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Climate Talks Soften Stance on Fossil Fuel Slowdown

Negotiators at this year’s United Nations climate conference in Glasgow appeared to back away from a request to phase out all fossil fuel subsidies and phase out all coal usage, but they gave poor nations hope for greater financial aid to combat global warming.

The meeting’s chair’s newest draft suggestions called on governments to speed up “the phaseout of unabated coal power and wasteful fossil fuel subsidies.”

A previous draft from Wednesday was more forceful, urging governments to “accelerate the phase-out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies.”

While the chair’s suggestion is expected to be discussed further at the negotiations, which are set to finish on Friday, the change in language indicated a move away from unconditional demands, which several fossil-fuel exporting countries have opposed to.

John Kerry, the United States’ climate envoy, stated that Washington supports the present phrasing. He assured fellow climate diplomats, “We’re not talking about eradicating coal.”

“Those subsidies have to disappear,” Kerry said of government funding pouring into fossil fuels.

“We’re the world’s largest oil and gas producer, and we get part of those subsidies,” he explained.

Trillions of dollars are being spent throughout the world to subsidize fossil fuels, according to Kerry. “We’re letting the same problem we’re here to try to solve to fester.” It’s incomprehensible.”

However, activists and observers were split on how important the insertion of the terms “unabated” and “inefficient” was.

The added caveats, according to Richie Merzian, a former Australian climate negotiator who now runs the climate and energy program at the Australia Institute think tank, are “enough to run a coal train through it.”

Australia and India, the world’s third-largest emitter, have rejected demands to phase out coal in the near future.

“As long as our main purpose is to find loopholes and excuses, not to take meaningful action,” Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg told The Associated Press, “we will most likely not see any substantial gains in this summit.”

Thunberg spoke during her weekly demonstration outside Sweden’s parliament on Friday morning, having attended the opening of the discussions in Glasgow.

One of the main sticking issues at the two-week negotiations has been how to handle the ongoing use of fossil fuels, which is responsible for much of global warming.

Scientists believe that they must be phased out as quickly as possible if the 2015 Paris Agreement’s ambitious target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is to be met (2.7 Fahrenheit). However, adding such a statement expressly in the overall declaration is politically problematic, especially for nations like Saudi Arabia, who are concerned that oil and gas may be targeted next.

Another pressing problem is the provision of financial assistance to impoverished nations in order to help them cope with climate change. Rich countries failed to meet their commitment of $100 billion per year by 2020, prompting substantial resentment among underdeveloped countries heading into the negotiations.

The current draft reflects these worries, expressing “deep disappointment” that the $100 billion target has not been attained and encouraging rich countries to increase assistance for poor countries to decrease emissions and adapt to climate change – a problem that developed countries are also coping with.

It also suggests the establishment of a fund to assist impoverished nations in accessing current sources of aid when they are confronted with the terrible effects of climate change. Rich countries, such as the United States, are opposed to any legal responsibility to pay impoverished countries for human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Loss and damage negotiations are expected to go to the wire, according to negotiators.

Environmentalists have highlighted worries about potential loopholes in international accords on emissions reduction, which include rules for carbon markets. Businesses are especially eager to compensate for excess emissions by paying others to not emit the same quantity.

“The encouragement to greenwash through carbon offsetting risks turning the Paris Agreement into a farce,” Greenpeace’s Louisa Casson warned. “If this goes through, governments will be allowing huge polluters to pollute under the pretext of becoming ‘carbon neutral,’ without having to really decrease emissions.”

On Oct. 31, negotiators from almost 200 countries met in Glasgow amid grim warnings from politicians, campaigners, and scientists that not enough is being done to combat global warming.

Countries intend to express “alarm and uttermost worry” that human activities have already caused global warming of roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) “and that repercussions are already being felt in every region,” according to the planned decision.

While the Paris Agreement calls for limiting global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, by the end of the century, the draft agreement notes that the lower threshold “would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” and resolves to aim for that goal.

In doing so, it proposes that global carbon dioxide emissions be lowered by 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, and that no new CO2 be added to the atmosphere by mid-century. So far, the globe has fallen short of this goal, and rich countries are anticipated to be required to submit more aggressive emission reduction plans next year.

The 1.5C objective, according to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “is still in reach but on life support,” he told The Associated Press last week.

If negotiators fail to achieve a deal by Friday’s deadline, the negotiations are likely to continue into overtime. This has happened at many of the prior 25 summits, as decisions must be approved by all 197 countries.

The yearly meetings, which began in 1995 and were only missed once due to the pandemic last year, are intended to encourage all governments to steadily increase their efforts to combat global warming.

However, for many of the world’s most disadvantaged countries, the process has been much too sluggish.

“We must deliver and act immediately,” said Seve Paeniu, the finance minister of Tuvalu, a Pacific island nation. “For many of us, it’s a question of life and death.”

Bob Carlson
Bob Carlson
Bob Carlson is a business journalist, with over a decade of experience in the trenches of reporting up-to-date business news for publications all over the world. With a wealth of knowledge at his back, Bob strives to bring the most important insights into the business world for TheOptic daily.
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