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Countries sign climate deals at UN summit to limit warming

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COP26 President Alok Sharma (L) MP and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, speak at the start of the balance sheet in plenary on the 13th day of COP26 at the SECC on November 12, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Ian Forsyth | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries reached an agreement at the COP26 summit on Saturday to try to prevent ever worsening and potentially irreversible climate impacts.

The announcement will be made several hours after the scheduled Friday evening deadline.

The delegates struggled to resolve key sticking points such as phasing out coal, subsidies for fossil fuels and financial support for low-income countries.

India, one of the largest coal burners in the world, changed the language of fossil fuels in the pact at the last minute, from “getting out” of coal to “getting out”. After initial objections, the opposing countries finally gave in.

In an emotional address to the assembled delegates, the British COP26 President Alok Sharma said he deeply regretted the course of the process. “I understand the deep disappointment. It is also important that we protect this package,” said Sharma.

The UN meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, was seen as the last and best chance mankind had to keep the all-important goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius alive. This temperature threshold relates to the target set in the groundbreaking Paris Agreement of 2015.

To keep average temperatures from exceeding this level, the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions almost in half over the next 8 years and reach net zero emissions by 2050. Avoiding the worst that the climate crisis has in store is vital.

The world’s leading scientists have warned that the world has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and the latest projections, despite numerous promises made at the Glasgow Summit, show the world will be 2.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the year Degree Celsius on course is the century.

UN General Secretary António Guterres had bluntly warned in the final phase of the marathon talks that the promises to save CO2 on the table are “very likely” insufficient to avert a climate catastrophe. He told the Associated Press news agency that the goal of keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius alive is “life support”.

Climate activists and activists have harshly criticized COP26, describing it as an “exclusive” fortnightly talks centered on “business as usual and blah, blah, blah”.

“The road to 1.5 just got tougher when these conversations should have paved the way for a significant simplification,” Rachel Kennerley, climate activist with environmental group Friends of the Earth, said in a statement on Saturday.

Fossil Fuels Policy

The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first time that fossil fuels are explicitly mentioned as a result of an international climate summit. However, an earlier commitment to phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies was later toned down to only apply to “undiminished” coal and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. India then intervened at the last minute to change the wording and replace it with “phase-down”.

Several countries have expressed concern about this change, and environmental experts are deeply concerned that the updated terminology creates a loophole to delay much-needed climate action.

An analysis released Monday by Global Witness found that there were more delegates with the fossil fuel industry at COP26 than from any single country. She cast serious doubts on the credibility of the talks, especially since fossil fuel burning is the main driver of the climate crisis.

Researchers have repeatedly emphasized that the best weapon against rising global temperatures is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.

The two-week summit saw a flurry of climate pledges aimed at fulfilling the moment, with countries pledging to end and reverse deforestation, move away from coal, and cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

The US and China, the world’s two largest emitters, surprised many when they agreed to work together this decade to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius. In addition, a new, unique alliance was formed with countries and sub-national groups committed to setting an end date for oil and gas exploitation and to stop issuing new licenses for exploration.

Business leaders and financial institutions, meanwhile, pledged to invest more in “net-zero projects”. However, this has since been criticized for missing the point on fossil fuels.

Climate finance

Low-income countries arrived in Glasgow determined to secure compensation for climate-related “loss and damage,” a term used by the United Nations to refer to the destruction that has already inflicted lives, livelihoods and infrastructure Has.

Those on the front lines of the climate crisis who are least responsible for climate change have long sought financial support from high-income countries to offset this damage. Rich nations like the US, UK and the European Union have refused to accept liability.

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The agreement is not enough to set up a fund to compensate countries for climate-related losses and damage. The G-77 Developing Countries Group said it was “extremely disappointed” with this failure.

Shauna Aminath, Environment Minister of the Maldives, said on Saturday: “For some, loss and damage may be the start of conversations and dialogues, but for us it is about survival.”

“This does not bring hope to our hearts but serves as another conversation where we are putting our homes on the line while those with other options decide how quickly to act to save those who don’t “said Aminath.

– CNBC’s Jessica Bursztynsky contributed to this report.

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