COP26 Talks Continue With Deal Still Elusive

COP26 Talks Continue With Deal Still Elusive

19:20 - Negotiators publish fresh draft texts, hoping to get an agreement from most governments by end of Saturday

Negotiators seeking to reach a global deal to slow climate change said they would continue talks at a United Nations summit here through the night and into Saturday, as they wrestled with differences over the wording of what they hope will be a meaningful agreement.

Negotiators have made progress narrowing some gaps, according to people familiar with the talks and based on draft texts circulated on Thursday and Friday. But the U.K., which holds the presidency of the U.N. talks, said delegates needed more time for consultations and editing drafts. The U.K. said it hoped to have a fresh text of a potential final agreement on Saturday morning and to get a final deal by the afternoon.

“Overall we are getting closer to a landing ground,” said one official involved in the talks.

Negotiators said a big gap remained between developed and developing countries over climate financing. Rich countries have committed to funneling money to poorer countries to help them move toward lower-emissions energy sources and protect themselves from the worst effects of climate change. Negotiators said gaps over the amount are still wide.

A draft text on climate finance circulated Thursday included a goal to channel $1.3 trillion annually, but a new draft released Friday deleted that language because of opposition, negotiators said, from the U.S., the European Union and other wealthy nations. Governments have agreed to hold a series of meetings to decide on a new goal in 2024, the new text says.

As talks dragged on Friday night in Glasgow, one of the main sticking points was a demand from developing countries to be compensated for so-called loss and damage, when the effects of climate change are so severe that countries can no longer adapt to them. The current draft text offers funds from wealthy nations to provide poorer nations the technical capacity to respond to such changes. Developing nations want instead a dedicated source of money, negotiators say.

“What we have in mind here is not giving money to consultants to fly around the globe to come and teach us about what loss and damage is,” said Keriako Tobiko, a Kenyan negotiator. “What we are talking about is a dedicated facility.”

Officials have faced a fundamental math problem on emissions reductions. Ahead of the summit, called COP26, most of the world’s countries committed to emissions cuts, but they weren’t steep enough, scientists say, to limit temperature rises to well under 2 degrees Celsius—and preferably to 1.5 degrees—above preindustrial-era temperatures. Countries committed to this ambition at a similar summit in Paris in 2015, and a big goal for the Glasgow gathering is reaffirming and hardening that pledge.

To bridge the emissions gap, negotiators have inserted language in a draft text that requests countries to update their commitments by the end of next year to encourage more cuts in the near future. It is unclear whether such a move has enough support among key players to make it part of any final deal.

Friday’s new draft text “appears to deal with many of the major issues that need to be resolved,” said Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. “But some important aspects still need to be finalized and may take some time to conclude.”

At this stage in the summit’s final negotiations, talks are centered on often-technical wording or sensitivities over language by sometimes-small blocs of countries. An earlier draft circulated this week, for instance, called on the world to end subsidies for fossil fuel. Negotiators who fought for that language hailed it as a success.

By Friday, the working draft called on winding down “inefficient” fossil-fuel subsidies, and one official involved in the talks said it is widely viewed by negotiators that any reference to a phaseout would ultimately drop out of the final text. Big oil producers such as Saudi Arabia have fought to exclude any such language in the final document.

An unusual joint declaration earlier in the week by the U.S. and China, rivals and the world’s top two emitters, provided a boost to negotiators. But the agreement didn’t provide specific solutions to the big stumbling blocks negotiators have faced.

In the early days of the two-week summit, some participants were buoyed by new emissions targets, including one by India, which committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2070. The summit also provided a venue for a series of more limited moves, including a U.S.-led coalition that agreed to cut methane emissions. In its joint statement with the U.S., China also promised to reduce methane emissions but stopped short of joining the coalition.

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