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10 November 2021

The EU “will break” Cop26 negotiations without more ambition

As negotiators race to agree a climate deal, developing nations are looking to Europe for greater leadership.

By Philippa Nuttall

The EU was in the firing line at Cop26 on Wednesday (10 November) as environmental groups responded to the second draft of what will become the Glasgow Declaration. They accused the EU of a “lack of action across the board” and said the bloc could “make or break” the negotiations.

Tensions are ramping up in Glasgow as negotiators try desperately to come up with a deal by Friday night that brings on board recalcitrant countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Australia, and at least looks like they are taking climate science seriously, while also listening to the concerns and demands of developing countries, indigenous people and young protestors.

The new text, which appeared online in the small hours of Wednesday morning, was, for many, an improvement on the previous day’s effort. The need to “accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels” appeared, though no date was mentioned. And the text recognised the impacts of climate change will be much lower if the temperature rise is kept under 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. 

However, the seven-page document also contained many square brackets, meaning that final numbers or wording are far from being decided and more negotiations will be needed.

Speaking in a press briefing, Alden Meyer, veteran climate expert with think tank E3G, accused the EU and the US “of not doing enough”. Criticism of the US is not new here, but the EU likes to sell itself as a world climate leader, and yesterday the EU climate commissioner Frans Timmermans lambasted delegates from around the world. “We are not where we need to be – not even close,” he said at Cop26. “We’re moving in the right direction, but the world is still too far away from our 1.5 degree goal,” and warned that “time is running out”.

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Meyer suggested the US and the EU were perhaps “holding their bargaining chips for the end game”. But if these chips are to be considered, they need throwing on the table sooner rather than later, he added. National ministers will start arriving in Glasgow and this could potentially give some new impetus to the debates.

“EU ministers are make and break here – not least because they are leading critical consultations, but this will require them to lead the way by getting behind a broader acceleration package,” said Meyer’s colleague at E3G Jennifer Tollmann. This must include building coalitions with developing countries around each tricky issue, she added.

Spain is leading work on adapting to climate change; Denmark heading negotiations on mitigation; Luxembourg spearheading attempts to tackle the thorny issue of loss and damage, and whether and how developed countries should pay for the damage climate change has already wrought in poorer nations; Sweden is leading on climate finance; and France is seen as a key player given its role in the Paris Agreement.

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To lift the negotiations out of a negative spiral, the EU and the US must “cross their red lines”, said Meyer. In other words, scale up their climate finance for developing countries and show they are prepared to stump up money for loss and damage. 

Timmermans announced on Tuesday (9 November) a new pledge of €100m in finance for the adaptation fund, and the EU is already the world’s biggest contributor to the $100bn climate finance target, paying in $27bn in 2019. 

But developing countries are clear that all developed nations need to do much more. $100bn may sound like a lot, but three-quarters of the world’s 7.7 billion people live in the Global South – meaning $100bn is the equivalent of $13 a person a year. The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is urging rich nations to provide a more solid $1trn a year, and most developing countries have backed a demand for wealthy nations to provide at least $1.3trn in climate finance annually by 2030.

[See also: For sinking Pacific islands, $100bn by 2023 will be too little, too late]

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