Ryan says Europe faces a «critical moment» as COP26 . negotiations continue

Updated 1 hour ago

The COP26 chair urged delegates to have a «balanced» climate agreement on the table after talks went through three versions of the resolution.

After three nights of all-night negotiations that pushed the summit beyond its scheduled completion on Friday, delegates are still trying to agree on a deal to deliver deeper emissions cuts and vital financing to countries at risk.

COP26 President Alok Sharma told delegates from nearly 200 countries that the current draft text of the summit attempts to bridge the gaps between rich and developing nations that have hampered discussions.

“Everyone had the opportunity to have their say. I hope colleagues will appreciate what is on the table,” he said, presenting the third draft of the text.

“Although not everyone will welcome every aspect, this is a package collectively that moves things forward for everyone,” Sharma added.

“I intend to close this COP this afternoon” – with more time to haggle on technical issues, he said.

The third draft of COP26 resolution, released this morning, urges states to speed up the phase-out of unrefined coal and subsidies for «inefficient» fossil fuels after major emitters tried to remove mention of polluting fuels.

The text, which comes after two weeks of negotiations at the Glasgow Climate Summit, ignores any reference to a specific financing facility for «loss and damage» – the rising cost of global heating thus far – which has been a key demand of developing countries.

The mention of fossil fuels is weaker than a previous draft which called on countries to «accelerate the phase-out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies».

The new version instead seeks to «accelerate efforts toward relentlessly phasing out coal energy and subsidizing inefficient fossil fuels».

It also calls for «recognizing the need for support for a just transition» – how developing countries that still depend on fossil fuels for energy are being helped to decarbonise.

‘A decisive moment’

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said Europe was facing a «critical moment» when it had to stand up for the developing world.

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“This is a critical moment when Europe has to stand with the developing world and help the developing world in this truly impossible challenge. The only way to do that is collectively.

«I think one of the key issues in getting an agreement will be how to help developing countries and poor countries, and I think Ireland has a role to play in that.»

He said Ireland is providing immediate financial assistance along with three other countries, with Ireland providing €5 million.

Ryan added that it is not yet certain whether the countries will be able to reach an agreement: «There is the possibility of an agreement that would help us keep 1.5 degrees Celsius alive and that we stop the worst and most dangerous climate change, but we are not sure.»

He said any deal needed to be ambitious to «meet the science» and deal with the effects of climate change.

‘A blow to developing countries’

However, there was criticism of the draft text, with the NGO Christian Aid Ireland saying it would be «a huge blow to developing countries» and a reminder that wealthier nations will have priority.

COP 26 will be remembered for the refusal of rich countries to recognize their environmental debts and to hoard funds for countries on the front line of the climate crisis, Conor O’Neill, policy and advocacy advisor.

He added that any deal would have to help developing countries «pay the price for the losses and damages that already are and will continue to suffer harsh weather and slow-onset disasters» caused by climate change.

“The final text emerging from Glasgow offers incremental progress in previous COPs but that is not enough at this point.

“There is little in the text that truly acknowledges the scale of the climate emergency facing us or commits to the profound and rapid transformation of our society and economy needed to address it.

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«We see a lot of vague goals and loose language, especially when it comes to ending the use of fossil fuels, and that won’t be enough to keep us under the crucial 1.5 degree threshold of warming.»

Earlier, the Green Party leader said negotiations were «close to a final agreement».

He said there is a «final push to strengthen commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide greater support to developing countries, most threatened by climate change».

The text asks countries to speed up their plans to cut emissions and submit new plans by the end of 2022, three years earlier than what the Paris Agreement calls for.

But it failed to allocate funds specifically earmarked for losses and damages, and instead reiterated the «urgent need to expand action and support» for weak states.

Delegates said that a proposal to create a dedicated loss and damage management support facility was scrapped by historical emitters.

Amadou Sibouri Toure, head of the G77 + China negotiating bloc, told AFP that the proposal was «put forward by the entire developing world, representing six out of seven people on Earth».

Separate funding, he said, is necessary «to respond effectively to our needs to address the loss and damage to our peoples, communities and economies from the effects of climate change.»

The historic reference to coal and fossil fuel subsidies has survived in the latest draft of the «covering decision» text of a comprehensive agreement countries hope to strike in Glasgow, despite an expected backslide from some major producing and exporting nations.

The details in the draft text are the first time a climate change agreement of this kind has specifically referred to coal or fossil fuels.

It calls on countries to accelerate technology and policies to move towards low-emission energy systems through clean energy generation and energy efficiency.

It also recognizes the need for support towards a «fair transition,» which is seen as an important measure to protect people who may face job losses or rising costs in the transition to clean energy.

Between the first and second draft, as the language shifted around fossil fuels, Professor John Sweeney of the University of Maynooth said the magazine It was a «significant weakening».

«The phrases that are laid out quite clearly were drawn up by order of the oil and coal nations,» he said, referring to the terms «relentless» and «ineffective» and calling them «vague.»

“I don’t think it keeps 1.5 alive. I think the language is so loose that it’s almost business as usual in many countries.

«The only positive aspect is the aspect they have to come back to next year and report back on their progress,» he said.

«But when you delve into the text, the text is the lowest common denominator in many respects, and I think it would be a mistake to think that the conference was a colossal success.»

© AFP 2021

Reporting by Lauren Boland, Orla Dwyer, and the Press Association

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