Vital Climate Change deal hangs on a thread
By Susy Hodges
The COP26 conference in Glasgow had been due to finish on Friday but continuing divisions on the thorny issues of fossil fuel subsidies and financial help to poorer nations. meant it went into an extra day.
COP26 President, Alok Sharma, said he expected the summit to close with a deal later on Saturday after two weeks of wrangling between the almost 200 countries attending the talks.
In a message on Friday, the Holy See’s Delegation to COP26 reiterated the need for agreement on a clear roadmap to fill gaps that have emerged.
A third draft deal was released on Saturday morning and like earlier versions, it attempted to balance the demands of climate-vulnerable nations and key consumers or exporters of fossil fuels. China, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, and Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, were said to be among a group of countries seeking to prevent the final deal from including language that opposes subsidies for fossil fuels.
However, the new draft continued to single out fossil fuels and referred to accelerating efforts towards phasing out coal use, something no previous U.N. climate conference deal had included. The draft also urged rich countries to double finance for climate change adaption by 2025. This issue of climate finance or the money promised by richer nations to poorer ones to help them adapt to climate change has been a major sticking point. In 2009 developed nations pledged to provide 100 billion dollars per year to emerging economies by 2020 but the target was not met.
The conference’s overarching aim is to limit our planet’s warming temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. This was the goal agreed at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference. Scientists warn that going beyond that limit would lead to a disastrous rise in sea levels and increasingly frequent extreme weather events. Meeting that goal requires global emissions of greenhouse gases to be cut to zero overall by the year 2050 but right now the world is still heading for 2.4 degrees of warming. We still have a long way to go to close that crucial gap and protect our planet from the worst ravages of climate change.