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COP-WATCH: COP26 limps to a close as new draft agreement contains much 'urging' but little 'mandating'

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Climate
COP-WATCH: COP26 limps to a close as new draft agreement contains much 'urging' but little 'mandating'
12 Nov
The world waits for COP to come to an official end

The new draft agreement landed today, the official closing day, at 07:18. It calls for a generic doubling of financial help to poor countries and asks nations to raise the ambition of their emissions-cutting efforts by next year, instead of in five years, as indicated by the Paris Agreement.

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It is impossible to predict in which form it will be approved by the COP26 assembly, or when that will take place. 

As we write, at 6:45pm (45 minutes past the scheduled closing time), the second draft text is still being fought over behind closed doors. The contentious issues remain the same but, first and foremost, there is money, both for adaptation and for ‘loss and damage'. Insiders suggest that finance and carbon market issues may even have the potential to blow-up the summit’s outcome.

Starting mid-morning, a stream of declarations from each country resounded in the plenary hall. It went on for hours and hours. Diplomatic good manners were dutifully respected: first praise COP president Alok Sharma for his ‘outstanding leadership’, then start pointing fingers at details that must be corrected, re-written, added or deleted altogether. Most of the talk was in COP-lingo, but with some sprinkles of added drama.

Frans Timmermans, the EU chief negotiator, mentioned his grandson. ‘If we succeed today, he’ll be living in a world that’s liveable. If we fail, he will fight with other human beings for water and food. That’s the stark reality we face.’ This is personal, he admitted, but for people living in Barbados, or the Marshall Islands, ‘it is even more personal’. He got one of the biggest rounds of applause of the day.

John Kerry, the US envoy for climate change, added his support for phasing out ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies, muttering the word that had been added to the agreement overnight. The ambiguous adjective has undoubtedly watered the text down. ‘On the basis of the Precautionary Principle we must act now,’ he insisted with passion. He then expressed support for human and Indigenous rights, and he got his clapping quota too.

However, the EU and the USA – along with all other major economies – were blamed for not being bold (and generous) enough. ‘Our trust has been shattered,’ said the Kenyan delegate about the failed promise to provide $100 billion a year to poorer nations. ‘The older emitters bear the biggest responsibility. Just 20 countries make 80% of the world’s GDP and the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Why are they not taking their responsibility?’ More applause.

China too, invoked the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities, which rules the UN Convention on Climate Change. In other words, even though China is the world’s worst polluter today, the People’s Republic says it should not share the same burden as the UK or the USA, the original fossil fuel addicts – sorry, consumers.

Every country repeated the absolute need to keep the temperature rise below the 1.5°C threshold recommended by scientists. Sadly, under the present commitments, and regardless of the final text, that future is not at all guaranteed.

We could comment on the good and the bad points contained in the draft, but it would be pointless to do so in any detail. In just a few hours, or maybe in two days (COP25 terminated at 13:55 on Sunday) the final Glasgow declaration will be announced to the world.

Almost certainly, the world will be unimpressed.

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