The Cop26 summit is facing into tortuous final hours as negotiators attempt to strengthen a declaration and add greater urgency in the global response to the climate crisis – with most pressure on the EU to get it across the line.
UN secretary general António Guterres attempted to push negotiators to a more ambitious outcome on Friday, while Cop26 president Alok Sharma warned time was running out, adding "the window on keeping 1.5 [degrees] within reach is closing".
With 197 countries locked in negotiations over a second version of a draft agreement, a flurry of small protests were staged inside the Cop26 venue, at its periphery and throughout the city. Activists deflated the tyres of about 60 4X4s in the city’s west end in protest at the cars’ high levels of emissions.
Announcements made in Glasgow "on forests, methane, clean technology and more" were encouraging, Mr Guterres said. "But they are far from enough. The emissions gap remains a devastating threat. The finance and adaptation gap represents a glaring injustice for the developing world."
“Promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions as measured by the IMF,” he added, “Or when countries are still building coal plants. Governments need to pick up the pace and show the necessary ambition – we cannot settle for the lowest common denominator.”
If the EU does not lead and build the high-ambition coalition needed, no one else will, the independent European climate think tank E3G said on Thursday night. “There is an immediate opportunity for the EU to leverage the political momentum from week one and the US-China statement to build the confidence that the trillions will be mobilised for developing and vulnerable countries for the net-zero and climate-resilient transformation we need.”
Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Australia were reported to be resisting efforts to strengthen emission-reduction requirements, while vulnerable countries were seeking more robust commitments on adaptation, loss and damage and climate finance and going beyond the issue of delivering on $100 billion a year, to include "mobilising the trillions through the whole global financial architecture", it added.
European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said removing a text reference on phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies would be an extremely bad signal – a view strongly echoed by Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan.
“If you remove it from the text, what is the message you are sending there? Because the only way humanity can learn to live within planetary boundaries is if we rid ourselves of dependency on fossil fuels that are making our survival impossible,” Mr Timmermans added.
‘Close to abyss’
He said the rulebook for implementing the Paris climate agreement could be completed at Cop26. Agreeing the rulebook, which sets out detailed guidance for how countries must implement goals agreed in Paris in 2015, would be one of the key outcomes of the summit. “It will allow us to start delivery of what was agreed six years ago in a way that is transparent for everyone and accountable for everyone,” he said.
Mr Ryan, who is negotiating on behalf of the EU, said at a briefing the climate finance issue might be the last item to get across the line, with expectation that Cop26 will run into the weekend. He confirmed Mr Guterres attended an EU coordination meeting and underlined “when you are close to the abyss, your next step is important”.
Irish climate activist and director of FaithInvest Lorna Gold believed the emotional intervention on Thursday by chair of the Elders Mary Robinson "really changed the tone".
“Leading now requires vulnerability cutting through the ‘blah’. Naming what’s at stake. This is under our watch. I think today governments see that now is the time to choose what side of history they want to be on,” she added.