New COP26 document keeps weaker fossil fuel language as talks enter overtime

The third draft of decision text from the COP26 international climate summit released Saturday morning retains the summit’s first mention of fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change, as the conference continued into overtime during the weekend.

The language is the same qualified phrasing as an earlier draft released Friday, itself a pared-down version of language from a Thursday draft, which called for an outright phaseout of coal and fossil fuel subsidies. The new language calls for a phaseout of “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies and “unabated” coal, or coal which does not capture emissions from burning.

The third draft also inserted a reference to “the need to ensure just transitions” away from fossil fuels, referring to a process by which countries phase out fossil fuels without major job losses or increased costs to vulnerable people.

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Some developing nations, which have spent the summit emphasizing the need for support from their wealthier counterparts, signaled their disappointment with the alteration.

“Regarding the phaseout of coal and fossil fuels, it is sad to see that the current text — it’s weaker than the previous one,” a member of the Panama delegation said Friday. “[W]e must keep them in the ground.”

Meanwhile, Greenpeace, which vocally opposed an earlier 850-word draft that made no mention of climate change, acknowledged the progress of the language, and said it would apply pressure to strengthen it Saturday.

“The key line about fossil fuels is still in the text. It’s weak and compromised, but it’s a breakthrough, it’s a bridgehead and we have to fight like hell to keep it in there and have it strengthened,” Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said in a statement. “Today’s plenary could witness a defining moment with a clutch of countries seeking to strike that line from the deal and dilute plans to force nations to come back next year with better emissions plans.”

Morgan also called the addition of the reference to a just transition “extremely welcome,” but said developed nations still must do more on climate finance.

Talks over a final agreement have persisted into Saturday as the assembled nations failed to secure one Friday night.

Rachel Frazin contributed to this story.