Tense final hours at COP26 amid tough stands on deal

China and India, the world’s first- and third-biggest emitters, put up a tough stance to the most ambitious parts of the final agreement in Glasgow.
John Kerry, US special envoy for climate (right) speaks with Alok Sharma, president of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Saturday. China and India, the world’s first- and third-biggest emitters, put up a tough stance to the most ambitious parts of the final agreement in Glasgow. (AP)
John Kerry, US special envoy for climate (right) speaks with Alok Sharma, president of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Saturday. China and India, the world’s first- and third-biggest emitters, put up a tough stance to the most ambitious parts of the final agreement in Glasgow. (AP)
Updated on Nov 14, 2021 02:13 AM IST
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ByJayashree Nandi, Hindustan Times, Glasgow

Consensus eluded the 196 parties at the Glasgow climate change conference (COP26) on Saturday after developed and developing nations remained deeply divided over the third Cover Decision Text released by the COP26 presidency, with India being one of those that maintained a tough stand on the issue.

While the deliberations appeared to be tentatively heading for a deal that conference host Britain said would keep alive a goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius to maintain a realistic chance of avoiding catastrophe, tensions spilled into the open as the talks came down to the wire.

China and India, the world’s first- and third-biggest emitters, put up a tough stance to the most ambitious parts of the final agreement in Glasgow. India objected to the point of asking countries to shift away from fossil fuels. The two nations flagged that the draft text lacked balance, differentiation, and equity.

The red lines were on the issues of compensating loss and damage, mobilising climate mitigation and adaptation finance by developed countries for developing nations. Late on Saturday, many nations said that in the spirit of compromise, they may endorse the third draft text even if they did not agree with most aspects of the draft.

COP26 was to close on Friday evening but negotiations stretched overnight, with deep divergences that couldn’t be resolved even as COP26 president Alok Sharma insisted “parties have different priorities, but we have to sign up to the same view. We have reached a comprehensive, balanced outcome. The text is now clear of brackets and is a result of a transparent, party driven process”.

Following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in August flagging that 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming threshold is likely to be breached in the next 10 to 20 years, COP26 was being seen as the last chance to keep the 1.5 degrees C goal in reach through an ambitious and equitable agreement in Glasgow. But on Saturday, even after two weeks of negotiations and very ambitious pledges by world leaders during the Leaders’ Summit on November 1 and 2, very serious concerns and differences remained.

Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav, head of the Indian delegation, made an intervention on inequitable aspects of the draft text. “Consensus has remained elusive. Climate friendly lifestyles and climate justice is enshrined in the Paris Agreement are key to solving the climate crisis. The crisis is caused by unsustainable lifestyles and wasteful consumption patterns. The world needs to awaken to this reality,” he said, adding that “fossil fuels and their use has enabled parts of the world to attain high levels of wealth and wellbeing… when we have taken economy wide targets, targeting any particular sector is uncalled for”.

“Every country will arrive at net zero as per its own national circumstances. Developing countries have a right to the fair share of the global carbon budget and are entitled to responsible use of fossil fuels in such scope. In such a situation how can one expect developing countries to make promises of phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies?” Yadav said that towards poverty eradication, subsidies to certain fossil fuels provide much-needed social security and support. China also said the text was by no means perfect but it said it was willing to engage with other parties on concerns with the text. China insisted the expressions in the G20 statement on climate can be reflected in the Glasgow cover text.

US special envoy on climate John Kerry said the China-US deal in Glasgow showed that despite conflict, countries can come together on the climate crisis, reach above conflict and differences to find common ground.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021