By Judith Mora
Glasgow, UK, Nov 13 (EFE).- No champagne or backslapping: the 26th United Nations Climate Conference of the Parties (COP 26) concluded here Saturday – a day later than planned – with ratification of an accord weakened at the last minute to accommodate the objections of India.
Teary-eyed, the summit president, former British Cabinet secretary Alok Sharma, choked up as he implored the delegates to approve the Glasgow Climate Pact despite the “deep disappointment” over New Delhi’s maneuver.
“I think we can say credibly that 1.5C is alive. But its pulse is weak,” he said, referring to the 2015 Paris Agreement’s target of limiting the rise in average temperatures to 1.5 degrees centigrade.
“History has been made here in Glasgow,” Sharma said at the end of two weeks of intense, difficult negotiations. “This is real progress in keeping 1.5 within reach.”
Even so, he added, “a gulf remains between short term targets and what is needed to reach the Paris goal. That work must start now.”
The draft of the final accord included a resolution to accelerate the phase-out of coal power and of fossil fuel subsidies.
But the Indian delegate spoke up to say that New Delhi was unhappy with the language, proposing to substitute “phase down” for “phase out” with regard to coal and to add the qualifier “inefficient” to the wording on fossil fuel subsidies
Though India remains heavily dependent on coal, other countries in the same situation, such as China and South Africa, were prepared to accept the original text.
Representatives of several countries said that while they were unhappy with the proposed change, they would continue to support the accord, and Sharma orally amended the draft from the podium.
Instead of urging the “elimination” of burning coal for power without carbon-capture mechanisms in place, the document speaks of “progressive reduction.”
Commenting ahead of the 11th-hour change, US climate envoy John Kerry defended the accord, albeit in measured terms.
“You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and this is good. This is a powerful statement,” the former secretary of state said. “We in the United States are really excited by the fact that this raises ambition on a global basis.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres offered a cautious take on the outcome in Glasgow.
“The approved texts are a compromise,” he said. “They take important steps, but unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions.”
Commenting on behalf of Greenpeace International, the group’s executive director said that for all its faults, the pact was significant.
“The text is meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive, but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters,” Jennifer Morgan said.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was scathing in her appraisal.
“The #COP26 is over. Here’s a brief summary: Blah, blah, blah. But the real work continues outside these halls. And we will never give up, ever,” she said on Twitter. EFE