As the President of the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26), Alok Sharma, brought down the gavel signaling a deal, every discussion in the corridors was on how India and China watered down the language of the provision that calls for stopping coal power plants and abolition of fossil-fuel subsidies. Coal has, for the first time ever, received a direct mention in a climate agreement, but much of the world is unhappy with India (and China) for changing the language of the text from “phase out” to “phase down” of coal.
In the final plenary session, India’s Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav, proposed a revision of the para referring to coal to read as “call upon parties to escalate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies and adoption of policies of transition towards low emission energy systems, including rapidly scaling up deployment of clean power generation, energy efficiency measures, including escalating the effort to phase down unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies while providing targeted support to the poorest and the most vulnerable, in line with the national circumstances and recognising trhe need for support towards a just transition.”
This immediately evoked a series of angry responses from Switzerland, the European Union (EU) and some other island nations, who expressed their deep disappointment—but they still passed the agreement, The very long applause that followed the conclusion of Switzerland’s intervention – Alok Sharma said ‘thank you’ thrice before it subsided – was a testimony that India and China stood rather isolated.
But in the end the Glasgow climate talks did end in a text on which all the 195-odd countries agreed to sign. The incursion of coal completely eclipsed the burning issue of finance. The agreement does “notes with deep regret” that developed countries have not met the target of mobilizing $100b by 2020. This COP was expected to be predominantly about finance, but in the end people left the rooms talking about coal.
The pending issue of framing rules for operationalising the Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which deals with carbon markets, has been completed. The full details are yet to come out, but some experts with the knowledge of it have commented that the rules still leave many loopholes to be plugged.
It has also been agreed that the countries will report next year on the progress made in their economies in terms of climate action. Earlier, this was to happen once in five years.
While the Glasgow climate talks ended in an agreement of sorts, most people have criticised as it not being enough. Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network, South Asia, has said that the “COP has ignored the basic rights of million to survive and live, ridiculing the ambition of the developing countries by not committing to the much-needed finance and technology.”
This might read like a standard language of an NGO, but then, even the COP President Alok Sharma, has said that while the global warming limiting target of 1.5 degrees Celsius has been “kept alive, it’s pulse is very weak.