Big compromises eclipse small successes at COP26 | News | Eco-Business
A COP delayed by the pandemic ended with the Glasgow Climate Pact. Delayed, watered down and disappointing, the consensus has left most countries unhappy and has been sharply criticized by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Many compromises had already been made in the background, but at the last moment India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav also proposed a change on coal.
Compromises hide progress at COP26
The many compromises masked the advances made during the fifteen summits which lasted an additional day. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement rulebook has been finalized. Developing countries can now expect a functioning carbon emissions market, through which they can raise funds to deal with the impacts of climate change.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made important commitments that got the ball rolling at the start of the summit. China and the United States have signed a pact to tackle methane, which, after carbon dioxide, is the most common greenhouse gas entering the atmosphere and warming the Earth.
More generally, developed countries have agreed to significantly increase the funding they provide to developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Developed countries had pledged to provide US $ 100 billion per year by 2020 to developing countries; which has been postponed to 2023.
On the positive side, however, more of the money will now go to adaptation – an urgent need in developing countries that are affected by droughts, storms, floods, landslides and a surge in the sea more and more violent due to climate change. So far, most of the money has been spent on reducing greenhouse gas emissions: developing countries that pollute little have received little.
Last minute snags
Sadly, all progress was obscured by the final hours of negotiations to finalize the Glasgow Climate Pact – negotiations that spilled behind the scenes for a public session to discuss the project.
The session was repeatedly delayed as US climate envoy John Kerry met with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua. They were joined by UK conference chairman Alok Sharma and EU chief climate negotiator Frans Timmermans. Xie’s assistants were explaining some of the changes they had penciled in in the draft, Kerry took out her reading glasses, Sharma took notes and everyone looked angry.
Sharma had already described the draft pact as “a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced package of results”; this last session was intended for feedback. It soon became clear that for many countries this was none of the above.
The biggest problem for most developing countries was that, again, there was no money on the table to deal with the loss and damage they suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the climate change.
There was not even a promise to put in place a financial mechanism to deal with the problem. All these movements have been blocked by developed countries, led by the United States, for fear of incalculable lawsuits if even the idea of financial compensation for historic emissions is accepted by a United Nations body.
Economic growth versus future insecurity
The largest bloc of countries is the G77 and China (which despite its name actually includes 143 nations). As president, the representative of Guinea drew some satisfaction from the fact that the pact had at least recognized the losses and the damages, but expressed “extreme disappointment because the dialogue is very far from concrete measures for the losses and the damages. damage ”.
Beyond emphasizing the importance of loss and damage, the pact makes no mention of it. The representative of Guinea bluntly declared that a COP (conference of the parties, official name of the summit) “without concrete results on finances cannot be qualified as a success”.
Nevertheless, the G77 and the China bloc accepted the project in “a spirit of compromise”, he continued. This sentiment was echoed by delegates representing the least developed countries, the African Group, the Alliance of Small Island States and other blocs.
China called for the pact to maintain a balance between mitigation and adaptation, and that the conference organizers “listen fully to all.”
This point was underscored when Indian Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav aggressively tackled the issue of ending fossil fuel subsidies, noting that cooking gas subsidies for families living below poverty line had helped millions of women in India.
“Developing countries have the right to responsible use of fossil fuels,” he said. The fundamental issue of economic growth as a non-negotiable item for the poorest countries while fossil fuel-driven growth appears to be the cheapest and most reliable way has not been addressed.
The failure to do so meant that India’s argument over the rights of developing countries – which have contributed the least to climate change in total and per capita terms – to carbon emissions has received indirect support from China. , and much more direct support from South Africa, Nigeria, Iran and Venezuela.
This focus on current poverty and recurring disasters that make the transition difficult contrasts sharply with the views of developed countries. Timmermans of the EU felt that not enough was being done to keep the global temperature rise in pre-industrial times at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Kerry tried to calm passions by describing the Glasgow Climate Pact as “a powerful statement,” promising to “look forward to conversations about loss and damage” and to make “every effort to double funding for adaptation ”.
The most passionate call came from the representative of the Maldives. “We accept the gradual steps taken in Glasgow, but the progress is not as required,” she said.
“It will be too late for the Maldives… We are putting our homes in jeopardy while those with other options decide when to act. She implored all countries “to go beyond dialogue and provide the action and resources we need”.
Referring to the 2 ° C temperature rise ceiling in the Paris Agreement and wishing to give more strength to the lower ceiling, she said: “The difference between 1.5 ° C and 2 ° C is a condemnation to dead for us. “
Sharma concluded the informal session by asking all countries not to make any further changes during the last formal plenary session. He described the pact as an “incredibly delicate balance – if one of us pulls on it, it will fall apart too easily.”
The final compromise at COP26
There was a pause. Then, as the official closing plenary session was about to begin, Yadav stepped onto the podium and showed Sharma a piece of paper. As Sharma opened the session seeking consensus on the Glasgow Climate Pact, India introduced a change in the paragraph on fossil fuel subsidies.
The draft paragraph called on countries “to accelerate the development, deployment and diffusion of technologies, as well as the adoption of policies, to shift to low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of production measures. clean energy and energy efficiency, including accelerating efforts to phase out coal-fired electricity and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, recognizing the need for support towards a just transition. “
India proposed that “phase-out” be replaced by “phase-out”. The paragraph had already been weakened by oil-exporting countries and the United States in previous negotiations, by inserting the word “inefficient” before fossil fuel subsidies. This gives countries the opportunity to say their subsidies are effective, giving them more time to switch from coal to renewables for power generation.
There was strong opposition to change from developed countries and many small developing countries. Switzerland led the charge by expressing “deep disappointment at the watering down of the text”.
Timmermans said the EU “wanted to go further with coal. What was read was a further disappointment. He said the EU would be “strongly committed” to phasing out the use of coal “around the world”. It shouldn’t stop us. Mexico expressed disappointment. The same goes for the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Antigua and Barbuda.
Nevertheless, the change was accepted and India retained the support it had during the informal session.
Much of the media in developed countries pilloried India for making the change, without acknowledging the earlier insertion of the word “ineffective”.
A COP that has not managed enough
Overall, most governments and observers felt that while the Glasgow COP had made progress, it had not gone far enough to tackle climate change, which is already showing its impact with an average global temperature. 1.17 ° C above pre-industrial level. Current promises to limit emissions still lead the world to an increase of at least 2.4 ° C.
The disappointment was expressed most strongly by UN chief Guterres, whose statement was: “The approved texts are a compromise. They reflect the interests, conditions, contradictions and state of political will in the world today. They are taking important steps, but unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome deep contradictions … Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread.
We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. It’s time to go into emergency mode – or our chances of hitting net zero themselves will be nil. I reaffirm my belief that we must end fossil fuel subsidies. Gradually remove the charcoal. Putting a price on carbon. Strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities to the here and now impacts of climate change. And honor the commitment of $ 100 billion in climate finance to support developing countries …
Science tells us that the top priority must be rapid, deep and sustained emission reductions during this decade. Specifically – a 45 percent reduction by 2030 from 2010 levels… We will not reach our destination in a day or a conference. But I know we can do it. We are in the fight of our lives.
This story was published with permission from The Third Pole.
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