Climate talks face ‘monumental challenge’ to deliver on goals – Sharma

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Alok Sharma says negations around finance to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change “need to accelerate and they need to accelerate now” as the Cop26 summit enters its final days.

The failure of developed nations to deliver the long-promised 100 billion US dollars in finance to poorer nations has been a major sticking point in the talks so far.

An alliance of developing nations and emerging economies want commitments to phasing out fossil fuels to be stripped from the cover agreement, arguing being asked to decarbonise without financial support will leave them trapped in poverty.

At a press conference on Thursday, an exhausted-looking Mr Sharma said: “Negotiations on finance really need to accelerate and they need to accelerate now.

“Having engaged extensively with parties of the past year and at Cop, I know that everyone understands what is at stake for the future of our planet here in Glasgow.”

He continued: “We still have a monumental challenge ahead of us, but collectively we have no choice but to rise to that challenge and strain every sinew to achieve a timely outcome that we can all be proud of.

“Because ultimately, this outcome, whatever it is, will belong to all of us.”

Cop26 – Glasgow
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres (Jane Barlow/PA)

His words were echoed by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres emphasised that under current plans, the world is still on course for temperature rises well above 2C.

“Promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions in subsidies, as measured by the IMF, or when countries are still building coal plants, or when carbon is still without a price, distorting markets and investors decisions,” he said.

Mr Guterres added: “The announcements here in Glasgow are encouraging but they are far from enough.

“The emissions gap remains a devastating threat, the finance and adaptation gap represent a glaring injustice for the developing world.”

With Glasgow failing to close the gap, the pressure is now on countries to agree on a deal that will ensure they take mitigation action to cut emissions in the 2020s and keep the 1.5C goal within reach, as well as deliver on finance.

A first draft of the cover decision includes a commitment to phase out fossil fuels, the first time this has ever appeared in such a text.

But few people think it will make it into the final document.

A coalition of developing nations in particular are unhappy at the wording on phasing out coal, oil and gas, particularly when commitments on finance have not yet been met, and want any reference to carbon “mitigation” removed completely.

Speaking on behalf of a block of 24 nations known as the Like-Minded Group of Developing Countries (LMDC), Bolivia’s chief negotiator Diego Pacheco Balanza said rich countries were encroaching on the “carbon space” of poorer ones.

The citizens of LMDC countries account for around half of the global population.

At a press conference, Mr Balanza said: “That space is for the developmental rights of the developing world and also for the protection of mother earth.”

Mr Balanza said framing the climate crisis as one of shared responsibility would “trap” developing countries in poverty, adding only developed nations have the resources to swiftly decarbonise their economies.

“We know that this narrative will allow (rich countries) again to control the world, and those countries that are not able to achieve the (net zero by 2050) target will be financially condemned,” he said.

He added: “Under the Paris Agreement finance is an obligation, finance is not a charity to developing countries from the developed world.”

Draft text on the ongoing areas of negotiations were published overnight, including on the thorny issue of finance for countries to reduce emissions and adapt to the threat of climate change.

There were also draft texts on addressing the loss and damage to vulnerable nations caused by climate-driven extreme weather and on parts of the so-called Paris rulebook to help make the global climate treaty agreed in 2015 operational.

Cop26 – Glasgow
Commitments to phase out fossil fuels are likely to be stripped from the Cop26 cover agreement (Dan Barker/PA)

Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledged to take action to curb global temperature rises to “well below” 2C and pursue efforts to limit rises to 1.5C, beyond which the worst impacts of climate change will be felt.

Scientists have warned that keeping temperature rises to 1.5C requires global emissions to be cut by 45% by 2030, and to zero overall by mid-century.

A new draft of the cover decision is expected overnight on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the US and China published a declaration that they would work together on enhancing emissions-cutting action in the 2020s to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord to limit global warming to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C.

It is hoped that the collaboration between the two major emitters will help to move the blocs of countries they are part of towards agreement in the final hours of the talks, which are scheduled, but unlikely, to finish at 6pm on Friday.

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