Negotiators at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow are expected to lock horns on Friday for what is scheduled to be the final day of bargaining over how to stop global warming from becoming extreme.
After nearly two weeks of talks, the almost 200 countries represented at the summit keep at odds over a range of issues from how high nations should compensate poor ones for damage caused by climate-pushed disasters to how often nations should be required to update their emissions pledges.
“There is nevertheless a lot more work to be done,” Alok Sharma, Britain’s president of the COP26 summit, told reporters on Thursday about the state of negotiations.
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Already, there appeared to be signs that negotiators were backing away from a call to end all use of coal and phase out fossil fuel subsidies completely. Wednesday’s draft proposal had called on countries to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuel.”
But the latest draft from the meeting’s chair released Friday calls on countries to accelerate “the phaseout of unabated coal strength and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.”
The COP26 conference set out with a chief aim: to keep alive the 2015 Paris Agreement’s aspirational target to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
But under countries’ current pledges to cut emissions this decade, researchers say the world would hit levels of global warming far beyond that limit, unleashing extreme sea level rises, floods and droughts.
While there’s little hope that new promises will appear in the final day of talks to bridge that gap, negotiators are attempting to impose new requirements that could force countries to hike their pledges in future, hopefully fast enough to keep the 1.5C goal within reach.
The earlier draft of the COP26 deal, for example, would force countries to upgrade their climate targets in 2022, something climate-unprotected nations hope they can strengthen into forced annual reviews to ensure the globe remains on track.
COP26 agreement draft a good start but not enough, delegates say
“Glasgow must be the moment when goal-raising becomes a continued course of action at every COP, and this year’s COP decision must mandate annual goal-raising platforms until 2025 to ensure that,” said Mohamed Nasheed, parliamentary speaker and former president of the Maldives and ambassador for the Climate unprotected Forum group of 48 countries.
“Action is needed this very decade. 2030 feels like a cliff’s edge and we are running towards it,” said Nicolas Galarza, Colombia’s vice-minister for the ecosystem.
A senior United States official said the world’s biggest economy supported strengthening targets to meet the Paris goals but could not sustain a requirement in the COP26 deal for yearly reviews of pledges.
At the moment, countries are required to revisit their pledges every five years.
The COP26 draft deal calls on countries to beef up climate promises. But is that enough?
Negotiators are also fighting over language on phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels in the COP26 conclusions, which Arab countries – many of them large fossil fuel producers – have warned against.
European Union climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said on Thursday that removing that language “would be an extremely, extremely bad signal”.
Questions of finance continue to loom over the talks, with developing countries pushing for tougher rules to ensure that high countries, whose historical emissions are largely responsible for heating up the planet, offer more cash to help the poorest nations adapt to climate impacts.
Scientists warn planet will warm by 2.4°C despite COP26 commitments
Ministers are also attempting to finish the contentious rules that will put the Paris agreement into practice, requiring agreement on years-old disputes over carbon markets and transparency.
A final deal will require the unanimous consent of the nearly 200 countries that signed the 2015 Paris Agreement.
On Thursday night, diplomats hunkered down to thrash out the technical terms of the Paris rulebook, while in other negotiating rooms their government ministers debated over other political sticking points.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Giles Elgood)
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