COP26 deal

Historic climate pact leaves critics unimpressed

Standing ovation: Alok Sharma

A deal signalling the end of coal has been agreed among 197 nations though environmental campaigners criticised the watering down of what has been called the Glasgow Climate Pact.

The final statement from COP26 Summit calls on countries to “accelerate efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

All of the nations at the summit agreed to strengthen their emissions-cutting targets for 2030 by the end of next year.

But there was immediate criticism that the agreement was weakened after a last-minute intervention by India, and backing from China, to water down the language on cutting emissions from coal.

India’s growing energy needs still require the fossil fuel for now, it argued, and said it would not sign on without the change.

The deal aims to keep limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels “alive” or within reach, in the face of a huge gap between the action countries are taking and what is needed to meet the goal.

The EU’s climate representative at the summit, Frans Timmermans, called it a “historic, historic decision”.

UK climate change minister and COP26 president Alok Sharma received a standing ovation as he spoke to the plenary.

He thanked the many parties who have “sacrificed wording that you held dear for the sake of an agreement” and also those who “held their nerve” as tempers frayed.

“I think we can say we have kept 1.5 within reach, but its pulse is weak. It will only survive if we keep these promises,” Sharma said.

He once again held back tears as he said: “History has been made here in Glasgow.”

Boris Johnson said he hoped it would mark “the beginning of the end for climate change”.

“There is still a huge amount more to do in the coming years,” said the prime minister. “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.”

But United Nations secretary-general António Guterres called the outcome “a compromise, reflecting the interests, contradictions and state of political will in the world today.

“It’s 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.”

António Guterres: ‘It is not enough’

He said deal had failed to achieve the goals of ending fossil fuel subsidies, phasing out coal, putting a price on carbon, building the resilience of vulnerable communities and making good on a 12-year-old promise for $100bn a year of rich-world support for developing countries.

“Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread,” said Mr Guterres. “We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. It is time to go into emergency mode or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero.”

The Maldives warned that any outcome from Glasgow will come “too late” to save the Indian Ocean island state from the threat of rising sea waters.

“What is balanced and pragmatic to other parties will not help the Maldives adapt in time,” said climate change minister Shauna Aminath. “For us, this is a matter of survival… The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence for us.”

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