Cop26: Last-minute wrangles threaten to derail climate change summit

‘This will close’: Alok Sharma insists conference will end today with package that ‘moves things forward for everyone’

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Saturday 13 November 2021 14:45
COP26 talks head into overtime

Cop26 president Alok Sharma has vowed to bring the Cop26 climate change summit to an end in Glasgow today as last-minute wrangling threatened to derail a proposed deal.

With the United Nations gathering already overrunning its two-week schedule, differences remained over the phase-out of fossil fuels, an accelerated timetable for new emission reduction plans and assistance for vulnerable low-lying states.

The UK cabinet minister accepted that the draft agreement currently on the table would not satisfy all countries, but insisted that it represents “a package that really moves things forward for everyone”.

The 197 countries meeting at the United Nations conference missed a deadline of 6pm on Friday to agree a deal to keep alive hopes of limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

After all-night negotiations delivered only minimal changes of a proposed agreement, Mr Sharma called a meeting for noon to try to finalise the text.

But proceedings in Glasgow were delayed, it is understood, by Chinese resistance to new provisions effectively requiring all nations to come back next year with new and enhanced emission reduction targets.

The change speeds up the schedule set in the Paris Accord of 2015, under which so-called “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) come only every five years.

China’s chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua was seen deep in discussion with US envoy John Kerry as delegates waited for talks to resume.

Developing countries were up in arms over their demand for a new “Glasgow financing facility” to pay for the loss and damage from extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods, amid fears that the issue has been kicked into the long grass by a proposal for a new working group to be set up to consider a way forward.

As Mr Sharma pleaded with delegates to take their seats, representatives of Papua New Guinea were seen in intense talks with Kerry.

It is understood that the Australiasian nation is fighting to prevent the removal from new carbon-trading arrangements of a controversial scheme under which companies can gain credits for preserving forest which might otherwise have been felled.

Delaying to 2.30pm the start of the plenary session, Mr Sharma said that there were still some countries “wanting to have a discussion and resolve issues”.

“There are colleagues who are having discussions right now and I think it’s right and proper to give them time to resolve the issues,” he said.

But he added: “I want to make clear that it is my intention that we will close this Cop this afternoon. This will close.”

Mr Sharma said that the deal currently on the table, while not fully satisfying every participant, represented “a package that really moves things forward”.

“At the end of the day, what is being put forward here is a balanced package,” he said. “Everyone has had a chance to have their say, and I hope that colleagues will appreciate that what is on the table here, whilst not every aspect of it will be welcomed by everyone, collectively this is a package that really moves things forward for everyone.”

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