GLASGOW, Scotland – Nearly 200 nations on Saturday accepted a controversial climate compromise aimed at keeping a key global warming target alive, but it included a last-minute change that some senior officials considered a watering down of the crucial language about coal designated.
Several countries, including small island states, were deeply disappointed with India’s proposed change to “phase out” instead of “phase out” coal power, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Nation after nation, on the final day of two-week UN climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, complained that the deal was insufficient, but they said it was better than nothing and would bring gradual progress, if not success.
Negotiators from Switzerland and Mexico called the coal language change against the rules because it came so late. However, they said they had no choice but to hold their noses and join in.
Swiss Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said the change will make it more difficult to meet the international goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. Before the coal switch, the negotiators had said that the deal had hardly preserved this overarching orientation. The world has already warmed up 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit).
“India’s short-term change in the language of phasing out coal but not getting out is quite shocking,” said Australian climate scientist Bill Hare, who tracks global emissions pledges for the science-based Climate Action Tracker. “India has been blocking climate protection for a long time, but I’ve never seen it so publicly.”
In addition to the revised coal language, the Glasgow Climate Pact contains enough financial incentives to nearly satisfy poorer nations and solves a long-standing problem to pave the way for carbon trading.
The draft agreement calls for major carbon-polluting nations to come back and make stronger commitments to cut emissions by the end of 2022.
Conference president Alok Sharma said the deal is “driving advances in coal, cars and trees” and is “meaningful to our people and our planet.”
Environmental activists were measured in their not-entirely-brilliant ratings, which were released before India’s last change.
“It’s meek, it’s weak, and the 1.5C target is barely alive, but a signal has been sent that the coal era is coming to an end. And that’s important, ”said Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International.