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Friday, December 3, 2021

COP26: Climate talks into overtime as nations near deal


A new draft agreement to avert the worst impacts of climate change is expected to be announced in the coming hours after talks at the COP26 summit in Scotland passed the Friday deadline.

Subsidies for coal and other fossil fuels, as well as financial assistance to poorer countries, have been sticking points.

Envoys from small island nations threatened by rising sea levels said on Friday that their land was rapidly disappearing.

Alok Sharma, the conference’s president, urged an infusion of “can-do spirit.”

Mr Sharma said he planned to release an amended draught deal at 08:00 GMT on Saturday, based on late-night consultations.

Mr Sharma added that a formal plenary to adopt the summit’s final decisions was planned for Saturday afternoon.

According to scientists, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will protect us from the most dangerous effects of climate change. It is a key component of the Paris agreement, to which the majority of countries agreed.

To meet the target, global emissions must be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 and to zero by 2050. According to scientists, one example of the impact of global temperature rises above 2 degrees Celsius is the death of virtually all coral reefs.

Early Friday, a draught agreement was released that included watered-down commitments to phase out the use of coal and other fossil fuels. While campaigners were outraged, some observers pointed out that this would be the first time coal was explicitly mentioned in a UN document of this type.

Meanwhile, China and Saudi Arabia are said to be among a group of countries seeking to remove references to fossil fuel subsidies from the agreement, according to Reuters news agency, citing sources close to the negotiations.

The revised text of the draught also requested much shorter deadlines for governments to reveal their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking from London, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said rich countries must put more “cash on the table” to assist developing countries in transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said on the BBC’s Newscast podcast that it would be Mr Johnson’s responsibility “to get the thing over the line at the end,” which he described as “tough to do… when most of the [other] political leaders have gone.”

On Friday, the climate minister of Tuvalu, which is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels, made an emotional plea, saying his country was “literally sinking.”

“For many of us, it is a matter of life and death, and we beg that Glasgow be the defining moment. We cannot afford to fail “Seve Paeniu said, to a thunderous applause.

Climate finance, or the money promised by richer countries to poorer countries to combat climate change, remains a contentious issue. Developed countries pledged in 2009 to provide $100 billion per year to emerging economies by 2020. However, this goal was not met.

According to Climate Action Tracker, despite the promises made at COP26 thus far, the world is still on track to warm by 2.4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

What has been agreed at COP26?

A series of agreements between groups of countries have been announced so far:

  • In a surprise announcement, the US and China agreed to work together this decade to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C
  • More than 100 world leaders promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, including Brazil, home to the Amazon rainforest
  • The US and the EU announced a global partnership to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by 2030 – reducing methane in the atmosphere is seen as one of the best ways to quickly reduce global warming
  • More than 40 countries committed to move away from coal – but the world’s biggest users like China and the US did not sign up
  • A new alliance that commits countries to setting a date to ending oil and gas use – and halting granting new licences for exploration – was launched
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