After two weeks of tough negotiations, the COP 26 climate conference leads to a mixed agreement, not too bad for some, very unsatisfactory for others. India and China are waiting until the last minute to return to the crux of coal mining and change the deal to their advantage.
Exhausted negotiators from nearly 200 Countries concluded Saturday An agreement to propel the world towards a more urgent climate action, but without offering the transformative breakthrough that scientists are calling for if humanity is to avoid disastrous global warming. It took two weeks of high-profile discussions lead to a set of measures that push countries to strengthen their short-term climate goals and away faster fuels fossils. The new agreement insists that the rich countries should respect a promise, they have so far not obliged to help vulnerable countries cope with rising costs of climate change. Among other things, determine future payments that developed countries could release for damage already done.
Saturday's agreement, however, does not reach the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement in 2015 - to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) in above pre-industrial levels. Instead, the delegations left Glasgow leaving the earth to move, most certainly, to overstepping that limit and preserving an uncertain future of ever more extreme weather crises and irreversible damage to the natural world.
Representatives of the hard-hit countries, meanwhile, expressed deep concern and fear that the deal still leaves their people in the face of an existential threat.
“ The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence for us,” Aminath Shauna, Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology of the Maldives, said at the summit. “What is balanced and pragmatic for other parties will not help the Maldives adapt in time. It will be too late. "
Organizers acknowledged that the hard-negotiated deal does not go far enough. But they argued that progress here creates a roadmap to a more secure future and "keeps the 1.5 ° C target alive."
" We are all well aware that, collectively, our ambition and our climate action to date have not lived up to the promises made in Paris", apologized on Saturday Alok Sharma, British Minister of State and President. of the Glasgow negotiations., in an emotional message to the delegates.
In France, the environmental candidate for the presidential election, Eric Jadot, also made his disappointment in the face of a text lacking in courage: "It's still the COP which arrives after a summer which marked in the world the impact of climate change by creating catastrophes, human tragedies and it is a gulf between the result of this conference " of the COP26 in Glasgow " and the objective which had been decided in Paris, which was to have trajectories of climate policies that prevent us from exceeding 1.5 degrees of warming. There, we are at 2.5, 2.6, 2.7 degrees, according to the evaluations " , he declared. Before continuing:" We had never seen a Europe weighing so little and settling its accounts publicly within the COP 26. As long as you have governments which prefer pesticides, factory farming which participates in global warming rather than agroecology, as long as you have governments which prefer alliance with oil lobbies , coal, gas, nuclear, rather than investing in renewable energies, you not only lose jobs, but you create the climate drama ".
Anything that has not been the subject of a roadmap commensurate with the risks and challenges will lead us to untold suffering, said the top climate official of the European Union, Frans Timmermans, to the delegates in the last hours of the summit, before adding that "he was thinking about what life will be like in 2050 for his 1 year old grandson. "
"If we will live in a livable world," he said. "If we fail - and I mean we fail now in the next couple of years - he will fight with other human beings for water and food." This is the harsh reality we face. "
The whole deal seemed, for a moment, in jeopardy when delegates from China and India proposed a last-minute change to the crucial coal-quitting text, saying they would only agree to "gradually reduce coal relentlessly" rather than "phase it out".
Uncertainty flooded the room, said Andrea Meza, Costa Rica's Minister of the Environment. Neither she nor many of her developing country allies knew the challenge was coming.
“We were very anxious,” she said. “Everything is so fragile, these commitments. Then if you start removing pieces, everything can fall off so easily. "
It was then that country after country rose up to oppose the change in the 11th hour.
“This commitment to coal had been a positive overall,” said Marshall Islands climate envoy Tina Stege. “It was one of the things we proudly hoped to achieve here and at home. And it hurts a lot to see that bright spot fade away. "
Ultimately, Stege said she would accept the subtlety of language between reduction and elimination "only because there are critical elements of this deal that the people of my country need as a lifeline for their future. ".
The episode was a reminder of how laborious the international effort to slow climate change can be, relying on hard-fought compromises and sometimes one-word change.
Sharma, who had promised to lead the summit to a smooth end, looked shaken. “I apologize for the way this process has unfolded,” he told negotiators, his voice almost broken. “But as you noted, it is also essential that we protect the agreement. "
"I'm tired, I'm frustrated ... but I'm not surprised," said Nicki Becker, 20, an Argentinian activist with Fridays for Future, who said the pact was not doing enough to protect people in high-risk countries like his. “We always hear that young people are the future. But they are burning our present. They sell our present. They pollute our present. "
Richie Merzian, a former Australian climate official, joked this week about his coal-exporting country: “The only thing Australia has brought to this negotiation is good coffee at the Australian pavilion. "
Talks Glasgow took place in a world already irrevocably altered by emissions from human activity. A landmark UN report released in August found that global temperatures are rising at an unprecedented rate. The last time the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose so rapidly was 66 million years ago, when a meteor destroyed the dinosaurs.
"The alarm bells are deafening", said the UN secretary general, António Guterres, at the time.
In the months leading up to COP26, organizers had described it as a global moment of truth - a “last best hope,” in Sharma's words. “One minute before midnight on this apocalyptic clock,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Presidents and prime ministers showed up early in Glasgow and made new commitments to tens of thousands of attendees. The announcements included efforts to reduce methane and end deforestation, phase out funding for coal-fired power plants and help countries rocked by the deadly triptych of climate change, growing debt and a deadly pandemic.
Halfway the summit, about 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Glasgow, wind resistant and Scottish rain to remind those who were inside they watched and expected more daring policies.
Indigenous leaders in traditional dress and grandmothers shouting slogans about the fossil fuel industry joined the swirling mass. The schoolchildren shook hands with their parents and waved "Act Now" signs.
“Cut the crap” was engraved on a cart pushed by Malcom Strong, 55. Inside the cart: a bucket of manure.
The droppings reflected the lack of faith many activists had in the process going on inside the Glasgow Convention Center. They dismissed the UN summit as a "polluters' conference , " a "meaningless" "greenwashing" and "blah blah blah" event.
“Keep 1.5 alive” was a rallying cry for leaders and activists around the world. The success of COP26 will be measured, according to them, by the distance at which humanity has come closer to the collective objectives it set itself six years ago in Paris.
"Paris has promised," said Sharma repeatedly. “Glasgow owes results. "
But alas, it was a painful childbirth.
By week two of the conference, the band had given way to a sobering reality: the commitments made here, as promising as they are, will depend on words that will turn into concrete actions.
When asked if she thought the Glasgow agreement would maintain the hope of 1.5, Corinne Le Quere, a climatologist at the University of East Anglia, said: "Hardly. "
And as calm returned, nearby, we could still see a still-lit neon flashing its silent message:
"Hurry up please." It’s about time.