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Friday, December 3, 2021

COP26: New global climate deal struck in Glasgow


A deal aimed at staving off dangerous climate change has been struck at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first climate agreement to explicitly plan for the reduction of coal, the worst fossil fuel for greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement also calls for more immediate emission cuts and promises more money to developing countries to assist them in adapting to the effects of climate change.

However, the pledges do not go far enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A commitment to phase out coal that had been included in earlier draughts of the negotiations came to a dramatic end after India and China led opposition to it.

Bhupender Yadav, India’s climate minister, questioned how developing countries could promise to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies while “still dealing with their development agendas and poverty eradication.”

In the end, countries agreed to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal, despite some dissatisfaction. COP26 President Alok Sharma expressed “deep regret” for how events had unfolded.

He fought back tears as he told delegates that protecting the agreement as a whole was critical.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said he hoped the world would “look back on COP26 in Glasgow as the beginning of the end of climate change.”

“There is still a huge amount more to do in the coming years. But today’s agreement is a big step forward and, critically, we have the first ever international agreement to phase down coal and a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees,” he said.

John Kerry, the US envoy for climate, said it was always unlikely that the Glasgow summit would result in a decision that “was somehow going to end the crisis”, but that the “starting pistol” had been fired.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared that the world is “hanging by a thread.” “We are still on the verge of a climate catastrophe… it is time to go into emergency mode – or our chances of reaching net zero will be zero.”

As part of the agreement, countries will meet next year to pledge additional significant carbon cuts in order to meet the 1.5C target. Current pledges, if met, will only limit global warming to about 2.4 degrees Celsius.

If global temperatures rise by more than 1.5C, scientists say the Earth is likely to experience severe effects such as millions more people being exposed to extreme heat.

Main achievements of the deal:

  • Re-visiting emissions-cutting plans next year to try to keep 1.5C target reachable
  • The first ever inclusion of a commitment to limit coal use
  • Increased financial help for developing countries

“We would like to express our profound disappointment that the language we agreed on regarding coal and fossil fuel subsidies has been further watered down,” said Swiss Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga. “This will not bring us closer to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but will make it more difficult to achieve.”

Despite the weakening of language surrounding coal, some observers will see the agreement as a victory, emphasising that it is the first time coal has been explicitly mentioned in UN documents of this type.

Coal accounts for roughly 40% of annual CO2 emissions, making it critical to efforts to stay within the 1.5°C target. To meet this goal, which was agreed upon in Paris in 2015, global emissions must be cut by 45 percent by 2030 and nearly zero by mid-century.

“They changed a word, but they can’t change the message coming out of this COP – that the era of coal is coming to an end,” said Jennifer Morgan, international executive director of Greenpeace.

However, Lars Koch, policy director for the non-profit ActionAid, expressed disappointment that only coal was mentioned.

“This gives rich countries that have been extracting and polluting for over a century a free pass to continue producing oil and gas,” he said.

Friends of the Earth International’s Sara Shaw called the outcome “nothing short of a scandal.”

“Simply stating 1.5 degrees is meaningless if there is nothing in the agreement to deliver on it. COP26 will be remembered as a betrayal of the countries of the Global South “She stated.

During the conference, finance was a hotly debated topic. A pledge made by developed countries in 2009 to provide $100 billion (£75 billion) per year to emerging economies was supposed to be fulfilled by 2020. The deadline, however, was missed.

It was created to assist developing countries in adapting to climate change and transitioning to clean energy. In an attempt to appease delegates, Mr Sharma stated that $500 billion would be mobilised by 2025.

However, poorer countries had been calling for funding throughout the meeting under the principle of loss and damage, which states that richer countries should compensate poorer countries for climate change effects to which they are unable to adapt.

For many delegations, this was one of the conference’s biggest disappointments. Despite their dissatisfaction, several countries that stood to benefit supported the agreement on the condition that talks on loss and damage continue.

Delegations from African countries such as Guinea and Kenya, as well as Latin American states, small island territories, and Asian countries such as the Philippines, advocated for greater progress on the issue.

Lia Nicholson, Antigua and Barbuda’s delegate, speaking on behalf of small island states, stated: “We appreciate the presidency’s efforts to create a space for finding common ground. The final landing zone, on the other hand, falls far short of our expectations.”

Shauna Aminath, the Maldives’ environment minister, stated: “We have 98 months to cut global emissions in half. For us, the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence.”

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