Countries reached a deal aimed at staving off dangerous climate change at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first ever climate deal to explicitly plan to reduce coal, the worst fossil fuel for greenhouse gases.
The pact also presses for more urgent emission cuts and promises more money for developing countries – to help them adapt to climate impacts.
However, the pledges don’t go far enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5C.
A commitment to phase out coal that was included in earlier negotiation drafts led to a dramatic finish after India led opposition to it.
India’s climate minister Bhupender Yadav asked how developing countries could promise to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies when they “have still to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication”.
In the end, countries agreed to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal, amid expressions of disappointment by some. COP26 President Alok Sharma said he was “deeply sorry” for how events had unfolded.
Alok Sharma fought back tears as he told delegates that it was vital to protect the agreement as a whole.
As part of the agreement, countries will meet next year to pledge further major carbon cuts with the aim of reaching the 1.5C goal. Current pledges, if fulfilled, will only limit global warming to about 2.4C.
If global temperatures rise by more than 1.5C, scientists say the Earth is likely to experience severe effects such as millions more people being exposed to extreme heat.
Despite the weakening of language around coal, some observers will still see the deal as a victory, underlining that it is the first time coal is explicitly mentioned in UN documents of this type.
Coal is responsible for about 40% of annual CO2 emissions, making it central in efforts to keep within the 1.5C target. To meet this goal, agreed in Paris in 2015, global emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and to nearly zero by mid-century.
Finance was a contentious issue during the conference. A pledge by developed nations to provide $100 billion per year to emerging economies, made in 2009, was supposed to have been delivered by 2020. However, the date was missed.
It was designed to help developing nations adapt to climate effects and make the transition to clean energy. In an effort to mollify delegates, Alok Sharma said around $500 billion would be mobilized by 2025.
Main achievements of the Glasgow Climate Pact:
- Re-visiting emissions-cutting plans next year to try to keep 1.5C target reachable
- The first ever inclusion of a commitment to limit coal use
- Increased financial help for developing countries