'Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread': Reactions to the COP verdict

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We are miles off where we need to be to halve dangerous greenhouse gas emissions this decade, Ed Miliband Shadow Energy secretary said as the UN Climate Change Summit, COP26 drew to a close on Saturday.

Formality appeared to prevent many delegates representing 197 countries in the plenary in Glasgow's Scottish Event Campus to speak with such bluntness. Many in the room where COP26 President Alok Sharma oversaw proceedings conceded instead that it was an ‘imperfect’ deal.

But responses from parties campaigning for the safe future of the planet show how passionately disappointed many are feeling.

They expressed frustration as to why plans to keep global warming within 1.5°C could not have been produced this year – under the Paris Agreement in 2015, plans were meant to be produced in 2020. But under the agreement struck this weekend, all countries must instead resubmit stronger plans next year at COP27 in Egypt.

A globe is suspended in the Blue Zone where delegates attended for the official talks. Photograph: by Safety Management

Miliband said it was a bit like a consensus to “resit the climate exam in a year’s time.”: “I don’t think it’s hopeless, there’s been modest progress but clearly things are going to have to be different next year… if we’re going to get change.”

Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam International Executive Director said that the voices of developing countries had not been represented enough in the deal. “Clearly some world leaders think they aren’t living on the same planet as the rest of us. It seems no amount of fires, rising sea levels or droughts will bring them to their senses to stop increasing emissions at the expense of humanity.

“The world’s poorest have done the least to cause the climate emergency, yet are the ones left struggling to survive while also footing the bill.”

However she added that: “The request to strengthen 2030 reduction targets by next year is an important step. The work starts now.”

There were other positives to be found in the deal and the reactions to it. It is the first time that any final COP agreement explicitly references coal as a key driver of climate change. Despite the fact the language around it was weakened – from ‘phasing out’ to ‘phasing down’ following interventions from China and India – Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace CEO commented it was a powerful moment: “They can change a word but they can’t change the signal coming out of the conference, that the era of coal is ending.”

Tony Danker, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said that it had been a good conference for businesses: “There’s a huge amount of progress here. You are seeing businesses who are moving incredibly quickly, not only to bring finance to the table [and] disclosure, but to start designing solutions for consumers that will pave the way for a more sustainable way of living.”

Business will also take their lead from government. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres summed up what has come out of the COP, and the text.

“The approved texts are a compromise,” he said in an official statement. “They reflect the interests, the conditions, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today. 

They take important steps, but unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions."

As I said at the opening (of the conference), we must accelerate action to keep the 1.5 degree goal alive."

“Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread.”


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