In Glasgow, new global climate agreements were made tonight. After a day of discussions about the precise wording, the chairman of the summit, the Brit Alok Sharma, hammered the final statement tonight. This puts an end to two weeks of negotiation between almost two hundred countries.
At the last minute, the discussion with China and India in particular flared high. The two countries were dissatisfied with parts of the text. China and India wanted an adaptation of the text on fossil fuels and stopping coal. In the text, the initial wording, “towards phase out”, was changed to “to phase down” at the last minute, or “reduce” rather than “eventually stop” using coal.
For other countries especially from the European Union and small island states, this was a big disappointment. Nevertheless, all delegations finally agreed to the final statement. In speeches earlier in the day, many countries stressed that there are elements that they are not quite happy with, but that it is important to compromise. Because a toned down agreement is also better than no deal at all, they said.
President Alok Sharma regularly stressed over the past fourteen days that the “1.5 degree should be kept alive”. He says tonight, but “the pulse is weak.” In particular, the American climate envoy Kerry and Euro Commissioner Timmermans tried to get everyone in line until the last. According to Kerry, the text will lead to more global ambition.
The American acknowledges that some countries will feel discomfort with parts of the statement, but as far as he is concerned, it is all a good text. “We all know the adage in negotiations: you cannot let the urge for perfection stand in the way of a good agreement. And this is good, its a powerful explanation,” says Kerry.
Before it was clear that the final statement would be adopted, several representatives of small island states held an emotional argument. The islands fear the harmful effects of sea level rise. During their speech, they pointed out that they did not want to arrive at home with a bad message.
For example, Tuvalus representative held up a photo of his three children, saying, “I have three grandchildren and I look at their photo every night. I think about what I tell them when I come back from Glasgow. The best Christmas gift is if I can tell Glasgow is successful.” His female colleague from Palau said, “I dont want to go back to my three children and tell them that we failed here. It will never be the case that everyone is happy, and yet I am calling everyone to participate.”
But India used its speaking time to emphasize that it has the right to responsible use of fossil fuels and that they are important for the welfare of the population. The country accused wealthy countries of maintaining an unsustainable lifestyle, with a wasting consumption pattern.
In Glasgow, the past two weeks has mainly covered three topics. Poor countries wanted more money from rich countries for taking climate measures. Not only do they also have to go through the energy transition, they will also have to adapt to the changing climate. And in addition, they want to compensate for the damage caused by climate change.
Poor countries are most vulnerable to floods, extreme drought and rising sea levels due to global warming. At the same time, they are the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.
Another disagreeable topic was the temperature targets of the Paris climate agreement. That 2015 agreement states that global warming should remain “well below” the two degrees, and rather below 1.5 degrees. But since then, science has shown that the consequences at two degrees will be much more serious than at 1.5 degrees.
Sharpen Climate Target
That is why the European Union, the United States and low-lying island states in particular wanted the final declaration to be deployed at a maximum of 1.5 degrees. Before Glasgow began, it was clear that all the climate ambitions of countries added together would not be far enough to achieve that goal. That is why it has now been agreed that countries should present a tightened climate target next year, so that the 1.5 degree will be within reach.
The third important topic is the so-called Rulebook. This means the set of rules, which countries must comply with when implementing the Paris climate agreement. This Rulebook has been negotiated for six years. Article six in particular led to endless discussions. It regulates the trade in emissions between countries.