COP26 runs overtime in final push to secure deal

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said rich countries to do more to support the developing world move away from fossil fuels, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow has passed its scheduled finishing time, as talks on a deal to avert the worst impacts of climate change continue into Saturday, media reported.

Sticking points include subsidies for coal and other fossil fuels, and financial help to poorer nations, the BBC reported.

On Friday, envoys from small island nations threatened by rising sea levels said their land was fast disappearing, it was reported.

Meeting the goal requires global emissions to be cut by 45% by 2030 and to zero overall by 2050. One example of the impact of global temperature rise above 2C is the death of virtually all coral reefs, scientists say.

A back away from pervious call

A new draft of the final declaration being negotiated at the COP26 conference published on Friday appears to back away from a previous call to end all use of coal and phase out fossil fuels.

The text released by the COP26 president on Wednesday called upon countries to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuel,” but the wording has now been changed to specify that the call refers only to “unabated coal power” and “inefficient” subsidies.

“Calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up clean power generation and accelerating the phase-out of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels,” reads the new the draft position proposed by COP26 President Alok Sharma.

In the case of coal-fired power plants, the term “unabated” refers to facilities that do not use carbon capture and storage technology to reduce carbon emission.

The COP26 is seen as the world’s last chance to reach meaningful commitments to fulfil the goals set out by the 2015 Paris Agreement on greenhouse emission reduction, carbon neutrality, global warming and climate finance.

Keeping fossil fuels in the ground

At the ongoing Glasgow talks, Costa Rica and Denmark have officially launched the world’s first diplomatic initiative focused on keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

Coal power plant. (Credit Pixabay.com)

Called the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA), the effort brings together countries and subnational jurisdictions that have committed to ending new licensing rounds for oil and gas exploration and production, or have taken steps towards that goal, and recognise that phasing out fossil fuel extraction is an urgent and crucial component of tackling the climate crisis.

At Thursday’s launch event, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Greenland, Ireland, Quebec, Sweden and Wales joined this alliance as full members. California and New Zealand will also join the alliance as associate members. Italy has also expressed their support to the coalition by becoming a Friend of BOGA.

This announcement marks a major shift after decades of the UN climate process ignoring the crucial question of how the world will phase out the production of the fossil fuels that are driving the climate crisis.

It comes after the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the UN Environment Programme have made it clear that continuing the expansion of global fossil fuel production is incompatible with keeping warming under 1.5C, a key objective under the Paris Agreement.

The commitment made by these first movers is an essential first step towards a just transition away from fossil fuel production but is in itself insufficient to meet the challenge ahead. All countries, including BOGA members, must now commit to ending all new oil and gas projects, including in already licensed areas, and Global North producing countries must start reducing production immediately and at an accelerated pace as part of an equitable phase out of global fossil fuel production.

Responding to the launch of the BOGA, Romain Ioualalen, Global Policy Campaign Manager at Oil Change International said: “The launch of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance is a turning point. For far too long, climate negotiations have ignored the basic reality that keeping 1.5C alive requires an equitable global plan to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

“For the first time, countries are now joining together to act on the urgent need to phase out oil and gas production. The creation of this alliance puts to shame claims of climate leadership among countries like the UK, Norway, the United States, and Canada, all of which have yet to answer this simple question: Where is your plan to stop producing the fossil fuels that are driving the climate crisis?”

COP26 President Alok Sharma

Mohamed Adow, Founder and Director of Power Shift Africa, told IANS: “In order to begin healing from the climate catastrophe we have created we must first stop digging our way to destruction.

“Ending our extraction and use of oil and gas is a necessary step in ending our self-harming addiction to fossil fuels. In Africa, we are acutely aware of the suffering that fossil fuels can cause yet we have done almost nothing to cause this suffering. The sooner we can move beyond oil and gas, the sooner the planet can begin to heal.”

Experts at the IEA has made it clear there can be no new fossil fuel projects beyond those already underway this year if “we’re to meet the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees”.

For this initiative to be effective, many more countries need to join and make firm commitments in their national policies to rule out all new fossil fuel projects and permits immediately.

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