GLASGOW — Negotiators from 200 countries appeared to be closing in on an agreement aimed at setting conditions to prevent dangerous levels of global warming late Saturday, but not without tension over how to pay countries that are least responsible for the problem but suffering irreparable harms.
John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, said, “It is time to come together for future generations in ways that none of us thought we might have an opportunity to do.” He called the text “a powerful statement.”
Not everyone agreed. The latest text, said Shauna Aminath, environment minister of the Maldives, lacked the “urgency” that vulnerable countries like hers required. “What looks balanced and pragmatic to other parties will not help the Maldives adapt in time,” she said.
Representatives spent much of the day arguing over language in a revised draft agreement — the third version cobbled together during the summit, known as COP26. By tradition, all countries must agree on language; if any one objects, the talks deadlock.
Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Union, urged negotiators to accept the third version and said he feared “stumbling in this marathon a few meters short of the finish line.”
He pleaded for each country to set aside its particular concerns to focus on the larger crisis.
“For heavens’ sake, don’t kill this moment by asking for more text, different text, deleting that and deleting this,” he said, urging the group to “act with the urgency that is essential for our survival. Please embrace this text so we can bring hope to the hearts of our children and grandchildren.”
Andrea Meza, the Environment and Energy Minister of Costa Rica, summed it up this way: “We don’t have a perfect package but we have a possible package.”
The latest draft, which is broadly similar to one released on Friday, called on nations to return next year, instead of 2025, with stronger pledges to cut planet-warming emissions in this decade. It urged wealthy nations to “at least double” by 2025 the financial aid that they provide to developing countries to help them adapt to heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires.
It retained language calling on countries to accelerate efforts “toward the phaseout of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, recognizing the need for support toward a just transition.” That language recognizes the need to help workers in polluting countries who could be displaced after a transition to wind, solar or other green energy.
The reference to “fossil fuels” would be the first time those words are mentioned in an international climate accord, despite the fact that burning fossil fuels is a root cause of global warming.
“The Glasgow Climate Pact failed to prioritize climate finance for developing countries to transition away from fossil fuels, adapt to worsening impacts, and cope with irreparable loss and damage from climate change,” Rachel Cleetus, policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said.
The summit host, Britain, had said its goal was to ensure that the planet would not heat more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, by 2100, compared with the average global temperature during the Industrial Revolution. That is the threshold beyond which scientists say devastating heat waves, fires and floods become significantly more likely. That goal is nowhere within reach.
“It’s meek, it’s weak, and the 1.5 Celsius goal is only just alive,” said Jennifer Morgan, who heads Greenpeace. “But a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.”
Dan Jorgensen, Denmark’s minister of climate, energy and utilities, said he was optimistic that the coal and fossil fuel language would remain in the final agreement.
“We all agree that climate change is the biggest threat to our civilization, and we all know what the causes are,” he said. “This is not about shaming those countries. We all need to acknowledge that countries that need to move away from coal also need help.”
Lisa Friedman contributed reporting
As of midday on Saturday, after two weeks of negotiations, deep divisions remained among the nearly 200 nations trying to agree on a deal at the climate summit.
One of the thorniest problems: how to allow polluting companies and countries to buy and trade permits to lower global emissions.
Vulnerable countries insist that rich nations should grant them a share of proceeds from carbon market transactions to help them build resilience to climate change. The United States and the European Union have opposed doing so, but island nations in particular want a mechanism to ensure that carbon trading leads to an overall reduction in global emissions.
“We want a credible market that will deliver reductions in emissions, not just a free pass for countries to buy cheap credits offshore to meet their national requirements,” said Ian Fry, a negotiator for the Solomon Islands, an archipelago in the southwest Pacific Ocean.
Delegates in the plenary hall huddled for more than an hour on Saturday afternoon. Surrounded by his top aides, John Kerry, the United States special envoy for climate change, conferred with African and European negotiators and others over key sticking points like setting new rules for carbon markets and addressing climate-related harm.
Other huddles discussed how to help countries that have done the least to cause climate change but are suffering the worst effects now, and a growing debate over language in the draft summit accord aimed at phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies.
More than 10 years ago, countries promised to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries pivot to renewable energy and prepare for the effects of climate change.
That promise was not fulfilled, and the latest draft agreement being negotiated at the U.N. climate summit notes “with serious concern” the gap between what was pledged and what was delivered.
It “urges” wealthy countries to increase the amount of money they give now and in the future. It also “requests” that developed countries consider moves to “significantly increase” the amount of money they give to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change.
Currently, money to help develop wind, solar and other renewable energy far outpaces funding for things like building sea walls or planting mangroves to protect against storm surges.
Activists said they were broadly disappointed with the proposed accord’s latest language on funding for poor and vulnerable countries.
