Sticking points on finance and emissions as ministers take on Cop26 negotiations

·4-min read

Fault lines in the Cop26 climate negotiations are becoming clearer as ministers from countries around the world take over the reins to hammer out a deal in Glasgow.

As countries met for a presidency update on the first week of the UN conference and progress of the negotiations, it was clear increased action this decade to limit dangerous warming, and finance for poor countries are key.

National plans by countries for action this decade leave the world far off track to meet the internationally agreed goal of trying to limit global warming to 1.5C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

ENVIRONMENT Cop26 Emissions
(PA Graphics)

So negotiators will try to thrash out a “cover decision” from Glasgow, setting out how countries will close the gap between the plans to cut emissions in this decade and what is needed to avoid temperature rises of more than 1.5C.

Vulnerable countries are pushing for nations to revisit their plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), by next year to align them to the 1.5C goal – but others are pushing back against speeding up the process from its five-yearly cycle under the Paris climate treaty.

There have also been concerns over finance to help poorer nations tackle climate change, with developed countries failing to deliver on a long promised 100 billion US dollars a year by 2020 until at least next year.

The Africa group of countries has called for 1.3 trillion dollars a year by 2030 for developing countries.

Ministers will also be under pressure to finalise the so-called Paris rulebook, which will sort out the last parts of the global Paris climate accord to make it operational and effective.

Over the weekend, the UK Cop26 presidency published a summary of what could be in the final statement from Glasgow – though a draft version of the text is not expected until Wednesday.

It flags the need for urgent action up to 2030 and efforts to scale up finance, among other elements.

Cop26 President Alok Sharma struck a seemingly optimistic note at a press conference on Monday, citing progress made on a framework to direct finance to projects hoping to protect communities from climate change.

Mr Sharma said: “Those of you who have followed this process will know that loss and damage has historically been seen as a polarising issue, but I am encouraged that the mood music has changed somewhat and there is now a practical recognition that action is needed on this topic in the face of growing impacts.”

He cited the extreme weather seen in developed nations, such as the wildfires in North America and Australia and the flooding in China and central Europe as one of the catalysts of this shift in mindset.

Mr Sharma said there had been tangible progress on setting up the Santiago Network – a UN body that will connect providers of technical expertise and resources with developing countries to help set up infrastructure to try and avert or at least minimise climate change-induced damage.

“Climate vulnerable communities are particularly at the forefront of my mind and will be so throughout these negotiations,” he said.

“They and the generations to come will not forgive us if we fail to deliver in Glasgow.”

Cop26 – Glasgow
UNFCCC executive secretary Patricia Espinosa (Christopher Furlong/PA)

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Conversation on Climate Change, said most ministers have now landed in Scotland, adding: “They are all eager and willing to get involved in the in the negotiations.”

Ms Espinosa said she was “cautiously optimistic” delegates should “be able to adopt a meaningful group of decisions at the end of this week”.

But elsewhere, campaigners warned the first summary of the final statement was weak, and missing any reference to phasing out fossil fuels, the major source of the greenhouse gas emissions driving global warming.

Kate Blagojevic, Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, said: “(Cop26 President) Alok Sharma can still fix this and insist world leaders up their game through stronger commitments on phasing out fossil fuels and significantly increasing pledges on adaptation finance in the next draft.”

Archie Young, the UK’s lead negotiator, said that during the talks “we have heard clearly a political desire for more work on loss and damage” and “more work on how we can scale up finance”.

Ugandan climate activist Edwin Namakanga who arrived on the Greenpeace vessel the Rainbow Warrior last week, said: “The result from Glasgow must be the end of new fossil fuels, and there must be proper financial support for countries in the Global South.

“We need solidarity and just transition to renewable energy, because anything less is a death sentence for whole peoples, countries and areas.”

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