In Glasgow, a climate agreement seems within reach.
GLASGOW — Negotiators from 200 countries appeared to be closing in on an agreement aimed at setting conditions to prevent dangerous levels of global warming late Saturday, but not without tension over how to pay countries that are least responsible for the problem but suffering irreparable harms.
John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, said, “It is time to come together for future generations in ways that none of us thought we might have an opportunity to do.” He called the text “a powerful statement.”
Not everyone agreed. The latest text, said Shauna Aminath, environment minister of the Maldives, lacked the “urgency” that vulnerable countries like hers required. “What looks balanced and pragmatic to other parties will not help the Maldives adapt in time,” she said.
Representatives spent much of the day arguing over language in a revised draft agreement — the third version cobbled together during the summit, known as COP26. By tradition, all countries must agree on language; if any one objects, the talks deadlock.
Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Union, urged negotiators to accept the third version and said he feared “stumbling in this marathon a few meters short of the finish line.”
He pleaded for each country to set aside its particular concerns to focus on the larger crisis.
“For heavens’ sake, don’t kill this moment by asking for more text, different text, deleting that and deleting this,” he said, urging the group to “act with the urgency that is essential for our survival. Please embrace this text so we can bring hope to the hearts of our children and grandchildren.”
Andrea Meza, the Environment and Energy Minister of Costa Rica, summed it up this way: “We don’t have a perfect package but we have a possible package.”
The latest draft, which is broadly similar to one released on Friday, called on nations to return next year, instead of 2025, with stronger pledges to cut planet-warming emissions in this decade. It urged wealthy nations to “at least double” by 2025 the financial aid that they provide to developing countries to help them adapt to heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires.
It retained language calling on countries to accelerate efforts “toward the phaseout of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, recognizing the need for support toward a just transition.” That language recognizes the need to help workers in polluting countries who could be displaced after a transition to wind, solar or other green energy.
The reference to “fossil fuels” would be the first time those words are mentioned in an international climate accord, despite the fact that burning fossil fuels is a root cause of global warming.
“The Glasgow Climate Pact failed to prioritize climate finance for developing countries to transition away from fossil fuels, adapt to worsening impacts, and cope with irreparable loss and damage from climate change,” Rachel Cleetus, policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said.
The summit host, Britain, had said its goal was to ensure that the planet would not heat more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, by 2100, compared with the average global temperature during the Industrial Revolution. That is the threshold beyond which scientists say devastating heat waves, fires and floods become significantly more likely. That goal is nowhere within reach.
“It’s meek, it’s weak, and the 1.5 Celsius goal is only just alive,” said Jennifer Morgan, who heads Greenpeace. “But a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.”
Dan Jorgensen, Denmark’s minister of climate, energy and utilities, said he was optimistic that the coal and fossil fuel language would remain in the final agreement.
“We all agree that climate change is the biggest threat to our civilization, and we all know what the causes are,” he said. “This is not about shaming those countries. We all need to acknowledge that countries that need to move away from coal also need help.”
Lisa Friedman contributed reporting