Timmons Roberts, a professor of environmental studies at Brown University, called the language “wiggle words,” because it could allow wealthy countries to wiggle out of their promises.
“I’m a college professor,” he said. “If I request my students to consider doing the reading for class, how many do I expect to actually do it? Very few.”
Climate activists said on Saturday that they were furious to see that the latest draft of a potential United Nations climate agreement had weakened provisions aimed at helping the world’s most vulnerable countries cope with today’s climate-fueled disasters.
The third and latest draft, released early Saturday by organizers in Glasgow, is the clearest signal yet of what diplomats from nearly 200 countries are likely to agree on at the close of the two-week summit.
But as ministers and others prepared to discuss the draft on Saturday afternoon, a major flash point was expected over “loss and damage” — one of the most politically contentious issues in the negotiations.
“I expect some drama,” said Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International.
The new text eliminates a reference to the creation of a facility that would have provided financial support for technical assistance to cope with losses and damages from ever fiercer storms, floods and droughts brought about by greenhouse gas emissions that wealthy countries have spewed into the atmosphere for decades. That already did not go as far as vulnerable countries wanted.
The new version calls only for dialogue to “discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities” to address poor countries’ needs.
Saleemul Huq, an adviser to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a coalition of 48 countries, said in a tweet that the language on loss and damage “has in fact gone BACKWARDS from yesterday’s text!”
Several negotiators and observers watching the talks said the United States had been instrumental in blocking a clear mention of a new stream of funding for poor countries to address losses and damages from climate change.
Farhana Yamin, an environmental lawyer who is working closely with vulnerable countries in the climate talks, called the new text “appalling” and said that unless it changed, the agreement would “go down in history as having failed all tests of moral and political credibility.”
Whatever the outcome of the down-to-the-wire negotiations in Glasgow over an agreement to slow the rise in global temperatures, the United Nations climate conference known as COP26 has made some progress on key issues.
Here are some of the deals already announced at the two-week talks:
U.S. and China
The United States and China announced a joint agreement to do more to cut emissions this decade, and China committed for the first time to develop a plan to reduce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The pact between the rivals, which are the world’s two biggest polluters, surprised delegates to the summit.
But the agreement was short on specifics. China did not commit to a new timetable for reducing emissions, nor did it set a ceiling for how much its emissions would rise before they started to fall. And while China agreed to “phase down” coal starting in 2026, it did not specify by how much or over what period of time.
Leaders of more than 100 countries, including Brazil, China, Russia and the United States, vowed to end deforestation by 2030. The landmark agreement covers about 85 percent of the world’s forests, which are crucial to absorbing carbon dioxide and slowing the pace of global warming.
Twelve governments committed $12 billion, and private companies pledged $7 billion, to protect and restore forests in a variety of ways, including $1.7 billion for Indigenous peoples. But some advocacy groups criticized the agreement as lacking teeth, noting that similar efforts have failed in the past.
More than 100 countries agreed to cut emissions of methane, a potent planet-warming gas, 30 percent by the end of this decade. The pledge was part of a push by the Biden administration, which also announced that the Environmental Protection Agency would limit the methane coming from about one million oil and gas rigs across the United States.
The countries that signed the Global Methane Pledge include half of the world’s top 30 methane-emitting countries, and U.S. officials said they expected the list to grow.
One of the world’s largest consumers of coal, India also said that it would significantly expand the portion of its total energy mix that comes from renewable sources, and that half of its energy would come from sources other than fossil fuels by 2030.
It is common for United Nations climate conferences, which are supposed to run for two weeks, to go into overtime. Diplomats often don’t get down to the fine details of an agreement until the final night.
Lia Nicholson, who represents small island nations in the negotiations, said on Friday that the group “finds ourselves at the final hours of this conference overwhelmed at the work still ahead of us.”
Diplomats and negotiators worked past the deadline, well into Saturday morning. And many, especially those representing developing countries, lamented the gap between what nations have promised to do to cut greenhouse gas emissions and help people adapt to climate change, and what is needed.
“There’s a huge disconnect between where we are, where we will be based on current projections and where we need to be in terms of what science is telling us,” said Saber Hossain Chowdhury, a negotiator from Bangladesh, one of the nations that have suffered most from climate change.
The draft agreement released on Friday “requests” nations to return every year to strengthen their emissions-cutting targets until the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial times. One analysis found that even if all the pledges made in Glasgow were kept, temperatures would still rise by 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2100.
Even at current temperatures, Mr. Chowdhury said, “we see the destruction, the devastation, the pain, the suffering that all countries of the world are facing.” He received sustained applause from delegates in the plenary hall.
Kenya’s environment minister, Keriako Tobiko, noted that an average global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius would translate into 3 degrees in Africa, intensifying erratic patterns of rainfall and drought that are already punishing farmers.
