“This is our collective moment in history,” said Alok Sharma in his opening remarks on what is officially the last day of talks in Glasgow.
Strong words from the man known as “no drama Sharma” behind the door to the negotiating room.
He spoke a few hours after the publication of an updated draft text, and compared to the situation on Thursday, things are improving for now for COP26.
Will they come to an agreement? Crucial COP discussions enter final day – follow live
The original draft included a crucial paragraph mentioning the phasing out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies.
This was radical in that no previous climate summit had succeeded in including such a direct reference to fossil fuels. As such, it was widely expected to be removed in negotiations overnight by traditionally obstructive countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia and possibly India.
Remarkably, he survived. But he’s hurt.
The language now adds caveats calling for an end to “inefficient coal” and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. These weasel words could allow countries to continue building coal plants and giving tax breaks to oil exploration. But they also allow the paragraph to survive and will force countries to address coal, oil and gas subsidies.
So far, it’s a major victory.
There has also been progress on wording around finance for adaptation to climate change and quiet confidence in finalizing the rules by which the Paris Agreement is to be implemented. These are all advancements that some feared we might not see.
Overall, the text is more balanced vis-à-vis the needs of the poorest countries, making it clear that funding – which is currently very short – must double by 2025.
Will the deal keep the 1.5C target alive? Ultimately, it depends on another paragraph of lackluster international legal jargon: paragraph 29 which “asks” parties to submit more ambitious climate commitments next year.
In essence, he acknowledges what everyone knew before that summit: that current efforts are nowhere near enough to avoid a 1.5 degree warming. But it would ensure that countries return much sooner than expected, to continue working towards this goal.
Far from perfect, certainly a lot of blah blah, but compared to what most COP insiders expected us to be right now, it’s not bad.
But a lot can change in the crucial next few hours.
Powerful and potentially obstructive countries like China, India, Brazil and Russia have been fairly calm in the negotiations so far.
No country wants to be seen as the state that has prevented progress (which in a way is massive progress in itself). But if old alliances were reborn, the text could still be strongly weakened.
For now, “1.5” is on life support, the next few hours will dictate if he survives or not.
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