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Ryan says Europe faces 'critical moment' as COP26 negotiations continue

Negotiations at the Glasgow summit have continued into the weekend with deliberations over specific points.

LAST UPDATE | 13 Nov 2021

THE PRESIDENT OF COP26 has urged delegates to adopt a “balanced” climate deal that is on the table after talks have gone through three versions of the decision.

After three nights of all-night negotiations that have pushed the summit past its scheduled finish of Friday, delegates are still trying to agree a deal to deliver greater emissions cuts and vital finance for vulnerable states. 

COP26 president Alok Sharma has told delegates from nearly 200 countries that the current draft summit text attempts to reconcile gaps between rich emitters and developing nations that have stalled the discussions.

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

“While not every aspect will be welcomed by everyone, collectively, this is a package that really moves things forward for everyone,” Sharma added.

He said “it is my intention that we will close this COP this afternoon” — while allowing more time for haggling over technical issues. 

The third draft of the COP26 decision, which was released this morning, urges nations to accelerate the phase-out of unfiltered coal and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies after large emitters tried to remove the mention of polluting fuels.

The text, which comes after two weeks of negotiations at the climate summit in Glasgow, omits any reference to a specific finance facility for “loss and damage” — the mounting cost of global heating so 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 phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels”.

The new version instead looks for “accelerating efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

It also calls for “recognising the need for support towards a just transition” — how developing nations still reliant on fossil fuels for power are assisted to decarbonise.

‘Critical moment’

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said Europe faces a “critical moment” where it must stand with the developing world. 

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

“One of the key issues in getting an agreement, I think, would be how we help developing countries, poor countries, and I think Ireland has a role to play in that.”

He said that Ireland are offering immediate financial assistance along with three other countries, with Ireland to provide €5 million.

Ryan added that it it not yet certain whether countries will be able to come to an agreement: “There’s a potential for an agreement which would help us keep 1.5C alive and that we stop the worst, most dangerous climate change, but we’re not certain.”

He said it was crucial that any deal will need to be ambitious to “meet the science” and handle with the effects of climate change. 

‘Heavy blow to developing countries’

However there has been criticism for the draft text, with NGO Christian Aid Ireland saying that it will be “a heavy blow to developing countries” and a reminder that wealthier nations will be prioritised. 

“COP26 will be remembered for the refusal of rich countries to acknowledge their ecological debt and stump up the money needed for countries on the frontline of the climate crisis, the group’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor Conor O’Neil said. 

He added that any deal would need to help developing countries “pay for the losses and damages they are already and will continue to suffer from extreme weather and slow onset disasters” wrought by climate change. 

“The final text emerging from Glasgow offers incremental progress on previous COPs but at this stage that just isn’t enough.

“There’s little in the text that really recognises the scale of the climate emergency facing us or commits to the deep and rapid transition of our society and economy needed to tackle it.

“We see far too many vague targets and loose language, particularly when it comes to ending fossil fuel use, and this won’t be enough to keep us under the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees of warming.” 

Earlier, the Green Party leader had said the negotiations were “near a final agreement”.

He said there is a “final push to strengthen commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide greater support for developing countries, who are most threatened by climate change”.

Tweet by @Eamon Ryan Eamon Ryan / Twitter Eamon Ryan / Twitter / Twitter

The text asks nations to accelerate their emissions cutting plans and submit new ones by the end of 2022, three years earlier than set out in the Paris Agreement.

But it fails to allocate dedicated cash specifically for loss and damage, instead reiterating “the urgency of scaling up action and support” for vulnerable nations.

A proposal to include the creation of a dedicated facility to administer loss and damage support was quashed by historic emitters, delegates said.

Amadou Sebory Toure, head of the G77+China negotiating bloc, told AFP the proposal was “put forward by the entire developing world, representing six of every seven people on Earth”.

He said separate finance was needed “to effectively respond to our needs to address the loss and damage being inflicted on our peoples, our communities, our economies, by the impacts of climate change”. 

Tweet by @Mohamed Adow Mohamed Adow / Twitter Mohamed Adow / Twitter / Twitter

The historic reference to coal and fossil fuel subsidies has survived into the latest draft of the “cover decision” text for an overarching deal that countries are hoping to strike in Glasgow, despite expected pushback from some big producer and emitter nations.

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

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

It also recognises the need for support towards a “just transition”, which is seen as an important measure to protect people who might face job loss or higher costs in the move to clean energy.

Between the first and second draft, where the language around fossil fuels shifted, Professor John Sweeney from Maynooth University told The Journal that it was a “significant weakening”.

“The phrases that were put in quite clearly were put in at the behest of the oil and coal countries,” he said, referring to the terms ‘unabated’ and ‘inefficient’ and describing them as ”nebulous” phrases.

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

“The only positive aspect is the aspect that they have to come back next year and report on progress,” he said. 

“But when you drill into the text, it’s a lowest common denominator text in many respects and I think it would be mistaken to think that the conference is a rip-roaring success.” 

© AFP 2021

With reporting by Lauren Boland, Orla Dwyer and Press Association

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