Cop26: What does the latest draft agreement say?

Provisions on fossil fuel reductions watered down in document released early on Saturday

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Saturday 13 November 2021 12:17
COP26 talks head into overtime

The United Nations Cop26 summit in Glasgow is seen as humanity’s last best chance of reining in global warming to below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - viewed by experts as essential to avoid catastrophic climate change.

But the two-week summit has spilled over into the weekend, as negotiators from 197 countries were unable to settle on an agreement by the deadline on Friday.

A draft agreement released by the Cop26 presidency led by UK minister Alok Sharma shortly after 8am on Saturday gives the best insight into what the eventual deal will look like - if it can be agreed.

So what does the draft say?

• The document voices “alarm and utmost concern” that human activities have already caused around 1.1C of global warming and stresses the urgency of stepping up humanity’s response in “this critical decade” to 2030.

• It reaffirms the goal of the Paris Agreement of 2015 to keep warming “well below” 2C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C - requiring “rapid, deep, and sustained” reductions of 45 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net-zero “around mid-century”.

• And it recognises that this will need “accelerated action in this critical decade”, while accepting that different countries will move at different paces depending on their individual capabilities and circumstances.

• In possibly its most signifiant provision, it calls on the countries represented at Glasgow to report back on progress towards more ambitious action at next year’s Cop27 summit in Egypt. This represents a ratcheting-up of pressure for improvement compared to the Paris deal, which mandated five-year updates. However, there is no legal requirement on countries to comply. Instead, they are “requested”to do so, which UN lawyers regard as being stronger than being “urged”, as an earlier draft on Wednesday did.

• The document voices “deep regret” that rich world support for developing countries particularly vulnerable to climate change remains “insufficient”. It urges developed countries urgently to scale up their financial and technical support to help poorer states mitigate and adapt, going “significantly” beyond the 2020 target of $100 billion annually - already set to be missed by three years.

• It orders the establishment of a “workshop” to draw up proposals for how rich-world nations can scale up support for the loss and damage caused to vulnerable countries by one-off extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods. While recognising the devastating impact which such disasters inflict on developing economies, the provision falls short of demands for the creation of a “Glasgow funding facility” which poorer states could draw on in emergencies.

• Developed countries are told they should at least double their funding for so-called “adaptation”, in a shift in the balance away from helping poorer states reduce their emissions and towards assisting them to prepare for a world of higher average temperatures.

• The key change in the new text relates to commitments on reducing fossil fuel use, which have been fiercely resisted by major oil and gas producers and consumers, like Saudi Arabia on China. While the new draft maintains a reference to fossil fuels - a first for a UN document of this kind - its wording is significantly watered down. Where Wednesday’s text spoke of phasing out coal, the new document speaks only of accelerating “efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power”. And a goal of halting fossil fuel subsidies running into trillions of dollars now relates only to “inefficient” subsidies.

• An extra line added to the fossil fuel provision states that Cop26 recognises “the need for support towards a just transition”, in an indication that less developed countries will need financial and technical support to move away from coal, gas and oil power generation and onto greener energy sources.

• For the first time, the draft calls on states to consider action to cut non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases, such as methane. This follows the focus on methane in Wednesday’s US/China declaration on bilateral co-operation in the battle against climate change.

• Forests and other natural ecosystems capable of acting as carbon sinks should be “protected, conserved and restored”, the draft says.

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