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'We must not fail': Negotiations continue at COP26 as scheduled deadline nears

Negotiations have run overtime at previous COP summits.

Protesters leaving the main area of the COP26 summit earlier today.
Protesters leaving the main area of the COP26 summit earlier today.
Image: PA

THE COP26 CLIMATE conference is entering its scheduled final hours with the summit president urging countries to bring a “can-do spirit” to reach an agreement. 

Conference president Alok Sharma said this afternoon that he wants the conference to end in a “smooth and orderly” manner by this evening.

COP26 is scheduled to end by 6pm but many other UN climate summits have run up to two days over schedule. 

A number of documents are still being negotiated in the lead-up to a potential agreement. Some terms around climate finance and loss and damage for developing countries are still being discussed. 

A deal will be put to almost 200 countries and all need to agree on the terms for consensus to be reached. 

Sharma said: “This is our collective moment in history. This is our chance to forge a cleaner, healthier more prosperous world and this is our time to deliver on the high ambition set by our leaders at the start of this summit.

“We must rise to the occasion.”

He said negotiators worked late last night on key issues including finance and loss and damage. He hopes the text put forward at 7am today can be accepted by countries, but it could still change in the coming hours and possibly days. 

Countries and negotiating groups had the opportunity to speak on the terms of the draft text as it stands. Many countries said they agreed with some aspects of the draft contract, but many said it doesn’t go far enough.

A Tuvalu speaker said that the small island nation is “at the forefront” of climate change. 

“Our land is fast disappearing. Tuvalu is literally sinking. We must take action now,” he said.  

We urge everyone to deliver and take action now. It’s a matter of life and survival for many of us. And we implore that Glasgow must be the defining moment. We must not fail. 

Tuvalu is one of the nations most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change 

The EU commissioner for climate action Frans Timmermans said the goal to limit global warming to a 1.5 degree temperature rise is “about avoiding a future for our children and grandchildren that is unliveable”.

“This is personal, this is not about politics,” he said. “We need to make sure major emitters reduce their emissions so that we keep 1.5 alive.”

A speaker for the Marshall Islands said the 1.5 degree goal is “non-negotiable”.

“This will be the decade that determines the rest of human history. We cannot let it slip by,” she said.

A Kenya speaker said it is “a matter of life and death”.

Fossil fuels

The updated draft ‘cover decision’ for the summit, which can still be changed further, urges governments to accelerate “the phase-out of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”.

Unabated coal plants are those that don’t deploy carbon capture technology to offset some of their pollution.

That is a softer ask than the first version of the text, as is a request for countries to come back next year with updated climate pledges 

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

US climate envoy John Kerry said spending fortunes on fossil fuel subsidies was “the definition of insanity”. 

“We’re the largest oil and gas producer in the world. We have some of those subsidies,” he said about the United States. 

“Those subsidies have to go.”

 The new draft did flesh out other key areas of contention, including in a line calling on developed countries to “at least double” their adaptation funding by 2025. 

Protests

Protesters this afternoon gathered outside the SEC centre in Glasgow where COP26 is taking place. Protesters also staged a walk-out of official proceedings today. 

Speaking outside the conference centre, Philippines activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan said that young people are scared for the future. 

“I am so afraid of what’s going to happen next, because all the texts are saying five to ten years from now,” she told crowds. 

“Every November to December, huge typhoons hit my country. What happens in the next one? What happens next year? What happens in the next few months?

Why are we talking about five to ten years as if the climate crisis isn’t here today?

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A new revised text of the ‘cover decision’ for this year’s summit was released at around 7am today. 

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the new draft deal is “slightly better” but “still has way to go”.

“On the upside, there’s a clear recognition that 1.5C is the goal in terms of limiting global warming. There seems to be movement on adaptation finance, there is wording on loss and damage,” she said.

Assistant professor at the school of law and government in Dublin City University Sadhbh O’Neill told The Journal that pledges are meaningless until real action becomes clear.

“Political progress is one thing, but progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is another. So we have a lot of new pledges, and there’s pressure on countries to come back with more new pledges to get the overall figure down to 1.5 [degrees].

But that’s all meaningless, it is literally blah, blah, blah until they’re implemented.

“In Ireland, we know how challenging it’s going to be to meet our 2030 targets. I’m really scared that we won’t. The trends are going in the wrong direction.”

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