Coal and fossil fuel subsidy phase-out call survives into new Cop26 draft text

·5-min read
Climate activists protesting during the official final day of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Climate activists protesting during the official final day of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Calls on countries to accelerate the phase-out of “unabated coal and “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” has survived into a new version of the deal for overrunning Cop26 talks.

The latest draft, published more than 13 hours after the UN climate summit in Glasgow was due to have finished, also requests countries “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 emissions-cutting targets by the end of 2022.

This is seen as key to keeping the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C, beyond which the worst impacts of extreme weather and rising seas will be felt, within reach, although it does not specifically refer to the 1.5C goal.

It requests countries revisit the targets “as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022, taking into account different national circumstances”.

Climate activists protesting at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Climate activists protesting at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

In the Paris Agreement in 2015, countries committed to limit temperature rises to “well below” 2C and try to limit them to 1.5C to avoid the most dangerous impacts of storms, droughts, crop failures, floods and disease.

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

But despite countries being required to update their action plans, known as nationally determined contributions, for emissions cuts up to 2030 in the run-up to Glasgow, the latest pledges leave the world well off track to meet the goal.

Therefore, countries are under pressure to come up with a deal in Glasgow that will see them rapidly increase their ambition for emission cuts in the 2020s to stop the 1.5C goal slipping out of reach, as well provide the finance for developing countries to cope with the crisis.

It urges developed countries to at least double their collective provision of climate finance to help developing nations adapt to climate change, from 2019 levels by 2025.

The historic reference to coal and fossil fuel subsidies has survived into the latest draft of the “cover decision” text for an overarching deal that countries are hoping to strike in Glasgow, despite expected pushback from some big producer and emitter nations.

Climate activists protesting (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Climate activists protesting (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

It is the first time a climate change agreement of this kind specifically mentions coal or fossil fuels.

It calls on countries to accelerate technology and policies to shift towards low-emission energy systems, by scaling up clean power generation and energy efficiency, including accelerating efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

But it also recognises the need for support towards a “just transition”, seen as important to protect those in countries who might be hit by job losses or higher costs from the shift to clean energy.

Examples of this support include the deal struck by South Africa with the US, UK, France Germany and the EU, announced at Cop26, to help the coal power-heavy country shift to a clean energy system.

The cover decision also includes efforts on loss and damage to people’s homes, livelihoods, land and infrastructure that vulnerable countries face from climate-related rising seas, storms, floods and droughts.

Alok Sharma, President of Cop26, ahead of an informal stock-taking plenary session (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Alok Sharma, President of Cop26, ahead of an informal stock-taking plenary session (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

It includes measures to establish a “dialogue” between countries and organisations to discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimise and address loss and damage – but does not involve rich countries paying compensation for climate harm they have caused.

The texts are likely to survive in much of their current form until a formal plenary on Saturday afternoon, but they could still change when countries all meet together to debate them.

Key issues for debate are likely to be the references to coal, which affects exporters such as Australia, and fossil fuels, the 2022 revisiting of climate plans which emerging economies such as China could object to, and concerns by the US over loss and damage and adaptation finance.

There is also still debate over transparency on what countries are doing, and establishing carbon markets.

But countries will have to set out their concerns in public – in front of other nations and the watching world – at the plenary.

Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said: “The key line about fossil fuels is still in the text.

Greenpeace displays a banner reading ‘Not for Sale’ in front of the giant revolving globe at the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow (PA) (PA Wire)
Greenpeace displays a banner reading ‘Not for Sale’ in front of the giant revolving globe at the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow (PA) (PA Wire)

“It’s weak and compromised, but it’s a breakthrough, it’s a bridgehead and we have to fight like hell to keep it in there and have it strengthened.

“Today’s plenary could witness a defining moment with a clutch of countries seeking to strike that line from the deal and dilute plans to force nations to come back next year with better emissions plans.”

Tasneem Essop, executive director of the Climate Action Network, accused rich nations of betraying vulnerable countries by blocking proposals for the creation of a Glasgow loss and damage finance facility to support poorer nations hit by climate impacts.

Helen Mountford, World Resources Institute vice-president of climate and economics, said: “I am more optimistic than on the first day that we can get a good enough deal here. This is really about can we put in place the processes and systems going forward to actually close the gaps that remain.”

She added: “To some extent we’ll know whether it succeeded when we come back next year and we see what countries and others did when they went home. What they do on Monday morning is what’s going to count.”

On timing, she believes the talks could “slip into the early hours of (Sunday) morning”.

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