Revised deal approved after last-minute change to text regarding coal, which drew complaints from vulnerable nations and others.
Nearly 200 countries at the United Nations COP26 summit in Scotland have agreed a deal to contain the world’s climate crisis – but observers said it did not go far enough to tackle dangerous warming.
The final text of the Glasgow summit was finally adopted on Saturday, a day after the talks had initially been scheduled to end and following a last-minute proposed change by India that called on parties to “phase-down” rather than “phase-out” coal, the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
The agreement is the first ever UN climate deal to explicitly plan to reduce coal, but several countries – including small, low-lying island states – said they were deeply disappointed by the watering down of the crucial language. Others slammed the revision as odious and against the rules, but said it was something they had to accept to bring the two weeks of talks in Glasgow to a close.
“There was a real sense of ambush in the air,” Al Jazeera’s Nick Clark, reporting from the talks, said.
COP26 President Alok Sharma said he was “deeply sorry” for how the summit ended. “May I just say to all delegates I apologise for the way this process has unfolded and I am deeply sorry,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion after hearing from vulnerable nations which expressed their anger over the changes to the text.
“I also understand the deep disappointment but I think as you have noted, it’s also vital that we protect this package.”
Activist Jean Su told Al Jazeera the first explicit mentions of fossil fuels in a climate pact were both “extraordinary and also extremely disappointing”.
“We have been fighting for years to basically take what everybody else in the world knows that fossil fuels is the driver of the climate emergency and bring it to the global climate negotiations,” she said.
“So on the one hand we were extremely surprised that this year we finally got it into the text but what’s in the text is extremely weak – it actually doesn’t mean much at all. It just ends up perpetrating a fossil fuel system that has not been adequately addressed in the negotiations,” Su added.
Before India succeeded in getting the change made, nation after nation talked about the final provisions not going far or fast enough but a compromise was better than nothing and provided progress, if not success.
Negotiators say the agreement is aimed at keeping alive the overarching 2015 Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times.
The delegates were also tasked with finding the funding for nations most at risk of climate-related droughts, floods and storms supercharged by rising seas.
Observers said the agreement fell far short of what is needed to avert dangerous warming and help countries adapt or recoup damages from the disasters already unfurling globally.
Laurence Tubiana, the architect of the Paris deal, told AFP that “COP has failed to provide immediate assistance for people suffering now”.