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Greta Thunberg calls COP26 deal 'vague' as Johnson says summit ‘tipping point’ for end of coal

The COP26 summit ended at the weekend after weeks of negotiations.

A woman holding a sign near the SEC conference centre in Glasgow last week.
A woman holding a sign near the SEC conference centre in Glasgow last week.
Image: DPA/PA Images

CLIMATE ACTIVIST GRETA Thunberg said the deal reached by world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow was “very vague” and left open the prospect of climbing global emissions and the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.

Countries at the UN climate conference agreed to “phase down” coal use, rather than “phase out”, after a last-minute wording change led by China and India.

“Unfortunately it turned out just the way as I had expected, and that many others had also expected, they even succeeded in watering down the blah, blah, blah, which is quite an achievement,” Thunberg told BBC Scotland News today.

“There is still no guarantee that we will reach the Paris Agreement. The text that it is now, as a document, you can interpret it in many, many different ways.

We can still expand fossil fuel infrastructure, we can still increase the global emissions. It’s very, very vague.

Almost every country in the world agreed on Saturday to a number of decisions as part of the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Countries agreed to come back with updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) next year and included other terms deemed relatively progressive including explicitly mentioning fossil fuels.

Although the Glasgow Climate Pact has been hailed as progress on climate action, activists and experts have said the agreed plans still don’t go far enough to limit the impacts of global warming. 

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said today that COP26 had “proved the doubters and the cynics wrong” and that it keeps alive the aim of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Johnson told the House of Commons that, for decades, tackling the coal problem “proved as challenging as eating the proverbial elephant”, but that in Glasgow the world “took the first bite”.

He said that if those countries did fulfil their pledges, Glasgow would be remembered as the place where “the world began to turn the tide”.

Johnson was expected to tell business leaders and diplomats at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London this evening: “I have been watching politics a long time now and I know when a tipping point is reached.

“The language does matter but, whether you are talking about phasing down or phasing out, the day is now not far off when it will be as politically unacceptable, anywhere in the world, to open a new coal-fired power station as it now is to get on an aeroplane and light a cigar.”

Additional reporting by Orla Dwyer. 

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