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what the draft agreement says – and why it’s being criticised
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what the draft agreement says – and why it’s being criticised

Three people in front of a sign


The UK presidency delayed the publication of the final draft of the final agreement until Wednesday morning, despite leading the delegates to believe that it would be published at midnight Tuesday at the COP26 climate summit. There will have been plenty of negotiators – not to mention journalists – who will have needlessly waited up all night.

Alok Sharma, COP26 president, won’t have made many friends with them. text itselfEither. As the host and chair of the summit, it is the UK’s responsibility to pull together all the negotiating texts which have been submitted and agreed over the last week into a coherent overall agreement.

But the widespread consensus among delegates I have spoken to is that the draft they have produced is not sufficiently “balanced” between the interests and positions of the various country groupings. This is a grave error for the chair of delicate negotiations.

Let’s recap. This COP (the conference among the parties to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) marks the moment when countries must make stronger commitments to take action under the 2015 Paris Agreement. There are two main areas that can be used to achieve this. One is emissions cuts by 2030, the so-called “nationally determined contributions” or NDCs. The other is financial assistance for the least developed countries.

The problem facing the COP is that we know already that, when added together, countries’ emissions targets are not nearly enough to keep the world to a maximum warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial times, as the Paris Agreement aims for. And the financial promises don’t even reach the US$100 billion (£74.1 billion) a year that was meant to be achieved in 2020, let alone the much larger sums the most vulnerable countries need.

Three people in front of a sign

In Glasgow, indigenous activists from the Andes (Amazon), and Patagonia.
Robert Perry / EPA

So what have the poorest countries – and the vociferous civil
society organisations demonstrating in Glasgow – been demanding?

NDCs must be strengthened before 2025. The second is that at least US$500 billionClimate finance should be provided for the five-year period from 2025 to 2025. Half of this should go to countries that are attempting to adapt to climate change.

Urging – not requiring

So what is the UK draft text? It merely “urges” countries to strengthen their NDCs, proposing a meeting of ministers next year and a leaders’ summit in 2023. But “urges” is UN-speak for: “You may do this if you wish to, but you don’t have to if you don’t.” That is not enough to force countries to get onto a 1.5℃-compatible path. They must be required to do so by the text.

The text on finance is even weaker. Although the demand for US$500billion is not mentioned, it does call to double adaptation funding. The use of the special drawing rights(a type of global money supply) that the IMF recently issued to support climate-compatible development. There isn’t enough recognition that the most fragile countries need better access to the funds.

Developing countries don’t expect to get everything they want in the negotiations. But commenting on the overall balance of the text between different countries’ positions, one European delegate said to me: “This looks like it could have been written by the Americans.”

It is true that, as Alok Sharma highlighted in his afternoon press conference. However, the text can still have changes. There are many issues that negotiations are still on and the text doesn’t reflect their progress. Sharma has asked each party to send in their proposed amendments to the draft. He will then meet with them to discuss their responses. He will be asked for many meetings.

It is important to know how the early text was drafted for two reasons. The first is that the lack of balance means it will be the least developed countries that will have to work the hardest to make it better. In Paris, the French presidency did the opposite. They drafted an ambitious text, and challenged the biggest emitters of it to oppose.

Second, the perceived inequalities could impact the trust in British hosts. Sharma has built a strong reputation during the preparations for the COP. He won’t want to lose it in the crucial last days.

COP26: the world's biggest climate talks

This story is part of The Conversation’s coverage on COP26, the Glasgow climate conference, by experts from around the world.

The Conversation is here to help you understand the climate news and stories. More.


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