New draft COP26 deal weakens language on phasing out fossil fuels

Updated 3 hours ago

A new draft of the deal that could be agreed at the Glasgow COP26 climate talks appears to have softened its push to curb fossil fuels.

The first draft of the «covering decision» for the comprehensive agreement at the summit called on countries to «accelerate the phase-out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies.»

In a new draft released this morning, that changed that to calling on countries to accelerate the transition to clean energy systems, «including by rapidly expanding clean power generation and accelerating the relentless phase-out of coal power and ineffective fossil fuel subsidies.»

The inclusion of a reference to fossil fuels was the first for a UN resolution document of this kind, but it was expected to elicit strong opposition from some countries – and it still might not survive until the final text.

Talks are heading toward a difficult outcome today after two weeks of fraught debate that failed to resolve several major disagreements or produce the emissions-cutting plans needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

“The world is watching us,” Alok Sharma, head of COP26, told delegates to delegates tasked with keeping the Paris Agreement temperature targets alive, even as climate-induced disasters hit countries around the world.

The summit began with great fanfare as world leaders descended on Glasgow armed with a series of major announcements, from a commitment to cut methane emissions to a plan to save the rainforest.

But progress has stalled in the basic technical negotiations and at the ministerial level now.

With a day left of scheduled talks, countries are nowhere near agreeing on whether to ramp up national plans to cut emissions in the short term, how to report on climate action, and how to support vulnerable nations.

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«The truth is, the atmosphere doesn’t care about commitments,» said Ugandan youth activist Vanessa Nakate.

“He only cares about what we put in it or stop putting it in. Humanity will not be saved by promises.”

The texts of the draft resolutions urged countries to accelerate their decarbonization plans and make recaptured contributions by 2022, three years earlier than planned.

It also included a rare reference to fossil fuels – anathema to major hydrocarbon producers, but a major demand from the European Union and other advanced economies.

Host Britain says it wants COP26 to lead to commitments from countries to keep the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit target within reach.

However, current national plans to cut emissions, all of them will result in 2.7°C of heating.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that countries’ climate plans are «hollow» without commitments to rapidly phase out fossil fuels.

Agreement between the United States and China

Negotiations took a hit on Wednesday when the United States and China – the two largest emitters – unveiled a joint climate action plan.

Although he was light on details, observers said the agreement eased fears that a frosty US-China relationship entry at COP26 would derail talks.

But levels of trust between polluting rich countries and developing countries are low after developed countries failed to provide the $100 billion (about 87 million euros) annually they promised by 2020.

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Funding in general is holding back progress in Glasgow, as developing nations insist on more funds for adaptation that can help them prepare for future climate shocks.

Meanwhile, developed countries favor a bigger push to cut emissions, something that countries that have not yet fully electrified their grids – which are largely not to blame for emissions – feel unfair.

«We have taken steps forward,» European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told AFP.

“It is not enough to address the problem we are facing, but we are having a very different conversation now than we had just two months ago. Adaptation has already appeared on our global agenda.”

Countries already affected by climatic disasters such as record-breaking droughts and floods are demanding that they be compensated separately for «losses and damages».

Organizers said the draft texts devoted an «unprecedented» section on losses and damages, but the countries at risk said it did not live up to their expectations.

Other issues likely to delay an agreement in Glasgow include the long-running dispute over the rules governing carbon markets, and common reporting timeframes.

© AFP 2021, with additional reports from the Palestinian Authority

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