Thursday, December 2, 2021

Reactions to the outcome of the climate summit – "It’s humble, it’s weak"

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The UN climate summit in Glasgow came to an emotional end with an agreement that brought a lot with it: tears, anger, criticism but also joy. The evaluation of the results was therefore very different.

After an extension of one day, an agreement was finally reached: the around 200 participating states of the two-week climate conference in Glasgow (COP26) agreed on a declaration on Saturday evening on a final declaration.

The compromise is a source of great criticism, especially the formulation that calls for the gradual phase-out of coal energy is discussed internationally. The formulations in the COP26 framework decision to turn away from coal and to forego subsidies for fossil fuels, which had already been watered down several times, were weakened at the last minute at the instigation of China and India.

In the last version before the plenary resolutions, the states were called upon to “accelerate their efforts in the direction of an exit” from the use of coal and to stop “inefficient subsidies” for fossil fuels. In the end, however, it was decided that the states should “gradually reduce” the use of coal-fired power plants without CO2 capture.

The reactions to the agreement were therefore very different in the end:

The Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres has shown himself sobered by the compromise. “It’s an important step, but it’s not enough. It’s time to go into emergency mode,” Guterres wrote on Twitter on Saturday evening after the delegates had agreed on the final declaration. He added, “The fight against climate change is the fight of our lives and that fight must be won.”

Despite the watering down of the final decision paper, the UN Secretary General called the demand to phase out coal “historic”. Guterres concluded, however, that the collective political will was “insufficient to overcome some profound contradictions”.

The President of COP26 also ensured an emotional end at the final press conference: When several states bitterly complained about watering down at the last minute shortly before the final vote, the Briton Alok Sharma fought back tears. “I beg your pardon for the way that went. And I’m very sorry,” said the host. He added: “It is also of fundamental importance that we protect this package.” Then his voice failed and he looked down. The delegates helped him over the emotional moment with long applause.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD), on the other hand, sees the resolutions as a success. Schulze was convinced on Saturday evening in Glasgow “that we are really experiencing a historic moment”. At COP26, “the coal phase-out has now been initiated worldwide”. With this acceleration of the energy transition around the world, a “new economic model” has emerged, said Schulze. As a result, the COP26 brings about a “significant acceleration for climate protection”.

Schulze said she wanted the formulation on coal “to be a bit more clear”. Now it has “been weakened a bit, but it has stayed”. This was “very, very difficult up to the last second” and Germany and the EU had to “build a lot of bridges” here.

Environment State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth praised after the negotiations “dragged on for many years” – “sometimes like chewing gum” – the so-called rule book for the concrete implementation of the Paris Agreement had also been completed in Glasgow.

The provisions of Article 6 of the Agreement on the Use of Market Mechanisms had successfully prevented both the donor and the recipient country from taking account of the greenhouse gas reductions made possible in climate protection projects by states or companies in other countries. Flasbarth said there are now “good regulations” for the other items in the rule book that were still open.

Environment and development organizations, on the other hand, have criticized the resolutions as inadequate in view of the climate crisis. “The small steps that COP26 has taken forwards must not lead us to the illusion that we are going home with a real success,” said Oxfam climate expert Jan Kowalzig after the agreement in Glasgow. “The 1.5-degree limit for maximum warming needs more political speed,” said Sven Harmeling, climate expert from the aid organization Care.

“It’s modest, it’s weak, and the 1.5 degree target is barely being kept alive,” said Greenpeace boss Jennifer Morgan of the result after almost two weeks of negotiations.

The head of climate and environmental policy at the environmental organization Nabu, Michael Schäfer, complained: “In Glasgow, some countries were tacting, blocking, playing for time – instead of doing what was necessary in the face of the climate crisis.” With many “pioneering alliances”, the climate conference in Glasgow “brought new dynamism to international climate policy despite the meager conclusion.”

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