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Mixed feelings after Glasgow's COP26 final document

Monday, November 15th 2021 - 09:46 UTC
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India's wording suggestion allowed for a compromise document to be signed after all India's wording suggestion allowed for a compromise document to be signed after all

One day after closing the UN's COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson highlighted one historical fact: coal has been sentenced to death as a source of energy over time.

But other than that, most world leaders were somewhat disappointed in the light of the final declaration the meeting has been able to pen. The climate conference ended with a compromise agreement to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius while updating the States' decarbonization commitments next year while regulating on the carbon market to advance towards the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Still, leaders were unable to move from “reduction” to “elimination” of coal-fired power plants and fossil fuel subsidies and even the disbursement of the US $ 100 billion a year to help poor countries decarbonize was postponed.

US President Joseph Biden's climate envoy John Kerry was optimistic: “Believe it or not, but this is the first time coal has been mentioned. We are closer than ever to avoiding climate chaos; This is the beginning of something.” he said.

COP26 President Alok Sharma pointed out that “China and India will have to explain what they made the countries of the world more vulnerable to climate change.” while he described Saturday's final document as a “historic result.“

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen summed it up: ”The COP is a step in the right direction“, but ”the work is still far from being completed.“

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres believed the texts approved at COP26 were ”a compromise,” solution which reflected “interests, conditions, contradictions and the state of political will in the world today.“

Greenpeace International Director Jennifer Morgan agreed with Johnson's main conclusion but protested Glasgow was ”a weak agreement” which lacked courage and that limiting global warming within the 1.5-degree threshold now “hangs by a thread, but it was given a clear signal: the age of coal is coming to an end, and this is important.“

Climate teenage activist Greta Thunberg insisted on Twitter Glasgow was “just blah blah blah,” and warned: “watch out for greenwash tsunamis. The real work starts outside those rooms.”

Pope Francis said “the cry of the poor, combined with the cry of the earth, resounded in recent days at COP26 in Glasgow. I encourage those with political and economic responsibilities to act immediately with courage and foresight. At the same time, I invite all people of goodwill to exercise active citizenship for the care of the common home.”

Nearly 200 countries convened at the United Nations COP26 summit in Scotland but the resulting declaration fell short of setting concrete guidelines for an effective approach to global warming, according to most observers.

The final text was finally adopted Saturday, a day after the talks had initially been scheduled to end and following a last-minute change suggested by India's delegation. The change called on parties to accelerate “efforts to phase down” rather than “phase out” coal power, the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Several countries — including small, low-lying island nations — said they were deeply disappointed by the watering down of the crucial language but had no choice but to go along with it.

The agreement in effect acknowledged that commitments made so far to cut emissions of planet-heating greenhouse gases are nowhere near enough, and asked nations to set tougher climate pledges next year, rather than every five years, as they are currently required to do. Scientists say that to go beyond a rise of 1.5C would unleash extreme sea level rises and catastrophes, including crippling droughts, monstrous storms and wildfires far worse than those the world is already suffering.

India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said the revision on coal was needed to reflect the “national circumstances of emerging economies.” He pointed out coal had been “singled out” during COP26 while there was no similar call to phase out oil or natural gas.

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