“In Kenya and Africa, we cry, we bleed. We bleed when it rains, we cry when it doesn’t rain,” he said. “So for us, ambition, 1.5 is not a statistic. It is a matter of life and death.”
The latest draft also calls on countries to accelerate “the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.” Unabated coal refers to power plants that do not capture their carbon dioxide emissions using a nascent technology not currently available on a commercial scale.
The language, which would allow power plants with the technology to continue burning coal, is a change from previous language asking nations to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.”
Officials from other countries argued that the words unabated and inefficient should be removed from the agreement.
“We need clear language on the need to eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies, not only the inefficient ones, and to accelerate the phaseout of coal power,” said Andrea Meza, Costa Rica’s environment minister.
While the science of climate change is widely agreed upon, the scope of the topic and rampant disinformation make it hard to separate fact from fiction. The Times asked Julia Rosen, a journalist who holds a Ph.D. in geology, to explain some of what we know, and how we know it. She writes that the impact of climate change will depend on how aggressively the world acts to address it:
If we continue with business as usual, by the end of the century it will be too hot to go outside during heat waves in the Middle East and South Asia. Droughts will grip Central America, the Mediterranean and southern Africa. And many island nations and low-lying areas, from Texas to Bangladesh, will be overtaken by rising seas.
Conversely, climate change could bring welcome warming and extended growing seasons to the upper Midwest, Canada, the Nordic countries and Russia. Farther north, however, the loss of snow, ice and permafrost will upend the traditions of Indigenous peoples and threaten infrastructure.
It’s complicated, but the underlying message is simple: Unchecked climate change will likely exacerbate existing inequalities. At a national level, poorer countries will be hit hardest, even though they have historically emitted only a fraction of the greenhouse gases that cause warming.
Even within wealthy countries, the poor and marginalized will suffer the most. People with more resources have greater buffers, like air-conditioners to keep their houses cool during dangerous heat waves, and the means to pay the resulting energy bills. They also have an easier time evacuating their homes before disasters, and recovering afterward.
On top of that, warmer weather is aiding the spread of infectious diseases and the vectors that transmit them, like ticks and mosquitoes. Research has also identified troubling correlations between rising temperatures and increased interpersonal violence, and climate change is widely recognized as a “threat multiplier” that increases the odds of larger conflicts within and between countries.
In other words, climate change will bring many changes that no amount of money can stop. What could help is taking action to limit warming.
Mohamed Nasheed is impatient. For countries to come back every five years with climate targets as the 2015 Paris agreement requires, he says, is too long for low-lying countries like his that at risk of being swallowed by rising seas.
The group he presides over, a bloc of countries called the Climate Vulnerable Forum, has pushed instead for countries to come back every year with new emissions reductions pledges until a rise in global temperatures is kept within relatively safe levels, or within 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial times.
That push from the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which includes island nations like his own and developing nations like Bangladesh and Ethiopia, has had a major impact. The latest draft of the U.N. climate summit document released on Saturday morning calls on countries to return with enhanced climate targets by the end of next year.
“You cannot give up,” Mr. Nasheed said. “I’ve been put many times against the odds, and we can win against the odds.”
Mr. Nasheed, 54, has been arrested over a dozen times for his political activities. He has been tortured in prison — twice. This year, he survived an assassination attempt.
He is a longtime climate champion, and his most inventive stunt came just before the 2009 international climate summit in Copenhagen. As the Maldives’ president, he and 13 of his cabinet members made a video of themselves, in scuba suits, holding a meeting 13 feet under water. It was meant to drive home the point that many countries could be under water if major polluting nations do not pivot away quickly from fossil fuels.
Mr. Nasheed says that countries are not doing enough to limit global warming, but he is hopeful nonetheless. He pointed to conservative leaders around the world who have lately embraced climate action, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain.
“The people have actually decided that when they vote, they will look for those who are thinking of saving the planet,” Mr. Nasheed said in a recent interview. “People are realizing that we are moving to a doomsday situation. People do understand that the planet is losing its balance. And that shouldn’t be left to happen.”
The carbon footprint of this year’s United Nations climate summit is expected to be double that of the previous conference in 2019, according to a report produced for the British government.
The COP26 summit in Glasgow is projected to generate emissions that are equivalent to about 102,500 tons of carbon dioxide, says a report compiled by Arup, a professional services firm, and reported earlier by The Scotsman.
About 60 percent of those emissions are estimated to come from international flights, while accommodations, policing for the event, local transportation and energy for the venue make up other large portions, the report said.
The environmental impact of the summit did not go unnoticed inside the hall. Vanessa Nakate, a climate activist from Uganda, on Thursday called out business leaders and investors, saying they had not taken immediate action but instead were “flying into COP on private jets” and “making fancy speeches.”
