Cop26: Sharma appeals for nations to seal deal in ‘moment of truth’ for world

Text will allow ‘full and effective implementation’ of Paris agreement, says summit president

Andrew Woodcock,Louise Boyle,Daisy Dunne
Saturday 13 November 2021 16:53 GMT
(Getty Images)

Climate change summit president Alok Sharma has appealed to almost 200 nations gathered in Glasgow to agree a new deal to rein in global warming, telling them: “This is the moment of truth”.

After last-minute wrangling which delayed the scheduled end of the two-week United NationsCop26 summit, Mr Sharma said that a “clean” text for a final agreement had been reached and said he aimed to get it formally signed off later in the day.

The UK cabinet minister said that the proposed deal would allow the “full and effective implementation” of the 2015 Paris Accord, which set out measures to keep global warming below 2C above pre-industrial levels and work towards limiting it to 1.5C.

Mr Sharma told delegates: “This is the moment of truth for our planet and the moment of truth for our children and grandchildren.

“The world is willing us on to be bold, to be ambitious. So much rests on the decisions which we collectively take today.”

Urging them to complete the process of finalising the Glasgow agreement, he told them: “We will succeed or fail as one.”

Finalisation of the text - thrashed out by negotiators working through the night - was delayed for several hours on Saturday as furious last minute horse-trading took place in the meeting rooms and corridors of the Glasgow venue.

China is understood to have held the process up over its concerns at new provisions requiring countries to come back next year with enhanced offers on emission reductions, accelerating a “ratchet” process agreed at Paris which envisaged updates only every five years.

Beijing’s chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua was seen deep in intense conversation with US envoy John Kerry moments before discussions resumed shortly after 3pm.

But China’s representative later told the gathering that the country would not seek to reopen the text, clearing the main potential obstacle to a deal out of the way.

And Mr Kerry said: “This potential agreement which we are poised to accept and make real is a very important step in the right direction.”

He said the agreement would “guarantee to our children, our grandchildren and the next generations that we did our job”.

Mr Sharma said that the latest version of the proposed Glasgow deal represented a “comprehensive, ambitious and balanced” attempt to reflect the collective will of the 197 participating nations to restrict global warming and assist vulnerable states to adapt to a world of higher temperatures.

Despite new pledges of carbon reduction announced during the summit, analysts believe that current plans will still allow emissions to rise by 17 per cent by 2030 - rather than the 45 per cent cut required - and see average temperatures increase by 2.4C.

“We are all aware that collectively our climate ambition and action to date have fallen short of the promises made at Paris,” said Mr Sharma.

“These texts recognise that and set out a clear response.

“Whilst many will call for that response to go even further, these decisions, I believe, set out tangible next steps and clear milestones to get us on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

China said the latest Cop26 draft was “improved over previous versions” and that it had no intention to “revisit” texts again.

However, the country took issue with two paragraphs in the draft agreement, including a critical section mentioning the need to move away from unabated coal power and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. 

“We should meet each other halfway,” China’s representative said, adding that the country was “ready to work with partners to provide constructive proposals and ideas” to reach a “balanced” final outcome.

India complained of a “lack of balance” in the text, joining China in raising concerns over the acceleration of the timetable for emission reduction targets known as nationally defined contributions (NDCs)

“There is a well-defined cycle for NDCs and no need to deviate from it,” said Delhi’s representative.

And he raised objections to the inclusion in the final deal of a call to accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels.

“Every country will arrive at net zero as per its own national circumstances, its strengths and weaknesses,” said the Indian delegate.

“How can anyone expect that developing countries can make promises about phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies?”

Seve Paeniu, the climate minster of the South Sea island state of Tuvalu, said that the Glasgow summit had delivered “a strong message of hope, a strong message of promise, a strong message of ambition”.

Holding up a photograph of his three grandchildren, Mr Paeniu said: “I will be able to tell them that Glasgow has made a promise to save their future. That will be the best ever Christmas gift I will present to them .”

But the representative of the Maldives warned that the Glasgow agreement would not be enough to save the Indian Ocean island state.

The progress achieved in the past fortnight was “not in line with the urgency and scale required,” she said.

“What is balanced and pragmatic to other parties will not help the Maldives adapt in time. It will be too late for the Maldives.

“For us, this is a matter of survival.”

Urging swifter action, she added: “The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence for us.”

Palau’s delegate said that even as discussions were under way in Glasgow, she had been receiving pictures and texts from “neighbours telling us that their homes are being flooded as we speak”.

European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, representing the EU, urged nations not to allow differences over details to get in the way of a deal.

“I wonder if we’re not at risk of stumbling in this marathon a couple of metres before reaching the finish line here,” he said.

“I want all of us here, every single one of you, just for a minute to think about one person in your life – one person only – that will still be around in 2030 and how that person will live if we do not stick to the 1.5C here today.”

“For heaven’s sake, don’t kill this moment by asking for more texts, different texts, deleting this, deleting that... Please embrace this text so that we can bring hope to the hearts of our children and grandchildren. They’re waiting for us, they will not forgive us if we fail.”

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