Climate talks in Glasgow ‘leave room’ for fossil fuels

US President Climate Envoy John Kerry (R) with COP26 President Alok Sharma leaves the stage.

US President Climate Envoy John Kerry (R) with COP26 President Alok Sharma leaves the stage.
Photography: Jeff J. Mitchell (Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – The curtain came down United Nations Climate Negotiations a day later than expected. It is strange feeling since representatives of countries around the world said they were ready to accept an agreement that everyone said was bullshit.

Liechtenstein’s negotiator? “Bitter pill.” Marshall Islands? “Deep disappointment.” Antigua and Barbuda? “We are disapointed.” However, in the end, all nations signed the so-called climate pact in Glasgow. The source of so much frustration was the constant weakening of the language around fossil fuels. The outcome raises the question of these conversations and the state of the planet in 2021: What, in fact, is progress and success?

The pact includes the first language on the phasing out of subsidies for coal and fossil fuels, for the first time in 26 meetings on climate change agreed by the countries the world should stop burning the fossil fuels that burn it. When the UN talks are zoomed in, that shift is really profound given that each country gets a vote on the agreement. What the whole world agreed on to execute “Escalation of efforts to gradually reduce unreduced energy from coal and gradually eliminate inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels” in the language of the final agreement iin revelation.

“Compared to just a few years ago, the progress and momentum made in the last two weeks towards phasing out fossil fuels is astounding,” Elizabeth Bast said. Oil Change Internationalexecutive director, the statement said.

But zoom out and the conversations are like watching a turtle cross over a lawn. From that point of view, what was a big step up close seems much less revolutionary. What is even more worrying, it is clear that the turtle has moved very little from its starting point when it began its march at the 1992 Rio talks.

The language around fossil fuels, introduced at the last minute by coal-dependent countries India and China, is new and insanely permeated with holes for pollutants. The “gradual reduction” of coal is unlimited and “efforts” do not provide security in terms of actions. Calling subsidies “inefficient” also leaves the door open for interpretation and could allow countries to continue digging up reserves while relying on unproven carbon capture technology under the banner of efficiency.

US Sspecial Phousing Envoy for air conditioning John Kerry referred to a well-trodden line in a speech to a group of assembled negotiators and said that he could not “allow himself to be perfectly the enemy of the good.” This is a fair tactic when looking for a compromise. But physics does not compromise.

In the atmosphere, success is simply this: people need to create a credible, effective plan to reduce carbon emissions at the rate needed to avoid catastrophic levels of planetary overheating. That speed, The United Nations said, is approximately 8% per year this decade if the world does not warm up by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), a target agreed in negotiations six years ago. Coal use must fall by 78% this decade to meet this target. Other reports have shown that new research on fossil fuels should be discontinued next year for success to be achieved.

There are other signs of progress in the fossil fuel negotiations. A group of countries agreed to stop funding fossil fuel projects abroad, while another group agreed reduce oil and methane emissions 30% by 2030. But beyond a a small group of countries By planning the move, the world together – including the largest fossil fuel producers – has failed to meet that challenge. In the real world, carbon emissions continue to rise, and sales of new fossil fuels on lease are just around the corner.

“For the first time, we have a COP decision calling for efforts to phase out subsidies for coal and fossil fuels,” said Mohamed Adow, head of Power Shift Africa. “Narrowing the tongue only to‘ unreduced ’coal energy and‘ inefficient ’subsidies leaves room for untested technologies like CCS to which only the rich world has access. We need a global phase that is fast, fair and final for all fossil fuels. ”

The fact that each country gets a vote means that the talks inevitably result in a certain degree of disappointment. Still, it is a testament to small island states, civil society and others who have been fighting for years to include fossil fuels in any international agreement. But outside the negotiating rooms, the climate is heating up and the clock is ticking. The world is on track to warm 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 degrees Celsius) even if all the commitments made by world leaders are met. (Great if.)

“Please be kind enough to acknowledge that this does not bring hope to our hearts, but serves as another conversation in which we put our homes at stake, while those who have other options decide how quickly they want to act to save those who do not. ‘No,’ said Aminath Shauna, Maldives’ environment minister. “We have 98 months to half of global emissions. The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is the death penalty for us. ”

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Naveen Kumar

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