Cop26: Latest draft agreement weaker on fossil fuels but keeps key demands as summit enters final day

Experts say progress has been made on acknowledging the need to provide finance to poorer nations grappling with climate impacts

Daisy Dunne,Louise Boyle
Friday 12 November 2021 08:36
Cop26: Alok Sharma warns there is 'still a lot to be done'

A new draft of the final deal that could emerge from the Cop26 climate summit appears to have watered down its call to curb fossil fuels, but did not remove all mention of the need for their phase out as some watchers had feared.

The first draft of the potential Glasgow pact released on Wednesday called for countries “to accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels”.

Published in the early hours of Friday morning, the new draft instead calls for “accelerating the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”.

The texts from Glasgow are the first UN climate papers to make a specific mention of fossil fuels. Some observers had suggested that they would not survive the rounds of intense negotiations between the 197 countries.

Friday is the final scheduled day of the UN climate summit in Glasgow, where nations have gathered aiming to keep alive hopes of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Meeting the 1.5C target, the aspiration of the landmark Paris Agreement, is vital to stemming further climate impacts across the globe.

The first draft of the final agreement from Cop26 “urged” all countries to “revisit and strengthen” their climate pledges for 2030 in order to give the world a better chance at keeping temperatures at 1.5C.

It came after a stark analysis published on Tuesday warned that even when pledges agreed at the Glasgow summit are taken into consideration, global greenhouse as emissions in 2030 are likely to be twice as high as what would be needed to meet the 1.5C target.

However, the latest draft uses different language in its call for countries to up their 2030 pledges.

Instead of “urging” countries to submit tougher plans, it “requests” that they do. It is currently not clear whether this change represents a strengthening or weakening of the text. According to the UNFCCC style guide, “requests” is a stronger word than “urges”.

A new mention of “methane” has made it into the latest draft of the Glasgow pact. The new text asks countries to “consider further actions” to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases this decade, with specific mention of the potent polluter methane.

The opening statement of the Glasgow pact now also makes specific reference to the role of children in demanding that leaders take action.

The new draft has strengthened wording and provided a specific timeline on increased climate finance, one of the key demands of developing countries and small island states who are already facing severe and worsening impacts.

The text now “urges” developed countries to “at least double” climate finance for developing countries by 2025.

The draft now also acknowledges “with deep regret” that developed countries have failed to meet promises first made in 2009 to provide $100 billion per year to help poorer nations to help them slash their emissions and adapt to worsening climate impacts.

The acknowledgement of wealthy nations’ failure to meet the $100bn had been “a specific ask of poor countries”, according to Mohamed Adow, director of the energy and climate think tank Power Shift Africa.

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said the latest draft text “could be better” but there were elements “worth holding on to”.

“The key line on phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies has been critically weakened, but it’s still there and needs to be strengthened again before this summit closes. That’s going to be a big tussle and one we need to win,” she said.

“But there’s wording in here worth holding on to and the UK Presidency needs to fight tooth and nail to keep the most ambitious elements in the deal.

“We’ve moved from richer nations largely ignoring the pleas of developing countries for promised finance to tackle climate change, to the beginnings of a recognition that their calls should be met. Now we need developed countries to scale up their offer of support and finance.”

Dr Jennifer Allan, a lecturer in international relations at Cardiff University, added that the new draft was, on the whole, “a lot more balanced between the views of developed and developing countries”.

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