Issues remain as COP26 set to close
Negotiators yesterday shuttled between delegations at the UN climate talks in Scotland, seeking a deal to give the world a fighting chance of avoiding the worst effects of global warming, as the British host told them they had just hours left.
Alok Sharma delayed a public meeting in the plenary hall, saying negotiators needed more time, but that he still intended to close the two-week COP26 conference, which has already overrun by a day, later in the afternoon.
"This is the moment of truth for our planet," COP26 president Alok Sharma said, beginning his speech to delegates.
"At the end of the day, what is being put forward here is a balanced package, everyone's had a chance to have their say," he told the forum.
The final deal will require the unanimous consent of the almost 200 countries present, ranging from coal- and gas-fuelled superpowers to oil producers and Pacific islands being swallowed by the rise in sea levels.
Like earlier versions, the latest draft of the conference agreement attempted to balance the demands of climate-vulnerable nations, big industrial powers, and those whose consumption or exports of fossil fuels are vital to their economic development.
In particular, it retained a significant demand for nations to set tougher climate pledges next year, rather than every five years, as they are currently required to do - an acknowledgement that existing commitments to cut emissions of planet-heating greenhouse gases are nowhere near enough.
The meeting's overarching aim is to keep within reach the 2015 Paris Agreement's target to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
Scientists say that to go beyond that limit would unleash extreme sea level rise and catastrophes including crippling droughts, monstrous storms and wildfires far worse than those the world is already suffering.
But national pledges made so far to limit greenhouse emissions - mostly carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and gas - would only cap the average global temperature rise at 2.4 Celsius.
While that gap will not be closed in Glasgow, Sharma said he hoped the final deal would pave the way for deeper cuts.
After three nights of all-night negotiations, delegates are still trying to agree a deal to deliver greater emissions cuts and vital finance for vulnerable states.
The latest draft urged rich countries to double finance for climate adaptation by 2025 from 2019 levels, offering funding that has been a key demand of small island nations at the conference.
Host country Britain said a UN committee should report next year on progress towards delivering the $100 billion in overall annual climate funding that rich nations had promised by 2020 but failed to deliver. And it said governments should meet in 2022, 2024 and 2026 to discuss climate finance.
Even $100 billion a year is far short of poorer countries' actual needs, which could hit $300 billion by 2030 in adaptation costs alone, according to the United Nations, in addition to economic losses from crop failure or climate-related disasters.
The new draft text released by Sharma's team urged nations to accelerate efforts to phase out unfiltered coal and "inefficient" fossil fuel subsidies - something no UN climate conference conclusion has yet succeeded in doing.
Large emitters such as China, Saudi Arabia and Russia had tried to remove the mention of polluting fuels, according to delegates.
But after resistance from rich nations led by the United States and European Union, the draft text omitted any reference to a specific finance facility for "loss and damage" -- the mounting cost of global warming so far -- which has been a key demand of poorer nations.
Saleemul Huq, director of the ICCCAD climate NGO, said the British COP26 presidency had been "bullied" overnight into rejecting specific loss and damage funding.
"The UK's words to the vulnerable countries have been proven to be totally unreliable," he said.
Countries already battered by climate disasters such as record-breaking drought, flooding and storms are demanding they be compensated separately for loss and damage, and have made it a red line issue.
However, a proposal to include the creation of a dedicated facility to administer financial support was quashed by the United States and EU, delegates said.
Wealthy countries fear being found liable for such disasters and opening the door to bottomless payments. As a result, no UN climate conference has yet yielded any funding under this heading for the countries most affected.
Amadou Sebory Toure, head of the G77+China negotiating bloc, told AFP the proposal was "put forward by the entire developing world, representing six of every seven people on Earth".
Alden Meyer, senior associate at climate policy think tank E3G, said loss and damage talks were a "cliffhanger moment" that could jeopardise the UK's goal of wrapping the summit up later yesterday.
Developing nations say it is unfair for the summit to produce an unbalanced agreement heavily weighted toward "mitigation" -- how economies can ditch fossil fuels by 2050.
They want specific instruction on how they can meet the bill of decarbonising while also adapting to the natural disasters supercharged by global warming.
Another key sticking point are rules governing carbon markets. Countries that benefited from a global framework predating Paris want to be able to carry over credits into the new deal.
There is still disagreement over rules preventing double counting of carbon savings and to what extent the private sector is governed by guidelines agreed between nations.