The final wording of the COP26 agreement is unclear as the climate negotiations run over time

Global climate negotiations have run into overtime, with dealers struggling to reach a final agreement, and China urging countries to “decide their own timetable” to reduce emissions.

At the two-week UN climate conference, thousands of delegates came to Glasgow with the aim of curbing the catastrophic effects of global warming.

But the planned program is over, and the wording of the final deal hangs in the air.

It needs the unanimous support of almost 200 countries. But in one of the last sessions of the negotiations, the difference in aspiration and desired actions from different countries was clear.

“Our safety, the safety of my children and yours hang in the balance … it’s time for us to rise,” said Marshall Islands climate envoy Tina Stege.

Tuvalu’s climate minister Seve Paeniu said climate change was “an existential threat” during an emotional speech to the summit, which garnered widespread applause.

“Our country is disappearing fast,” he said.

“Tuvalu is literally sinking.”

The small island nation was in the global spotlight earlier this week when Foreign Minister Simon Kofe gave a video speech to the summit as he knelt in the sea water to show how low-lying Pacific nations were on the front lines of climate change.

A man in a suit stands at a lectern right down in the sea water and gives a speech
Tuvalus Foreign Minister Simon Kofe’s COP26 video statement made waves around the world.(Reuters: Tuvalu Ministry of Justice Communications and Foreign Affairs)

Delegates from the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Kenya, Ghana and the United States all called for greater ambitions in the final agreement in one of the last plenary negotiations at COP26.

Meanwhile, the message from China’s climate negotiator set a different tone.

“Let the parties themselves determine the roadmap and timetable for their national policies and actions,” Zhao Yingmin said.

“Give the parties space and time to implement their NDCs (nationally determined contributions).”

Zhao called for the final conference pledge to provide more on “adaptation, funding and capacity building”.

The first draft of the COP 26 agreement was released earlier this week, but within a few days it was revised.

The second draft revealed diluted commitments on phasing out fossil fuels and a softening of the language around countries delivering new 2030 emission reduction targets within the next year.

It is understood that Russia, Saudi Arabia, India and other countries have lobbied for the changes around the language on coal and fossil fuels.

Sir. Zhao told the plenary that the revised draft had “improvements over the previous one and provided a good basis for our further discussions”.

“We still believe that the current text should further strengthen parts of adaptation, economics, engineering and capacity building,” he said.

Britain’s COP26 president, Alok Sharma, said he hoped the final summit texts would be adopted and signed later today despite the clear differences of opinion.

Island nations ‘hold out’ by more ambitious agreement

“The least developed countries and the small island nations and especially the brave people of Tuvalu are basically holding out,” Mark Maslin, a climate scientist at University College London, told ABC.

Former negotiators told ABC that it was common for COP negotiations to go on overtime, with final deals often being delivered days late.

The organizers of the conference set themselves a few clear goals, including global emission reductions that would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and for the planet to have net-zero emissions by 2050.

The wording on how often countries should revise their emission reduction targets for 2030 was also still under negotiation and would be crucial to long-term success, Mr Maslin said.

“We need to reduce global emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and then hit net zero around 2050,” he said.

“Now the promises of these countries do not come close to that.

“We are looking at temperature changes of 2.4C to 2.8C by the end of the century if there are no revisions.”

Speaking on behalf of the Marshall Islands, Mrs Stege said countries should revise their 2030 ambitions annually to keep climate goals within reach.

A woman in a floral headdress is sitting at a table in a conference center.
Marshall Islands climate envoy Tina Stege said it was time to “level up”.( Reuters: Yves Herman)

Maslin said the second draft was an improvement over the first document, and although the wording on the use of fossil fuels was revised, it was still “absolutely ingenious”, it was included.

“It leaves the door open that if countries want to support that the poorest people in their country can afford fuel that comes from fossil fuels, they can still do it,” he said.

Another key goal of the conference was to secure about $ 130 billion a year in funding to limit the effects of climate change.

The question of how any climate finance can be used by developing countries is also thought to be a fixed point in the conference’s final agreement.

During the summit, there were strong promises to prevent deforestation around the world, to reduce methane emissions and to phase out public funding and the use of coal power.

There were several other minor promises around land management and the phasing out of fuel-powered cars and a surprising joint statement from the US and China that promised to do more to reduce emissions.

But the promises came in a patchwork quilt, with some countries signing certain promises and none with the unanimous support of the more than 200 countries.

“They’re actually trying to make sure our ambition may not be as great as we should be … and that’s so unfortunate.”


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