Climate and Environment

Climate justice - and cash - shadow UN talks

Patrick Galey, Kelly Macnamara - Agence France-Presse
Climate justice - and cash - shadow UN talks
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Mexican politician Patricia Espinosa (L), Britain's President for COP26 Alok Sharma (C) and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (R) attend a session about the global youth voice at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow on November 5, 2021.

GLASGOW, United Kingdom — Developing nations accused richer countries of bargaining with the lives of billions of people on the climate crisis frontline Monday, blasting insufficient commitments as COP26 talks enter their final week with trust in short supply.

Countries remain starkly divided on key issues at the UN meeting, including how rapidly the world curbs carbon emissions and how to ramp up support for countries already battered by storms, floods and drought intensified by global heating.

After a week of headline announcements from host Britain on ending deforestation and phasing out coal, experts say the underlying COP26 negotiations have progressed little.

Countries are in Glasgow to work out how to implement the Paris Agreement's goals of limiting temperature rises to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

And while recent announcements mean they have inched closer, many disputes remain unresolved.

These include pushing for more ambitious national carbon reduction plans, providing a long-promised $100 billion annually to developing nations and rules governing carbon markets.

"As the group least responsible for the climate crisis, but suffering most from its impact, we came to Glasgow with high expectations," said Sonam Phuntsho Wangdi of Bhutan, who heads the Least Developed Nations negotiating bloc. 

He urged "strong commitments" from delegates at the UN talks, calling for faster emissions cuts. 

"Any compromise on limiting temperature rise in line to 1.5C in this decade will mean negotiating the lives of billions in the most vulnerable countries like ours."

'All countries playing hardball'

With scientists warning that countries have until the end of the decade to slash emissions almost in half, former US President Barack Obama attended the summit to tell delegates "time really is running out".  

He said the Paris Agreement of 2015 had made important progress, but stressed that the deal was just the beginning. 

"Most nations have failed to be as ambitious as they need to be," he said, echoing current President Joe Biden in saying it was "disturbing" that neither the leaders of China or Russia had travelled to Glasgow. 

Earlier, COP26 President Alok Sharma said the first week of technical negotiations had "already concluded some important issues that will drive accelerated climate action". 

But he said any preliminary conference decision text — over which ministers will haggle when they arrive in Glasgow later this week — had not yet materialised.

"We have a lot of work to do across all issues that remain," said Britain's chief negotiator Archie Young.   

A senior diplomatic source told AFP that there was so much yet to be agreed that draft texts as they currently stood would be "illegible" for ministers.

"All countries are playing hardball," Stephen Leonard, climate law and policy specialist and veteran COP observer told AFP. 

"The EU want the highest ambition possible. The African countries want as much finance for adaptation as possible. Australia and Japan want to be able to trade as much carbon as possible." 

Some progress

COP26 is taking place a year late due to the Covid-19 pandemic and against a backdrop of ever-stronger drought, flooding and storms supercharged by higher temperatures that are battering countries across the globe. 

Its first week saw around 100 nations commit to slash their emissions of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — by at least 30 percent by 2030. 

In another development likely to dent emissions, India — the fourth largest polluter — said it would achieve carbon neutrality by 2070.

Experts said these announcements, along with countries' latest emissions-cutting pledges, could have a real impact on future temperature rises.

But a UN assessment late last week found emissions were still on course to increase to 13.7 percent by 2030. 

To limit warming to 1.5C, they must fall 45 percent this decade. 

Tens of thousands of people thronged the streets of Glasgow on Saturday demanding faster action from governments after environmental activist Greta Thunberg branded the summit "a failure". 

Dozens of nations have signed up to a COP26 initiative to end their use of coal — the most polluting fossil fuel — within decades, including major users South Korea and Vietnam.

But missing from the pact were the top consumers China, India and the United States.

Major exporter Australia, which also declined to join the initiative, said Monday it would continue to sell coal for "decades into the future".

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 25, 2022 - 4:28pm

Bookmark this page for updates on the United Nations climate summit, known as COP26. Photo courtesy of AFP/Tolga Akmen

October 25, 2022 - 4:28pm

Singapore announces it aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, giving a firm date for the first time, and will look at using hydrogen as a major power source.

The city-state targets for carbon emissions to peak in 2030 at 60 million tonnes, a reduction of five million tonnes from the previous goal, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said.

The Southeast Asian nation also has plans to look at developing low carbon hydrogen as a major power supply in the long term. — AFP

May 26, 2022 - 5:15pm

Australia will present a more ambitious UN emissions target "very soon" and is bidding to co-host a COP summit with Pacific island neighbours, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Thursday, signalling a ground shift in climate policy.

During a first solo overseas visit since her centre-left government was sworn in, Wong admitted that on the climate, "Australia has neglected its responsibility" under past administrations.

She told hosts in Fiji's capital Suva that there would be no more "disrespecting" Pacific nations or "ignoring" their calls to act on climate change.

"We were elected on a platform of reducing emissions by 43 percent by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050," Wong said. — AFP

March 29, 2022 - 3:31pm

Countries have proposed to hold an extra biodiversity meeting in Nairobi in June as talks in Geneva tasked with saving nature entered their final day Tuesday without an agreement.

In a document uploaded on the conference website, dated Monday, countries suggest holding a new meeting in the Kenyan capital between June 21 and 26 to "continue negotiations" on the document and other issues. 

The decision is subject to official approval by the Geneva meeting before it wraps up later Tuesday. — AFP

November 15, 2021 - 7:25am

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday hails a global accord to speed up action against climate change as "truly historic" and "the beginning of the end for coal power".

But he says his "delight at this progress" at the UN COP26 summit in Glasgow was "tinged with disappointment" because of a failure to secure the agreement of all countries to phase out hydrocarbons.

"Those for whom climate change is already a matter of life and death, who can only stand by as their islands are submerged, their farmland turned to desert, their homes battered by storms, they demanded a high level of ambition from this summit," says Johnson. — AFP

November 13, 2021 - 6:02pm

A UN climate summit text on Saturday urges nations to accelerate the phase-out of unfiltered coal and "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies, after large emitters tried to remove the mention of polluting fuels. 

The text, which comes after two weeks of frantic negotiations at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, omitted any reference to specific finance for "loss and damage" -- the mounting cost of global heating so far -- which has been a key demand of poorer nations.

The mention on Saturday of fossil fuels was weaker than a previous draft, which called on countries to "accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels". — AFP

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