COP26: New draft agreement preserves unprecedented language on phasing out support for coal and fossil fuels

If the final text mentions fossil fuels at all, it would be an unprecedented inclusion in the history of the COP process. In all 25 COPs before Glasgow, coal, oil and gas have never been a driving force for the climate crisis, let alone the main driver of the climate crisis.

The new draft – which is in its third iteration – urges countries to quickly scale up the use of clean electricity generation and energy efficiency measures, “including accelerating efforts to phase out undiminished coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, the need for support for a fair conversion. “

The language of fossil fuels has been diluted with each draft so far, and the latest adds a reference to “the need for support for a fair transition.” That term refers to a country’s need to ensure that people do not lose their livelihoods, access to electricity or be left behind when the world begins to phase out coal, oil and gas projects.

COP26 President Alok Sharma had expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached by 18 local time Friday (13:00 ET), but the self-imposed deadline expired with deep disagreements over key issues, including the language of how much the world should allow the Earth to heat, the future of fossil fuels and rules for CO2 markets to avoid double counting of emission reductions or “cheating” with credits.

But the most controversial issue is whether affluent nations in the developed world should be required to set up an official fund to pay commitments to poorer countries for climate crisis impacts, making COP26 one of many climate conferences characterized by a sharp divide between developed and developing countries.

Getting all 197 parties present to reach a consensus on every single word in the final agreement is a painstaking effort. In addition to the simple divide between rich and developing countries, large coal, oil and gas producers are showing opposition to an article calling for the phasing out of undiminished coal and an end to subsidies for fossil fuels.

“This is a test of COP President Alok Sharma’s nerve and whether he can deliver ambitious results where there is no obvious consensus,” noted a group of climate analysts who attended the summit as negotiations ran into overtime.

Sharma has said his main goal for the conference is to “keep 1.5 alive.” The latest UN climate science report makes it clear that the world needs to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to stave off worsening climate impacts and steer away from more catastrophic climate change.

Key elements in the previous draft seemed to at least move in that direction. It asked the countries to return to the table before the end of next year, at COP27 in Egypt, with updated plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That would be three years earlier than they are required to now under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

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