UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of an impending “climate catastrophe”, while environmental activist Greta Thunberg called Saturday’s agreement on the COP26 climate conference a “blah, blah, blah “. After a last-minute drama in Scotland to secure a deal, even those who hailed the deal in Glasgow said a huge amount of work remains to be done.
UN chief Guterres acknowledged the shortcomings of the deal, in a statement following the deal reached Saturday night at the Glasgow conference.
“The outcome of # COP26 is a compromise, reflecting the interests, contradictions and the state of political will in the world today,” he tweeted. “It’s an important step, but it’s not enough.
“Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread,” he warned, adding that “we are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe”.
In a follow-up tweet, the UN chief sent a message to “young people, indigenous communities, women leaders, all who run #ClimateAction.” He said, “I know you might be disappointed. But we are in the fight of our lives and this fight must be won.
The COP26 climate agreement is “a clear betrayal of the millions of people suffering from the climate crisis”
Thunberg, arguably the world’s best-known environmental activist, was more direct in her assessment: “# COP26 is over,” she tweeted. “Here’s a quick summary: Blah, blah, blah. But the real work continues outside of these rooms. And we’ll never, ever give up.
During the conference, Thunberg and other activists denounced the way this was going, arguing that world leaders had failed to match their words with real action.
“Hard work ahead”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained relatively optimistic.
“There is still a lot to do in the years to come,” Johnson said.
“But today’s deal is a big step forward and, most importantly, we have the very first international agreement to phase out coal and a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.”
My message to young people, to indigenous communities, to women leaders, to all those who lead #ActionClimat:
I know you might be disappointed. But we are in the fight of our lives and this fight must be won.
Never give up. Never step back. Keep moving. I am with you. # COP26
– António Guterres (@antonioguterres) November 13, 2021 A statement from the European Commission said that the agreement kept the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement alive, “giving us a chance to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius ”.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said conference delegates made progress on commitments to reduce dangerous emissions and on raising $ 100 billion a year to help developing and vulnerable countries.
“But there will be no time to relax: there is still work to be done,” she added.
Last minute drama
There was a last-minute drama in Glasgow as India, backed by China and other coal-dependent developing countries, rejected a clause calling for the “phase-out” of coal-fired electricity. After a discussion between envoys from China, India, the United States and the European Union, the clause was hastily amended to ask countries to “gradually reduce” their use of coal.
In recent days, the Australian government has made a commitment to sell coal for decades to come. But Kevin Rudd, the former Australian Prime Minister and now president of the Asia Society, remained optimistic.
“While the official text may not have agreed to phase out coal, statements made by world leaders in Glasgow leave no doubt that coal is on the way to being relegated to history . “
The one-word change to coal has been greeted with dismay by wealthy countries in Europe and small island nations as well as others in the developing world.
“We believe that we have been sidelined in a non-transparent and non-inclusive process,” said Mexican envoy Camila Isabel Zepeda Lizama. “We all have remaining concerns, but we’ve been told we can’t reopen the text… while others can always ask to water down their promises.”
But Mexico and others have said they will leave the revised deal in place.
Reaching a deal has always been about balancing the demands of climate-vulnerable nations, major industrial powers, and those like India and China that depend on fossil fuels to pull their economies and populations out of harm’s way. poverty.
The voice of COP26 President Alok Sharma broke with emotion in response to the anger of vulnerable countries expressing their anger at the last minute changes.
“I apologize for the way this process has unfolded,” he told the assembly. “I am deeply sorry.”
The overall goal he set for the conference was too small for climate activists and vulnerable countries – to “keep alive” the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of preventing global temperatures to rise above 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels. Scientists say warming beyond this point could trigger irreversible and uncontrollable climate impacts.
By asking nations to set tougher targets by next year to reduce emissions from global warming, the accord effectively acknowledged that commitments were still insufficient. National commitments are currently putting the world on track for a warming of around 2.4 ° C.
The talks also led to a breakthrough in resolving rules to cover government-run markets for carbon offsets.
Companies and countries with extensive forest cover had been pushing for a deal, also hoping to legitimize rapidly growing global voluntary compensation markets.
The deal allows countries to partially meet their climate goals by purchasing offsets representing emission reductions by others, potentially unlocks billions of dollars for forest protection, renewable energy development and other projects to fight against climate change.
“The coal era is coming to an end”
Jennifer Morgan, executive director of the Greenpeace campaign group, saw the glass half full.
“They have changed a word but they cannot change the signal coming out of this COP, that the era of coal is over,” she said. “If you are a leader of a coal company, this COP had a bad result.
Developing countries argue that rich countries, whose historic emissions are largely responsible for global warming, must finance their efforts both to move away from fossil fuels and to adapt to growing climate impacts. more serious.
The deal offered a promise to double adaptation funding by 2025 from 2019, but again, no guarantees. A United Nations committee will report next year on progress in delivering the pledged $ 100 billion a year in climate finance after rich countries miss the 2020 deadline for funds. The finances will then be discussed again 2024 and 2026.
But the deal has left many vulnerable countries disheartened by offering no funding for climate-related loss and damage, a promise made in the original pact called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.
Wealthy nations have once again resisted acknowledging financial responsibility for their years of emissions that led to climate change as they achieved economic prosperity.
While the Glasgow deal charted a course for tackling the issue by establishing a new dedicated secretariat, vulnerable countries said this represented a bare minimum of acceptability.
“This package is not perfect. The change of coal and a poor result on loss and damage is a big blow, ”said Tina Stee, Marshall Islands Climate Envoy. Yet “elements of the Glasgow Package are a lifeline for my country. We must not overlook the crucial victories covered by this package. “
(AXADLETM with AFP, REUTERS)