New COP26 draft deal keeps up pressure for climate action

The hints of sunlight begin to disappear behind a pair of pumpjacks, Sept 15, 2021 in the oilfields of Penwell, Texas. (ELI HARTMAN / ODESSA AMERICAN VIA AP / FILE)

GLASGOW – A new draft agreement drawn up for the UN climate summit in Glasgow on Friday presses countries to be more ambitious in their plans to tackle global warming but also walks a fine line between the demands of developing and richer nations.

While retaining its core demand for countries to set tougher climate pledges next year, the draft uses weaker language than a previous draft text in asking nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. 

The new draft, which attempts to ensure the world will tackle global warming fast enough to stop it becoming catastrophic, is a balancing act – trying to take in the demands of both climate-vulnerable nations and large economies reliant on fossil fuels

It would still be a first for any UN climate summit to have fossil fuels explicitly mentioned in a final agreement

The retention of a pledge for countries to upgrade their climate targets in 2022 will be welcomed by poorer nations that want more action to tackle worsening floods and wildfires and rising sea levels.

But it was couched in weaker language than a previous text and failed to offer the rolling annual review that some developing countries have pushed for.

It also says the upgrade of pledges should take into account "different national circumstances", referring to the differences between rich and poor countries.

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That could placate some developing countries, which say it is unfair to expect them to quit fossil fuels and cut emissions at the same speed as the rich countries whose emissions are largely responsible for causing climate change.

On fossil fuels, the draft included two words that dilute an earlier version, which had boldly stated that the world should pledge to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels in general.

But it would still be a first for any UN climate summit to have fossil fuels explicitly mentioned in a final agreement.

Now the text includes the word "unabated" before coal, and the phase-out of "inefficient" subsidies for fossil fuels. Unabated coal generation is where there is no technology in place to remove resulting carbon dioxide emissions.

Arab nations, many of which are big producers of oil and gas, had objected to the wording in the earlier draft.

The paragraph now reads: "(COP26) calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies and the adoption of policies for the 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."