Energy & Environment

Countries approve climate pact at COP26

Countries formally reached a deal at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Saturday, providing a punctuation mark on a two-week global conference that stretched into the weekend.

The agreement calls for countries to step up their ambitions on climate change by strengthening their 2030 climate targets by the end of next year. It specifically calls for global carbon dioxide emissions to be cut 45 percent by 2030 when compared to 2010 levels. 

Developed countries also agreed to at least double their collective financing for assisting developing countries to adapt to climate-related harms by 2025. 

For the first time, the agreement will include explicit mentions of coal and fossil fuels, but after objections from India and Iran, the language surrounding coal was weakened at the last minute. 

India proposed an amendment changing language that had previously called for phasing out unabated coal rather than phasing it down that was ultimately added into the final language. 

Unabated coal is that which uses technology to capture its emissions. A previous draft that was not adopted would have called for a phaseout of all coal, so the latest language comes after the language was already softened previously. 

The agreement also calls for countries to eliminate “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. A draft from earlier this week had called for the elimination of all fossil fuel subsidies, but on Friday, the language was changed to add the qualifying adjective. 

Global leaders also reached an agreement on the rules for carbon offset markets, in which countries can get credit against their emissions for financing climate cooling activities.

In remarks prior to the fossil language change, U.S climate envoy John Kerry described the deal as good but not perfect. 

“You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and this is good. This is a powerful statement,” he said. “We in the United States are really excited by the fact that this raises ambition on a global basis.”

Delegates from other countries fumed over India’s move, which also came after Iran raised objections to the original coal provision. But it wasn’t worth jettisoning the entire agreement, they said.

“What was just read out to us is a further disappointment, not because we want to be right but because we know that the longer you take to get rid coal, the more burden you put on our natural environment, but also, the more burden you put on your economy,” European Union climate leader Frans Timmermans said of India’s proposal. 

“Having now expressed my disappointment, I want to reiterate what I said in my earlier intervention, this should not stop us from deciding today on what … I have to say, is a historic, historic decision,” he added. 

Bhupender Yadav, the representative from India, made the case earlier in the day that developing countries deserve a chance to use fossil fuels to further their economies since developed countries have already done so. 

“Developing countries have a right to their fair share of the global carbon budget and are entitled to the responsible use of fossil fuels within this scope,” Yadav said. 

“How can anyone expect that developing countries can make promises about phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies? Developing countries have still to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication,” he added. 

Some developing countries also expressed disappointment that their request for a climate reparations fund for the loss and damage they’ve suffered due to global warming was not included in the final decision. 

Fiji’s delegate said he was told a loss and damage proposal was too last minute, while lamenting the watering down of the coal language. 

“About four days ago when we talked about some language on loss and damage, we were told that we were introducing something at the last minute,” the delegate said. “It is rather ironic that just about two hours ago we discussed the text and now there’s an amendment being made to that.”

Updated 4:09 p.m.

Tags COP26 John Kerry UN Climate Summit

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