Negotiators at COP26 raced on Friday to reach a climate agreement that would reduce the dangers of rising temperatures.
The draft of the final agreement of the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference was released early Friday. It requires countries to make tougher climate promises next year to close the gap between their current targets, and the deeper cuts scientists believe are necessary to avert catastrophic climate changes.
“We have come a long way over the past two weeks and now we need that final injection of that ‘can-do’ spirit, which is present at this COP, so we get this shared endeavour over the line,” said Britain’s COP26 President Alok Sharma.
Talks were at a “bit of a stalemate,” and the United States, with support from the European Union, was holding back talks, said Lee White, the Gabonese minister for forests and climate change.
White said there was a lack of trust between rich and poor nations over payments from rich countries to the poor for damage from the worst effects of global warming – funds for adapting to climate change and carbon markets.
On October 31, nearly 200 nations met in Glasgow to discuss global warming.
New requirements are being proposed to force countries to increase their pledges to limit global warming to 1.5C.
However, no agreement had been reached by the scheduled 6pm local (18:00 GMT) end of Friday’s conference.
“The negotiating culture is not to make the hard compromises until the meeting goes into extra innings, as we now have done,” said longtime climate talks observer Alden Meyer of the European think-tank E3G.
“But the UK presidency is still going to have to make a lot of people somewhat unhappy to get the comprehensive agreement we need out of Glasgow.”
Saudi Arabia, the world’s second-largest oil producer and considered among the nations most resistant to strong wording on fossil fuels, said the latest draft was “workable”.
The Saudi delegate, Ayman Shasly, said the country would guard against any changes that “skew the balance” of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
A final agreement will require the unanimous approval of nearly 200 countries who signed the Paris accord.
Cutting fossil fuel subsidies
Friday morning’s draft proposals from the meeting’s chair called on countries to accelerate “the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”.
A previous draft Wednesday had been stronger, calling on countries to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuel”.
John Kerry, US climate ambassador, stated that Washington supported the current formulation. “We’re not talking about eliminating” coal, he told fellow climate diplomats. But, he said: “Those subsidies have to go.”
There was a mixed response from activists and observers on how significant the addition of the words “unabated” and “inefficient” was.
Richie Merzian, a former Australian climate negotiator who directs the climate and energy program at the Australia Institute think-tank, said the additional caveats were “enough that you can run a coal train through it”.
Countries like Australia and India, the world’s third-biggest emitter, have resisted calls to phase out coal any time soon.
Scientists agree it is necessary to end the use of fossil fuels as soon as possible to meet the Paris accord’s ambitious goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).
Rewording of some crucial text of the draft agreement around coal and fossil fuels is “very unfortunate”, Danish Environment Minister Dan Jorgensen told Al Jazeera.
“Some of the very strong wording that was in there, for instance, with regards to fossil fuels and coal … is being watered down,” he said.
Questions about funding
Another crucial issue is financial assistance for poor countries to combat climate change.
The talks were canceled after rich nations failed to pay $100bn per year by 2020 as agreed. This caused a lot of anger in the developing countries.
The latest draft reflects those concerns, expressing “deep regret” that the $100bn goal hasn’t been met and urging rich countries to scale up their funding for poor nations to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change – an issue with which developed countries are also grappling.
The sum, which falls far short of what the UN says countries would actually need, aims to address “mitigation”, to help poor countries with their ecological transition, and “adaptation”, to help them manage extreme climate events.
The new draft said that, by 2025, rich countries should double from current levels the funding they set aside for adaptation – a step forward from the previous version that did not set a date or a baseline.
Only 25% of the $80bn that rich countries spent on climate finance in 2019 for poor countries was for adaptation.
A more contentious aspect, known as “loss and damage”, would compensate them for the ravages they have already suffered from global warming, though this is outside the $100bn and some rich countries do not acknowledge the claim.
Updating the emissions target
Another problem is the updating of emissions targets. Nation representatives were asked to send back new emission-cutting targets.
The draft calls on the nations to submit another tougher target by the end of 2022, but some nations, such as Saudi Arabia, are balking at the proposal, said the World Resources Institute’s David Waskow.
In 2015 in Paris, there was debate about whether targets should be updated every five or 10 years, so updating them one year after Glasgow is a big deal, said the Environmental Defense Fund’s Vice President for Global Climate Kelley Kizzier, a former EU negotiator.