Previous climate summits had much smaller carbon footprints, including COP25 in Madrid in 2019, which emitted the equivalent of 51,101 tons of carbon dioxide.
Not all COP events leave behind a carbon footprint. The host government for COP20 in Lima, Peru, in 2014 offset all emissions, according to the United Nations.
Cansin Leylim of 350.org, an organization working to end the age of fossil fuels, said the focus should not be on the summit’s emission numbers.
“The question shouldn’t be how do we reduce emissions at these type of events, but how do we speed up the phasing out all fossil fuels, end fossil finance and leverage the climate finance needed to support a global just transition, so that we don’t have to have these type of conferences in the first place,” she said.
Dr. Stephen Allen, an expert on energy and carbon analysis at the University of Bath in England, said in-person negotiations were sometimes critical to progress on issues like climate change.
“It is a big number,” he said of the summit’s projected carbon footprint. “But it is essential that we get an international commitment. I suppose in a way, we’re investing carbon emissions in trying to secure a good international agreement that then leads to really big carbon savings.”
GLASGOW — Conventional wisdom says good food and drink can grease the way to a good deal.
The organizers of the international climate summit in Paris in 2015 took that to heart, claiming that their hot baguettes, buttery croissants and poulet à la persillade, washed down with French wine, helped to yield a landmark global accord.
The contrast was hard to miss in Glasgow. On offer here: Scotch beef ramen, venison sausage rolls, and “neeps and tatties.”
And after 13 days of back-to-back sessions, some of the negotiators, working late into the night, took matters into their own hands.
A pair of Canadian negotiators on Thursday night rushed back to their windowless chamber holding boxes of takeout Dough Ball pizza. Some members of the American delegation resorted to buying bread, peanut butter and jelly at a local market, then assembling sandwiches to sustain them through the summit. An Algerian negotiator stuck to plain pizza from the on-site restaurant.
“This is under the standards,” said Athmane Mehadji, the negotiator from Algeria. “The best dishes are from the Mediterranean Sea.”
It’s hard to say whether a strong menu can cook up a good deal. But a 2016 research paper on gastrodiplomacy found that eating a meal together improved social interactions between those who dine together, not to mention fewer hierarchical displays of dominance and submissiveness.
“In other words, agreeable behaviors were found to increase during meals, as compared to at other times,” it said.
The conference venue has a cafeteria, a bar and a string of “grab and go” food stands that have been open through dinner time. On Friday, a few were open all night as negotiators prepared to stay indefinitely.
At lunchtime the other day, two observers from Ecuador wandered through the Conwy restaurant, examining the options. They went to the stand calling itself the Scottish Larder. They had never had the Scottish national dish, haggis, before, and didn’t know whether it was vegetarian. (Haggis is made from sheep heart, liver and lungs, though the cafeteria offered a vegetarian version as well.)
Paúl Hannibal Sevilla Tinajero, a provincial official from Ecuador, eyed the menu board.
“I don’t know either ‘neeps and tatties.’ I don’t know those two words,” he said. (The menu explained that it was turnips and potatoes.)
“Might be good?” he asked. He said he was an adventurous eater. But then he settled for the fish and chips, which he said he had tried before.
The U.S. transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, treated himself to haggis for breakfast during his visit to the summit this past week and said he liked it. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Instagram to praise Irn-Bru, Scotland’s cherished soft drink. Bubble-gum flavored, it is also known to be a hangover cure.
The menu boards at the summit prominently displayed the carbon footprint of each dish. Scotch beef ramen, with pickled root vegetables, had 3.0 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent, while pearl barley and root vegetable hotpot with marinated cabbage came in at 0.1 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent.
There were a lot of root vegetables. Not surprising, because 95 percent of the food served at COP26 is from Britain and, the summit organizers said, “largely sourced from Scotland” and seasonal.
There were plenty of vegetarian options inside the venue eateries, like tempura broccoli, woodland mushroom risotto and a variety of sandwiches.
Food offerings at climate summits vary widely. The 2019 summit was held in a Madrid convention center with fast food chains on site and little else. The 2014 summit in Lima, Peru, had an outdoor pisco sour bar.
Mohamed Adow, an activist with Power Shift Africa, who has attended several such summits, rued that the food offerings had not sweetened the diplomacy this year.
“A hungry man is an angry man,” he said.
The global climate summit wrapping up in Glasgow is known as COP26, with COP standing for Conference of the Parties. In diplomatic parlance, “the parties” refers to the 197 nations that agreed to a new environmental pact, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at a meeting in 1992.
That year, the United States and other countries ratified the treaty, which aims to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system” and stabilize levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. This is the 26th time countries have gathered under the convention. Hence, COP26.
A lot of other words and phrases are being bandied about as leaders try to agree on final wording of an agreement. Here some of the ones you’re most likely to hear and read, plus an more in-depth explanation of the climate conference: