Countries far apart as COP26 enters final stretch

Published November 13, 2021
Alok Sharma President of the COP26 summit, bottom right, and Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive-Secretary, second left, speak at the end of a plenary session at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Friday. — AP
Alok Sharma President of the COP26 summit, bottom right, and Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive-Secretary, second left, speak at the end of a plenary session at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Friday. — AP

GLASGOW: A draft statement of the COP26 summit on Friday called on nations to ease their reliance on fossil fuels as talks entered their final hours without any sign of delivering the emissions cuts needed to limit global warming to 1.5C.

After two weeks of round-the-clock negotiations, delegates produced a round-up of their progress, which urged governments to accelerate “the phase-out of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”.

Delegates in Glasgow from nearly 200 nations are charged with keeping the Paris Agreement temperature goals alive even as climate-driven disasters hit countries the world over.

The summit began with a bang as world leaders descended on Glasgow armed with a string of headline announcements, from a commitment to slash methane emissions to a plan to save the rainforests.

But progress has stalled in the underlying technical and now minister-level negotiations.

With one day left of scheduled talks, countries are hardly any closer to agreement over whether national emissions cutting plans must be ramped up in the short term, how climate action is reported, and how vulnerable nations are supported.

“The truth is that the atmosphere doesn’t care about commitments,” said Ugandan youth activist Vanessa Nakate. “It only cares about what we put into it or stop putting into it. Humanity will not be saved by promises.” Friday’s draft text language on fossil fuels was more nuanced than a previous iteration, focusing on “unabated coal” and “inefficient subsidies” rather than a more general phase out of the fuels.

“Unabated” coal plants are those that do not deploy carbon capture technology to offset some of their pollution.

Friday’s draft text also included a request for countries to come back with more ambitious emissions cutting plans by next year — three years earlier than planned.

Host Britain says it wants COP26 to lead to commitments from countries to keep the 1.5C temperature cap goal of the Paris agreement within reach.

However, current national emissions cutting plans, all told, would lead to 2.7C of heating.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that countries’ climate plans were “hollow” without commitments to rapidly phase out fossil fuels.

Negotiations received a shot in the arm on Wednesday when the United States and China — the two largest emitters — unveiled a joint climate action plan.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2021

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