COP26: Sparks fly over loss and damage from climate change and carbon offset markets

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Sparks flew at the Glasgow talks today over how to pay for the loss and damage that climate change inflicts on developing nations and on how high polluting countries could pay other countries to offset their emissions.

An open session for climate envoys to speak out publicly about the new version of the Glasgow agreement was delayed as smaller huddles broke out on the meeting room floor and delegates failed to take their seats.

Rainforest nations claimed they had been overlooked in discussions about the rules for how rich countries could pay other countries to cut emissions or protect forests, in lieu of taking more dramatic climate action at home.

The debate about how to fund loss and damage came to a head after proposals for a fund disappeared from the third draft of the pact, being replaced with plans for a “dialogue” instead.

But when the plenary re-opened, three hours after it was due start, Guinea said on behalf of the G77 group of developing nations it would support the new loss and damage plans.

Although the “dialogue” is “very far from the concrete call for loss and damage facility” the group had called for, in the “spirit of compromise” it is willing to live with it, said Guinea environment minister Ahmadou Sebory Toure.

Will they reach a deal? Crucial COP talks enter final stretch – follow live

Earlier, the chair of the Least Developed Countries group of 46 nations told Sky News: “our people are suffering worst from a crisis they did not cause”.

“How is it acceptable to acknowledge an injustice and an emergency with only a ‘dialogue’?”

Mohammed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, said the very reason vulnerable countries call for such a funding mechanism is: “We failed to mitigate enough.

“We failed to provide meaningful support to the vulnerable countries to adapt. And now we are in a world where the residual effects of climate change will mean some of those will exceed our adaptation limits.”

“So rather than just talking about… how important loss and damage is, vulnerable countries want a loss and damage [finance] facility launched here and the details worked out in the subsequent meetings.

The UK as host is desperately trying to bring consensus among the almost 200 nations involved before final agreements can be published. COP president Alok Sharma reiterated a warning that the talks must wrap up by the end of the day, which would be a day over the original Friday evening deadline for clinching a deal.

The goals at COP26.

The goals at COP26.

The third draft retained commitments to phase out certain coal power and fossil fuel subsidies, despite fierce resistance from big fossil fuel economies like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

The term “fossil fuel” didn’t even make it through to the text of the landmark Paris Agreement signed at COP21 in 2015, so those close to the talks see COP26 as having made great strides on tackling fossil fuels.

Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said the fossil fuel line is “weak and compromised, but it’s a breakthrough… And we have to fight like hell to keep it in there and have it strengthened”.

A crucial request that countries supercharge their 2030 emissions-cutting plans by the end of next year has also made it through, despite coded warnings from China and Saudi Arabia they might put up a fight.

And a promise to double funding for developing countries to adapt to a changed climate – a very underfunded area of climate finance – has also come out broadly unscathed, for now.

On Friday the prime minister said the UK was moving “heaven and earth” to get everyone to see the vital importance of an agreement to keep the prospect of limiting warming to 1.5C alive.

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In the Paris Agreement in 2015, countries committed to limit temperature rises to “well below” 2C and try to limit them to 1.5C to avoid the most dangerous impacts of storms, droughts, crop failures, floods and disease.

Limiting global heating to 1.5C requires global emissions to be cut by 45% by 2030, and to zero overall by mid-century. But an independent assessment this week predicted the world was on track for around 2.4C of warming.

By Hannah Thomas-Peter, climate correspondent

There is genuine surprise this morning that language on fossil fuels remains in the Glasgow text, although softened. That’s despite a huge effort from the Saudis and Russians to remove it.

There is relief that the request for all countries to update their NDCs by end of 2022 remains, as well as the urge to at least double funding for adaptation finance,

But there is ongoing frustration over lack of progress on establishing a financial mechanism to compensate countries for loss and damage associated with climate change, and still some issues with establishing a global carbon market.

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