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.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Glasgow should be very proud of the warm welcome that it has given to COP26.
“The Glasgow Climate Pact does not contain everything that every country wanted and there is understandable disappointment that key issues were watered down in the final hours, but there can be no doubt that the Glasgow summit has made progress on some important issues.
“The importance of capping temperature increases at 1.5 degrees is no longer questioned and the need for countries to come back next year with higher contributions to tackling emissions may just be enough to keep 1.5 alive – if countries including Scotland really do deliver on our commitments.
“There have been significant commitments to double finance for adaptation, to take action on methane and deforestation and the beginning of proper recognition of the loss and damage that is being experienced by countries particularly in the global south.
“Those countries compromised on their needs today to make progress and we must not let them down.
“Over the course of COP26 Scotland has put £2 million on the table for loss and damage and, in doing so, we have become the first developed country to step up. Our action has already galvanised $3 million dollars of philanthropic funds to add to our contribution and a further one million euros from Wallonia.
Nicola Sturgeon with Greta Thunberg
“Developed countries can no longer in good conscience ignore this pressing moral issue. The demand for financial support for loss and damage must be met and I am determined that the Scottish Government will continue to support countries to achieve a financial outcome on this issue ahead of COP27.
“There is also recognition for the first time, although it is deeply disappointing that due to last minute interventions by China and India it is not as strong and clear as it should be, of the need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, a journey Scotland has already embarked on – and needs to accelerate – in a way that is fair and just.
“Outside of the formal negotiations, states, regions and countries like Scotland – as well as cities like Glasgow – have boosted our collective ambition to reach net zero by 2050 and earlier where possible. Scotland has led the way with commitments to make sure women and young people are central to our efforts to tackle the climate crisis.
“While there has been much positive progress, there is no escaping the fact that COP26 has not delivered as much as global south countries, activists and campaigners rightly demanded and I firmly believe that the leaders of the rich developed countries must go further.
“In particular, the failure to close the gap and deliver the $100 billion commitment in full was not a lack of funds but a lack of political will.
“I have heard the disappointment of a number of vulnerable nations. There was more that could be done to deliver climate justice and every day of the next 12 months the UK Presidency must be focused on securing what has been agreed, ensuring historic promises do not go unmet and taking the necessary steps to put the world firmly on an irreversible path to capping temperature rises at 1.5 degrees.
“Where COP26 has succeeded, the pressure from young people, the global south and activists around the world has been critical. Where COP has more to do, it is leaders who must shoulder the responsibility.”
Responding to the decisions, 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.”