COP26: World leaders agree climate change deal but 'deep disappointment' over fossil fuel compromise

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World leaders have reached the most significant climate change pact since the landmark Paris Agreement, following a turbulent two weeks of fraught negotiations in Glasgow.

With a stroke of the gavel, COP26 President Alok Sharma announced that almost 200 nations had finally reached consensus on how to navigate the climate crisis.

Its supporters say the pact will help "keep 1.5C in reach", but many have pointed out it is far from perfect, with last-minute changes to fossil fuel wording almost bringing Mr Sharma to tears.

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Major outcomes include:

  • Supercharging 2030 emissions-cutting targets as soon as next year, potentially "keeping 1.5C alive", a key objective of the talks

  • Accelerating the phase-down of unabated coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies

  • Doubling funding for developing nations to adapt to climate change by 2025

  • Boosting up the agenda the conversation about how to pay for the loss and damage that climate change inflicts on developing countries

  • Finally agreeing rules on carbon offset markets, which the last two COPs had tried and failed to finalise

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called the outcome "an important step, but it's not enough. It's time to go into emergency mode".

"The climate battle is the fight of our lives and that fight must be won," said Mr Guterres as the talks finally closed, a day later than planned.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is still "a huge amount more to do in the coming years".

"But today's agreement is a big step forward and, critically, we have the first ever international agreement to phase down coal and a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees," the PM said.

A highly contested fossil fuel statement made it through to the final pact, but was watered down at the last minute as India forced through a re-wording of "phase-out" to "phase down". The amendment by the coal-dependant nation drew emotional complaints from some countries including Mexico and Switzerland.

Mr Sharma appeared close to tears as he apologised for "the way this process has unfolded".

"I am deeply sorry," he said. His voice cracked as he told delegates: "I also understand the deep disappointment. But I think as you have noted, it is also vital that we protect this package."

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, hailed COP26 as "a step in the right direction".

"At the start of this conference, we set three objectives: First, to get commitments to cut emissions also during this decade, to keep within reach the goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Second, to reach the target of 100 billion dollars per year of climate finance to developing and vulnerable countries. And third, to get agreement on the Paris rulebook. We have made progress on all three objectives."

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Earlier, developing countries reluctantly accepted proposals for a new "dialogue" on loss and damage, after requests for a finance facility disappeared from the final agreement.

Sepi Golzari-Munro, acting director at climate think tank ECIU, said: "The agreement reached in Glasgow is not perfect, but given the economic and political context around the world, it's delivered more than many expected.

"These summits are an important part of tackling climate change, but only a part. What was important was that the UK presidency used its significant diplomatic skill to reach a conclusion that parties could agree upon and built momentum on tackling climate change that has kept the Paris Agreement goals within reach."

Commenting on the pact, Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said: "It's meek, it's weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive, but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.

"Glasgow was meant to deliver on firmly closing the gap to 1.5C and that didn't happen, but in 2022 nations will now have to come back with stronger targets.

"The only reason we got what we did is because young people, indigenous leaders, activists and countries on the climate frontline forced concessions that were grudgingly given."

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg was unimpressed, tweeting: "The #COP26 is over. Here's a brief summary: Blah, blah, blah. But the real work continues outside these halls. And we will never give up, ever."

Science is clear that to limit global heating to 1.5C, which will still see dangerous climate change, the world must slash emissions by 45% by 2030. But emissions are set to rise by 2030 and an updated assessment just this week warned the planet was on track for 2.4C of warming.

At COP21 in Paris in 2015 countries agreed to limit warming to "well below" 2C and ideally 1.5C.

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