Alok Sharma: Negotiators ‘not there yet’ on securing agreement at COP26 talks

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Cop 26 President Alok Sharma surrounded by advisers (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Cop 26 President Alok Sharma surrounded by advisers (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

There is still a lot more work to be done to secure agreement at the COP26 climate summit, its president Alok Sharma told delegates on Thursday.

The penultimate day of the talks “must represent another gearshift” in negotiations, Mr Sharma said, as countries try to resolve political differences in a number of areas that still need to be hammered out.

“I want to be clear, we are not there yet, there’s still a lot more work to be done.

“I know how hard you are all working, but today must represent another gearshift where negotiators finalise outstanding technical work and ministers dial up their engagement,” he said.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Overnight, new draft texts were published for negotiations that are going on in a number of areas, including on providing future finance for poorer countries to develop cleanly and cope with the impacts of climate change – where Mr Sharma said he was concerned about progress.

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

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 per cent by 2030, and to zero overall by mid-century.

But countries’ plans for this decade – which they were supposed to develop in the run-up to the Glasgow summit – leave the world facing rises of at least 2.4C.

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 more finance for poorer countries to tackle the crisis and to adapt to its effects.

As the negotiations continued with teams headed by ministers from countries around the world, the United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres warned that the central goal of keeping the target to limit global warming to 1.5C within reach was “on life support”.

In an interview with AP, Mr Guterres said: “The worst thing would be to reach an agreement at all costs by a minimum common denominator that would not respond to the huge challenges we face.

“It is the moment to reach agreement by increasing ambition in all areas: mitigation, adaptation and finance, in a balanced way,” he said.

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson returned briefly to the summit, where he urged leaders not to sit on their hands but to speak to negotiators to give them room to manoeuvre and get a deal done.

Progress is needed on areas such as finance and helping countries to adapt to climate impacts in order to deliver a balanced package that countries can support in the “cover decision” – the deal that could be struck in Glasgow.

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

The first draft called on countries to develop more ambitious plans in the next year for cutting emissions up to 2030.

And they were urged to bring forward long-term net-zero plans, as well as action on climate finance, helping poorer countries to adapt to the impacts of global warming and to address the loss and damage they will inevitably suffer.

Under the Paris Agreement finance is an obligation, finance is not a charity to developing countries from the developed world

Diego Pacheco Balanza, Bolivia's chief negotiator

And it called for an acceleration in phasing out coal and subsidies for fossil fuels, a first for such a UN text, although that is likely to be getting major pushback from some quarters as negotiating teams consider the draft and will probably be lost from the final text.

A coalition of developing nations in particular are unhappy at the wording on phasing out fossil fuels, particularly when commitments on finance have not yet been met.

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.

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

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 last 48 hours of the talks, which are scheduled – but unlikely – to finish at 6pm on Friday.

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