We’re Covering the Final Days of COP26 in Real Time
There’s a draft agreement that countries will use as a template for a final deal, but big hurdles remain at the Glasgow talks.,
We’re also covering a deal to phase out gasoline cars, the gender gap at the conference and more.
With the climate summit in Glasgow heading toward its closing session, the United Nations issued a draft agreement late Wednesday that countries will use as a template for a global agreement on stronger action against global warming.
But big hurdles remain at the conference, which is scheduled to close on Friday.
The draft calls on countries to “revisit and strengthen” their plans for cutting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. And, it asks rich countries to “urgently scale up their provision of climate finance” to help developing nations adapt to global warming.
But there were no firm deadlines nor enforcement mechanisms in the draft. So, now, roughly 200 nations need to hammer out the details, and agree on who foots the bill.
By tradition, a final agreement requires every party to sign on. If any one country objects, talks can deadlock. And each country brings its own set of often competing interests. Small island states like the Maldives, facing an imminent threat from rising seas, want all countries to slash emissions as fast as possible. Oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia are not eager to rapidly phase out fossil fuels. And big developing countries like India are holding out for more help to shift to cleaner energy.
Our team in Glasgow will be covering the talks live for the rest of the week. You can follow the Wednesday sessions here.
The numbers: One of the main goals at the climate conference is a global pact to keep the average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with preindustrial levels. Beyond that threshold, scientists say, the likelihood of deadly heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods and biodiversity collapse rises sharply. The planet has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius.
Trust, but verify: Satellites could be used to help determine whether nations are keeping their greenhouse gas pledges.
The automakers who signed the pledge included Ford, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and Volvo. Together, they accounted for roughly one-quarter of global sales in 2019.
“Having these major players making these commitments, though we need to make sure that they follow through, is really significant,” said Margo Oge, a former senior U.S. air quality official who now advises both environmental groups and auto companies. “It really tells us that these companies, and their boards, accept that the future is electric.”
Why it matters: Transportation accounts for roughly one-fifth of humanity’s carbon dioxide emissions, with a little less than half of that coming from passenger vehicles like cars and vans.
The United States did not join: Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, said the Biden administration was “focused on what we are doing at home.”
Looking to the future: Rivian, a maker of electric trucks and vans, is going public and has set a stock price that values the company at nearly $70 billion.
Join us in Glasgow
The New York Times Climate Hub is still going strong on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference. The Thursday sessions will explore issues around sports, meat consumption, girls’ education and much more. See the full program and watch the discussions for free.
From the opinion section
What Africa needs right now: World leaders must seize the moral imperative and commit to action on climate change, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace laureate and former president of Liberia, writes in an opinion essay.
It’s all about cold, hard cash: Plans for new power generation in developing countries won’t meet global climate goals, Jeffrey Ball, a lecturer at Stanford University Law School, writes.
The huge gender and generation gap at COP26
The Glasgow talks began with more than 130 presidents and prime ministers posing for a group photo in a century-old museum. Fewer than 10 were women. Their median age was over 60.
The first week of the talks ended with boisterous protests of thousands on the streets of Glasgow. A march on Friday was led by young climate activists, most of them women and some barely old enough to vote in their countries. They accused the world leaders of wasting what little time remains to safeguard their future.
Those bookends to the first week of the talks revealed a widening divide that threatens to grow larger in the weeks and months ahead.
Video: More than 100,000 demonstrators marched in Glasgow, according to protest organizers.
The numbers: Leaders at the summit are setting goals for 2030 at the earliest. In some cases, they’re setting targets for 2060 and 2070, when many of today’s activists will be hitting retirement age.
Quotable: Future generations “will judge us with bitterness and with a resentment that eclipses any of the climate activists of today,” Prime Minister Johnson of Britain said in his opening remarks at the conference.
Also important this week:
A $1 trillion infrastructure bill in the United States includes the biggest amount of money ever allocated to prepare the nation for the impacts of climate change.
Former President Barack Obama’s speech at the conference focused on youth, but he had a few words for Republicans, too.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were among the American lawmakers who traveled to the climate summit.
Greta Thunberg assailed world leaders for “profiting from this destructive system.”
In one area of France, worries about rising energy prices outweigh anxiety about rising temperatures.
More than 40 countries have pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their health industries.
Africa ‘on the receiving end’ of the climate crisis
Who gets to keep using fossil fuels, and for how long, during the transition to clean energy? That’s one of the big questions at COP26. A swift transition to renewable energy is crucial in the global fight against climate change.
But not only would that be particularly costly in poorer nations, many African countries have an abundance of natural gas or other fossil fuels. Plus, Sub-Saharan Africa contributes about 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, among the lowest of the world’s regions.
“African countries are the ones on the receiving end of this problem. It’s the bigger emitters that should have the responsibility to cut,” said Titus Gwemende, the Zimbabwe-based climate director at the Open Society Foundation. “We should be sensitive to history.”
That’s why some African leaders and activists are, for the first time, vocally opposing a speedier pivot to renewables for their countries. Instead, they are pressing for a slower transition, one that would embrace a continued reliance on fossil fuels — particularly natural gas, which burns more cleanly than coal or oil, but which still pumps planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
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