Cold cash issues cause problems as U.N. climate summit goes into overtime

Alok Sharma, left, president of the COP26 summit, at a plenary session Saturday in Glasgow, Scotland
Alok Sharma, left, president of the COP26 summit at a plenary session Saturday in Glasgow, Scotland.
(Alberto Pezzali / Associated Press)

U.N. talks to curb global warming ran into last-minute problems Saturday because of cold hard cash.

Negotiators in Glasgow held last-minute huddles and pored over fresh proposals for sealing a deal that they hoped could be credibly said to advance worldwide efforts to tackle global warming. But funding issues — specifically, compensation for climate damages and credits in a trading system — caused the discussions to bog down.

British officials chairing the talks released new draft agreements after shuttle diplomacy continued past an official Friday evening deadline. U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, both indicated cautious optimism late Friday that the negotiations were moving forward. During the buildup to the delayed session on Saturday afternoon, Kerry huddled with diplomats from Africa and other parts of the developing world.


The last-minute negotiations focused on a potential loss-and-damage fund for poor nations hurt by climate change and forest credits in a carbon-trading market.

“I hope we can have some resolutions before formally starting this plenary,” conference president Alok Sharma, an official from host nation Britain, told negotiators. “Collectively this is a package that really moves things forward for everyone.”

Heads of state, environmental activists, business leaders and journalists are in Scotland for a climate summit that comes as world leaders are running out of time to break away from fossil fuels and prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming.

Nov. 20, 2021

Australia’s environment minister, Leonere Gewessler, said a bit earlier: “We will fight hard for a good and ambitious result. We still have intense hours ahead of us.”

Divisions remained on the issue of financial support sought by poor countries for the disastrous impacts of climate change they will increasingly suffer in the future. The United States and the European Union, two of the world’s biggest historic emitters of greenhouse gases, continued to have deep reservations about the so-called “loss and damage” provisions.

Mohammed Quamrul Chowdhury of Bangladesh, a lead negotiator for less-developed countries, ticked off the ways that vague wording in the latest draft fell short of committing wealthier countries to putting new money on the table for countries struggling with climate damage.


“There is a lot of frustration,” he told the Associated Press.

“This package is very hard to explain for those already suffering the consequences at the front lines of the rising risks, or to anyone aware of the scientific evidence of what is coming our way unless we act faster,” said University of Twente climate scientist Maarten van Aalst, who is also director of the Climate Center of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

United Nations summit goes into overtime before ending with an agreement in fight against climate change.

Nov. 13, 2021

Another issue causing problems Saturday has confounded negotiators for six years: setting up carbon-trading markets. The idea is to trade credits for reducing carbon like other commodities, unleashing the power of markets, with poorer nations getting money, often from private companies, for measures that reduce carbon in the air.

One huge issue has been that rich nations want to make sure that poor nations that sell their credits for making carbon reductions, which include carbon-sucking forests, don’t include the same settings as reductions in their national emissions, known as double counting.

Saturday’s draft provided “strong” provisions to prevent double counting of offsets, but new issues involving forests reemerged later in the day, according to Environmental Defense Fund vice president Kelly Kizzier, a former European Union negotiator and expert on carbon market negotiations.

Before the areas of disagreement between rich and poor nations demanded urgent attention, coal had garnered more consideration.

A proposal for the overarching decision retains contentious language calling on countries to accelerate “efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

Negotiators at the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow appear to be backing away from a call to end all use of coal and to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies.

Nov. 12, 2021

But in a new addition, the text says nations will recognize “the need for support towards a just transition” — a reference to calls from those working in the fossil fuel industry for financial support as they wind down jobs and businesses.

Some advocacy groups said the current proposals were not strong enough.

“Here in Glasgow, the world’s poorest countries are in danger of being lost from view, but the next few hours can and must change the course we are on,” Oxfam senior policy advisor Tracy Carty said. “What’s on the table is still not good enough.”

But the possibility of having fossil fuels explicitly mentioned for the first time in a decision coming out of the U.N.’s annual Conference of the Parties meeting, or COP, was well-received by some environmentalists.

“It’s weaker and compromised, but we see it as a bridgehead, a bit of a breakthrough,” Greenpeace executive director Jennifer Morgan said.

Antonio Guterres says the U.N.’s climate talks will ‘very probably’ not yield the carbon-cutting pledges needed to limit global warming.

Nov. 11, 2021

“We will have to fight like hell to keep it in there and have it strengthened in the coming hours,” Morgan said, adding that there were “a clutch of countries really seeking to strike that line from the deal.”

In another proposal, countries are “encouraged” to submit new targets for emissions reduction for 2035 by 2025, and for 2040 by 2030, establishing a five-year cycle. Previously, developing countries were expected to do so only every 10 years. Developed countries are also being asked to submit a short-term update next year.

The proposed agreement states that in order to achieve the 2015 Paris climate accord’s ambitious goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared with pre-industrial times, countries will need to make “rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around mid-century, as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gases.”

Scientists say the world is not on track to meet that goal yet, but various pledges made before and during these two-week talks, which are now in overtime, have brought them closer.

The latest draft agreement expresses “alarm and utmost concern that human activities have caused around 1.1C (2F) of global warming to date and that impacts are already being felt in every region.”

Next year’s talks are scheduled to take place in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Dubai will host the meeting in 2023.