COP26: In some ways Greta Thunberg is wrong to call the summit a 'failure' and 'PR event'

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Outside the vast steel cordon around the COP26 summit, Greta Thunberg slammed it as a "failure" and a "PR Event."

In some ways she's right.

One of the key promises of COP26 was to finalise the flow of $100bn in cash from polluting countries to poorer ones and agree the rules by which nations should fairly reduce their carbon footprints. And on both those measures it has not, so far, delivered.

The cash will come not this year, but next. Close, but for poor countries, a broken promise.

There's PR too. A press release on phasing out coal suggested new ambition from Poland, one of Europe's most coal-dependent nations. It turns out Poland hasn't improved on its plans to phase out coal in 2049 - far too late to turn down the global thermostat.

There was a similar announcement about ending deforestation by 2030 signed by Indonesia. Significant, from a country where the orangutan is being driven to extinction by chainsaws for palm oil plantations. Only the following day, Indonesia clarified its inclusion on the press release, saying it would not put jeopardise its economic development for commitments made at COP26.

But Greta is also wrong.

Going into COP26, the world was on course for 2.7 degrees of warming.

Now that figure could be as low as 2 degrees. Not the 1.5 the world needs, but progress nonetheless.

Countries, including major polluters like India, have increased their commitments to cut carbon. Deals to reduce methane emissions, make businesses more accountable for their emissions and increase flows of private green finance have been struck. And partnerships made, like one in which rich countries including the US and the UK will pay South Africa - the continents biggest polluter - to retire its coal-fired power stations.

When COP26 began, expectations were not high. Chinese and Russian leaders were absent, political ambition was low, concern was high that COVID had stifled nations' ability to negotiate.

But the sense of optimism at this conference is greater than many expected. While some of the announcements put out by the UK presidency felt hyped, they've helped deliver hope - which is part of what keeps talks like these moving forward.

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There's still a long way to go before this meeting can be declared a success however.

For some countries, finding more green financing is a red line. For nearly all parties, more action is required from China which so far cannot be coerced into committing to bigger carbon cuts. Nor can it be bullied.

But negotiating teams tell me that progress is being made on agreeing the technical rules by which the Paris agreement should be run.

That could help cement trust in some of the more fragile political promises like phasing out coal and mobilising private finance.

It will not conclude with a solution to the climate crisis we so urgently need. But with a week to go, it looks like Glasgow is pointing us in that direction.

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