‘A Polite Request’: Environmentalists Slam UN Draft Agreement To Reduce Emissions

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of the United Nations is seen on the outside of its headquarters in New York

Environmentalists condemned the United Nations’ COP26 draft agreement published Wednesday as inadequate and urged negotiators to make firm commitments.

Critics argued that the draft proposed several non-binding provisions and doesn’t have any mechanism for holding nations that renege on promises accountable. The draft urges nations to publish plans for reducing emissions, asks them to phase out “coal and subsidies for fossil fuels” and invites them to “consider further opportunities” for combating climate change.

“This draft deal is not a plan to solve the climate crisis, it’s an agreement that we’ll all cross our fingers and hope for the best,” Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said in a statement. “It’s a polite request that countries maybe, possibly, do more next year.”

“Well that’s not good enough and the negotiators shouldn’t even think about leaving this city until they’ve agreed a deal that meets the moment,” he continued. “Because most assuredly, this one does not.”

Morgan added that the agreement wouldn’t achieve the U.N.’s previous set goal of limiting global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Nations need to rally in the final days of the conference to lay out real finance and adaptation plans, she said.

The draft was released at COP26, the ongoing climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders plan to make progress on commitments to curb climate change. The most recent high-level summit of its kind was the 2015 UN conference in Paris where nations signed an agreement containing ambitious international climate commitments.

The Climate Action Tracker, a nonprofit research database, concluded Tuesday that current plans outlined by countries worldwide are “totally inadequate” and would lead to warming of 2.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Most countries have insufficient plans or haven’t outlined climate commitments.

“This is stunningly, pitifully, >entirely< inadequate to the terrifying moment of emergency in which our species finds itself,” Rupert Read, an environmental activist and professor at the University of East Anglia in the U.K., tweeted. “Within days, Cop26 will have failed us. This astonishingly minimal piece of paper makes that very, very clear. This is a moment that must live in history.”

He said the draft agreement would mark the moment in history when children “got abandoned to their fate.”

U.K. Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas, a co-leader of the country’s Green Party, added that the document “utterly fails to rise to the moment.”

Meanwhile, a number of groups representing low income nations at the summit ripped the agreement for not doing enough to help their members transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. In Paris, wealthy nations reaffirmed a 2009 U.N. commitment to give $100 billion per year to developing nations for such climate financing beginning in 2020, but have failed to meet the goal.

“On the key demands of vulnerable countries there is very little. On helping these countries adapt to climate impacts and deal with the permanent losses and damage it is very fuzzy and vague,” Mohamed Adow, the director of environmental organization Power Shift Africa, said. “The fact that the deadline for the long promised $100bn of climate finance from rich countries has been missed doesn’t even get mentioned.”

Alliance of Small Island States Chair Aubrey Webson said the developed world needs to immediately strengthen the language and commitments in the agreement.

“‘Urging’ ‘encouraging’ and ‘inviting’ is NOT the decisive language that this moment calls for. We have limited time left in the COP to get this right and send a clear message to our children, that we hear you and are taking this crisis seriously,” Webson stated.

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