good enough and the negotiators shouldn’t even think about leaving this city until they’ve agreed on a deal that meets the moment. Because most assuredly, this one does not.

“We’ve just had a landmark study showing we’re heading for 2.4 [degrees Celsius] of warming. The job of this conference was always to get that number down to 1.5 degrees, but with this text world leaders are punting it to next year. If this is the best they can come up with, then it’s no wonder kids today are furious at them.

“The text needs to be much stronger on finance and adaptation and needs to include real numbers in the hundreds of billions, with a delivery plan for richer countries to support less developed nations. And we need to see a deal that commits countries to coming back every year with new and better plans until together they get us over the bar and we can stay below 1.5 degrees of warming. And while the text calls for an accelerated phaseout of coal and fossil fuel subsidies, wreckers like the Saudi and Australian governments will be working to gut that part before this conference closes. Ministers now have three days to turn this around and get the job done here in Glasgow instead of once again kicking the climate can down the road.”

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