UK turns pessimistic as COP26 misses deadline

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Climate Justice activist Vanessa Nakate addressed a plenary session at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday appealed to richer countries to place more “cash on the table” to secure a climate breakthrough as the COP26 meeting in Glasgow slipped into overtime.

Poorer countries have balked at demands to do more to curb their own emissions, without promised financial support to transition away from fossil fuels and to adapt to the accelerating impacts of climate change.

But Johnson said that the Glasgow summit in itself would not be able to stop global warming.

“We do need to see the cash on the table to help the developing world to make the necessary changes,” he said. “That’s what needs to happen in the next few hours.”

New wording to a draft COP26 agreement on Friday called for countries to accelerate “the phase-out of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”.

“Unabated” coal plants are those that do not deploy carbon capture technology to offset some of their pollution.

US climate envoy John Kerry said in Glasgow that fossil fuel subsidies — including America’s own — were “insanity”.

“For many of you it is not existential in the future, it is existential today. People are dying today. All around the world the impacts are being felt, today.”

But a faultline remains over the failure of wealthy nations to meet their decade-old promise to provide $100 billion annually to help vulnerable nations prepare for the worst.

“For myself, for Kenya, our trust has been shattered,” he said, as more than 100 indigenous and other protesters marched through the summit venue demanding the rich world honour its promises.

The two-week summit began with a bang as world leaders descended on Glasgow armed with a string of headline announcements, from a commitment to slash methane emissions to a plan to save rainforests.

In a speech to delegates, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans held up his mobile phone with a picture of his one-year-old grandson on screen.

He said the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C is “about avoiding a future for our children and grandchildren that is unlivable”. 

Negotiations received a shot in the arm on Wednesday when the United States and China — the two largest emitters — unveiled a joint climate action plan, although it was light on detail.

Developed nations meanwhile favour a greater push on emissions reductions, something countries yet to fully electrify their grids — and largely blameless for emissions — feel is unfair.

“Rich nations treat climate finance as charity or a favour to placate developing countries into signing a compromised package of decisions,” Harjeet Singh, senior adviser at Climate Action Network International, told AFP.

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