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Draft COP26 pact calls for countries to strengthen climate action in 2022

The draft ‘cover decision’ has been published by the UK COP26 Presidency.

Puppet Little Amal walks across the River Clyde in Glasgow in front of where the COP26 summit is being held
Puppet Little Amal walks across the River Clyde in Glasgow in front of where the COP26 summit is being held
Image: Jane Barlow

A FIRST DRAFT of a pact that could be agreed at COP26 urges countries to strengthen their emissions-cutting plans for the 2020s in the next year.

A draft “cover decision” published this morning also urges them to set out long-term strategies by the end of next year to reach net-zero emissions by around mid-century, to curb warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

The document, which was published by the UK COP26 presidency around six hours later than expected, will have to be negotiated and agreed by countries attending the talks.

It says that meeting the goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees – which countries pledged to try to pursue under the Paris climate accord – needs meaningful and effective action in “this critical decade”.

Scientists have warned that keeping temperature rises to 1.5, beyond which worsened impacts of climate change will be felt, requires global emissions to be cut by 45% by 2030 and to zero overall by mid-century – but country plans for this decade leave the world well off track for the goal.

The document calls for countries to accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels, and for developed countries to at least double their collective provision of climate finance to help developing countries adapt to climate change, as part of scaling money for poorer nations to tackle the crisis.

Delegations are expected to be in contact with their leaders and capitals to discuss what their position on it will be – particularly in those countries whose leaders did not attend the world leaders’ summit, such as China and Russia.

Speaking to The Journal about the draft, senior research fellow in energy systems modelling at University College Cork Dr Fionn Rogan said the draft as it stands is a “mixed bag” with some positive elements. 

“There are a few interesting things in there particularly on mitigation,” he said.

The mitigation section of the draft agreement has one clause calling upon countries to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels”.

This would be a significant step in cutting emissions if approved, but Dr Rogan said there will likely be pressure from certain countries to remove this term in the final agreement. 

There is also a section in the draft deal for countries to come back next year with increased commitments and plans for cutting emissions. 

‘Pull out all the stops’

British prime minister Boris Johnson has urged countries to “pull out all the stops” to agree climate action ahead his return to the Glasgow summit today as it enters its final days.

Negotiators are also trying to hammer out agreement on technical parts of the global climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, including common timeframes for national commitments on emissions reductions and agreed ways for countries to report on their progress, to help turn pledges into action.

There are also negotiations on providing finance for developing countries to cope with climate change and address the issue of loss and damage to people, livelihoods, land and infrastructure caused by global warming in poorer nations.

Campaigners have criticised the draft deal as being not strong enough and lacking in concrete commitments.

Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said the draft deal was “not a plan to solve the climate crisis”.

“It’s a polite request that countries maybe, possibly, do more next year,” she said.

It comes as analysis from research organisation Climate Action Tracker shows the world is on track for a rise of  2.4 degrees Celsius in the global temperature based on current pledges of action up to 2030.

Morgan said: “The job of this conference was always to get that number down to 1.5C, but with this text world leaders are punting it to next year.

“If this is the best they can come up with then it’s no wonder kids today are furious at them,” she said, adding it needed to be much stronger on finance and adaptation for developing countries.

Boris Johnson said: “Negotiating teams are doing the hard yards in these final days of COP26 to turn promises into action on climate change.

“There’s still much to do. Today I’ll be meeting with ministers and negotiators to hear about where progress has been made and where the gaps must be bridged.

“This is bigger than any one country and it is time for nations to put aside differences and come together for our planet and our people.

“We need to pull out all the stops if we’re going to keep 1.5C within our grasp.”

Ireland

Speaking to reporters in Glasgow on Monday, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan quoted United States climate envoy John Kerry in saying that “this is the week that decides the decade.”

“My sense is that last week went reasonably well, in terms of some of the methane pledge and the deforestation pledge,” Ryan said.

“I think this COP is about creating momentum for action and creating transparency and urgency for action.”

The Green Party leader added that Ireland will commit €10 million in the next year to the International Adaption Fund.

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“Irish people do want to do something on this. I think the Irish people are sick and tired of being described as climate laggards,” Ryan said.

“I think that vote in the Dáil [on the Climate Action Plan] is fairly reflective of a country that’s is willing to step up to the plate. We’re good at this. 

“When we set our minds on doing something collectively we’re as well placed as anyone to do it,” Ryan added. 

Alongside the negotiations, the COP26 conference is marking “transport day”, with a number of aims drawn up, including that new heavy goods vehicles sold in the UK will need to be zero emissions by 2040.

30 countries have also agreed to work together to make zero emissions vehicles the new normal, and plans for “green shipping corridors” will be unveiled – facilitating a shift to zero emissions vessels.

And 14 states, collectively making up for more than 40% of global aviation emissions, have put their names to a commitment to a new decarbonisation target.

With reporting by Orla Dwyer

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