COP26: Battle over coal, fossil fuels in final hours

By Vishal Gulati

Glasgow, Nov 12 (IANS): As 197 nations on Friday approached the end of the 26th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it also marks the beginning of the hard work that is needed to prevent climate chaos and build a positive brighter future with bold commitments to end the use of coal and other fossil fuels.

"Pledges and far-off commitments simply won't do -- the world needs action", climate activists shouted outside the COP26 venue.

COP observers told IANS that the latest draft appears significantly more balanced with stronger elements on adaptation, finance and loss and damage.

The elements of the text aimed at speeding up action to close the gap towards emissions goals are there -- with no radical changes from the previous version and dates still intact.

However, the language on coal and other fossil fuels has been softened, and the inclusion of the commitment in a final deal would be seen as a landmark moment.

The latest draft urges countries which have not landed new plans to do so by 2022, requests all countries to raise climate targets in line with 1.5-2C by and of 2022, commissions annual UN assessment of climate plans from 2022, urges countries to deliver net zero mid-century plans by 2022 and signal to countries to accelerate shift off fossil fuels, coal to renewable energy.

It notes 'deep regret' of developed countries for missing $100 billion target and urges countries to fully deliver on the $100 billion goal 'urgently' through 2025.

It welcomes further operationalisation of the Santiago Network on loss and damage and strongly decides that the Santiago Network will have a technical assistance facility to provide financial support for technical assistance on loss and damage.

The draft outcome text of COP26 released in the morning failed the acid test of whether Glasgow will be a success by containing woefully insufficient commitments on fossil fuels, say civil society groups. This clearly shows that the fossil fuel industry has had a hand in weakening the draft text overnight, they add.

All 197 parties will need to agree on each and every word of the final agreement.

As they negotiate the final text, countries must ensure there is additional language. This should include a commitment to an equitable phase-out of oil and gas, not just coal, and to redirect all sources of financial flows, not just subsidies, towards a clean, renewable energy transition.

Leaders must talk about the real causes of climate change if they are going to arrive at real solutions. Governments cannot afford to leave Glasgow with anything less in the final decision text if the world is to have a realistic chance of keeping global temperature rises within 1.5C, say the civil society groups.

Responding to the draft, First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted, "This underlines the vital importance of the latest draft text being negotiated upwards not downwards in the final hours of #COP26 -- it's time for a demonstration of real political leadership from the PM (given UK holds COP presidency) and all countries."

Indian Union Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav said the world must start acting together on four issues -- temperature, mitigation, finance and responsibility to fight climate change.

"It is time the world unites to honour the commitments made under the Paris Agreement, which set a goal to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels," Yadav said in a blog titled 'Time to unite against climate change'.

Consultations between the UK Presidency and countries appear to have been intense -- and lasted well into last night.

UN chieg Antonio Guterres set the bar in a punchy Thursday address: "We cannot settle for the lowest common denominator. We know what must be done. Keeping the 1.5 goal within reach means reducing emissions globally by 45 per cent by 2030."

In the final hours, what's at stake: A pathway for accelerated mitigation ambition and implementation in the critical decade: a clear date (COP27/2022) and process to revise and enhance 2030 numbers until the 1.5C gap is closed; trigger for revisions of long-term strategies and support for developing countries to enable it; support for developing countries struggling with climate impacts: at least a doubling of global adaptation finance by 2024 (2019 baselines) to move toward balanced adaptation and mitigation shares of the $100bn; and full operationalisation and staffing of the Santiago Network on loss and damage.

On environmental integrity there should be no double-counting and no carry-over of Kyoto credits to further widen the 2030 emissions gap; ensuring overall emissions reductions, high integrity, universal transparency rules, along with a reference to human rights and independent grievance provisions (European and Latin American ministers behind the San Jose Principles will need to hold the line on integrity or risk rules that fundamentally undermine the credibility of the Paris system).

A pivotal moment for the world came at COP21 in Paris in 2015 when each country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to deliver on these aims. That COP gave birth to the landmark Paris Agreement.

The science is clear in a stark warning ahead of the COP26 in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations organisation, that warns human activity is damaging the planet at an alarming rate.

The report says climate change is already affecting every region across the globe and that without urgent action to limit warming, heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and loss of Arctic Sea ice, snow cover and permafrost, will all increase while carbon sinks will become less effective at slowing the growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

So the Glasgow summit is a key moment for countries, cities, businesses and more to keep the Paris Agreement on climate change on track and put forward ambitious, equitable solutions for a zero-carbon future. And this is what the UK Presidency is aiming to achieve.

The UK is scheduled to conclude the talks on Friday officially, but going by the track record, the negotiations may spill over to the next days. The last COP ran on for two extra days.



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