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'Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread': COP26 deal agreed by global leaders

Negotiations ran into overtime at the summit with some last-minute changes to the final deal.

Protesters during a climate demonstration in London last week.
Protesters during a climate demonstration in London last week.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

AN AGREEMENT HAS been reached between almost every country in the world at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The UN conference was due to end on Friday evening but it went into overtime while negotiators worked to find consensus on a number of key issues included in the final Glasgow Climate Pact.

These crucial issues include the terms of a global carbon trading market and addressing climate finance for developing countries to help deal with the impacts of climate change. 

A $100 billion target for funds from developed nations to help developing countries adapt to climate change was not reached.

Hitting this goal was seen by many as the determination for whether this summit was a success or a failure, but there are many elements to consider in this assessment. 

On carbon markets, Laurence Tubiana, who helped forge the 2015 Paris Agreement, said that the new text had “closed some of the egregious loopholes, such as double counting”.

“But it is not enough to stop bad faith companies and countries gaming the system,” she told AFP, adding that a watchdog would need to monitor the implementation of the markets.

The pact also “requests parties to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022″. 

“Requests” in UN text is close to “must do”, and some countries were not keen on accelerating the timetable.

Pledges put forward for this summit still fall far short of the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature goal, instead bringing the world to about a 2.7 degree rise this century. 

Observers said this agreement also fell far short of what is needed to help countries adapt to climate change and deal with the impacts of extreme weather events already occurring around the world. 

Mohamed Adow, director of energy and climate think tank PowerShift Africa, said that “the needs of the world’s vulnerable people have been sacrificed on the altar of the rich world’s selfishness”.

The secretary general of the UN António Guterres said the texts approved at the conference are a “compromise”. 

“They take important steps, but unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions,” he said at the conclusion of the summit. 

“Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread… It is time to go into emergency mode — or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero.”

He added that COP27 “starts now”. 

Fossil fuels

The Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said it was “deeply disappointing” that the language around phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies was watered down in the final pact.  

An initial draft of the conference ‘cover decision’ called on countries to “accelerate the phase out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies”. A more recent draft called for acceleration of the phase out of “unabated coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. 

However, in a last-minute change to the Glasgow Pact – following a push by India and China – the language was reduced even further from escalating the “phase out” of unabated coal, to “phase down”, prompting angry responses from European and vulnerable countries.

“Glasgow has injected fresh momentum in the fight against climate change. We now have to go home and prove it will result in real action that protects people and the planet, and provide a just transition and a better economy for all,” Minister Ryan said.

Here are some of the key points about COP26: 

  • The summit began on 31 October and was due to end yesterday but, as is often the case with COP, it ran into extra time. 
  • Delegates and politicians from every country in the world came to Glasgow to discuss how they plan to cut emissions. 
  • For an agreement to be reached, every country must sign up to the terms hashed out between nations in intense and technical negotiations. 
  • Pledges and promises are focused on the ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement reached in 2015 – to limit the global temperature increase to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and preferably to 1.5 degrees.
  • Plans put forward at this summit leave the world at around 2.7 degrees of warming this century. At the summit, delegates said they want to “keep 1.5 alive” as those from the Global South and developing countries said the 1.5 degree goal is “life or death” for people in their countries.
  • Alongside thousands of delegates and officials, activists from all around the world were in Glasgow over the past few weeks protesting for climate action.
  • Greta Thunberg last week called the summit a “failure” and has famously criticised the “blah, blah, blah” of the discussions. 

When the agreement was reached, Thunberg said ”the real work continues outside these halls. And we will never give up, ever”. 

Former president Mary Robinson said the COP26 summit “made some progress, but nowhere near enough to avoid climate disaster”.

“While millions around the world are already in crisis, not enough leaders were in crisis mode. People will see this as a historically shameful dereliction of duty.”

Trócaire head of policy and advocacy Siobhan Curran criticised that there was no establishment of loss and damage funding in the Glasgow deal.

Curran said wealthy countries have “turned their backs on indigenous communities, small-scale farmers, women and girls who desperately need support to recover and rebuild after climate disasters. This is a matter of great injustice.”

She said: “We are in an emergency, and we needed world leaders to act like we are in an emergency. The clock is ticking. People are experiencing devastating consequences of climate inaction right now.” 

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The secretary general of Amnesty, Agnès Callamard, said COP26 “failed to deliver an outcome that protects the planet or people”.

“Throughout their negotiations, our leaders have made choices that ignore, chip away or bargain away our rights as human beings, often discarding the most marginalised communities around the world as expendable collateral damage.”

Professor John Sweeney from Maynooth University told The Journal that the softening of this language around fossil fuels doesn’t keep the 1.5 degree goal “alive”.

“I think the language is so loose that it’s almost business as usual for many countries,” he said.

Additional reporting by Eoghan Dalton and AFP

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