At COP26, India’s visible resistance hid US and China’s role in the outcome – Community News
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At COP26, India’s visible resistance hid US and China’s role in the outcome

At COP26, India's visible resistance hid US and China's role in the outcome

COP26 Climate Talks: Revision of the final text unfolded in the final minutes of the talks.

More than two weeks of global climate negotiations ultimately resulted in India toning down the language on coal use. But India’s visible opposition to the final text of the Glasgow Climate Pact helped hide the role of China and even the US in the watered-down outcome.

A dramatic process of revising the final text unfolded in the final minutes of Saturday’s talks, before COP26 President Alok Sharma could knock down the hammer, all around a single paragraph. The sticking point: a call to accelerate the “phasing out” of unabated coal power from plants that do not use carbon capture technology.

In the endgame, which lasted more than an hour in the plenary, China said it would like the language on cutting coal consumption to be closer to the text it agreed in a joint statement with the US earlier this week. . But it was left to India to describe the last minute change. Instead of agreeing to the “phasing out” of coal power, India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav read out a new version of the paragraph that used “phasing out” to describe what should be done with the use of coal. That wording made it to the final text, which was endorsed by nearly 200 countries.

Several countries, including Switzerland and the Marshall Islands, immediately complained that other delegations were unable to reopen the text, while India had its way of a late amendment. “My apologies for the way this process has gone and I am very sorry,” Sharma said almost in tears from the podium. “I also understand the deep disappointment. But as you have already noted, it is also vital that we protect this package.”

The maneuvering highlights one of the key tensions during this year’s United Nations climate negotiations. China, the US and India are the top three polluters, and all three have now pledged to reduce their emissions to zero in the coming decades. Still, India and China made last-minute interventions to soften the language about coal use, and the US played a part in accepting that weaker position, calling into question their short-term commitment to curb coal consumption.

It was the US and China that first embraced the term “phase-down” in their bilateral climate agreement, which was passed with much fanfare in the middle of COP26. Before the dramatic final plenary session, the US even indicated that it would accept the “phasing out” language used in the joint statement with China, according to a person familiar with the US position and who asked not to be named.

“You have to phase out coal before you can end coal,” US climate envoy John Kerry said at a news conference after the final text was passed.

At an earlier plenary session on Saturday, many countries had opposed various parts of the text. Iran was among the group that supported India and China’s position on coal. However, when the hammer came down, it was India that looked like the main support for coal. Still, two people familiar with late sideline plenary discussions involving Sharma said China played an important role in pushing for softer language.

China’s diplomats made it clear privately that the world’s largest emitter was reluctant to adopt tougher formulations about ending coal. “Shouting slogans could have an unnecessarily negative impact on the pace. It could be something like ‘Pull up seeds to grow them,'” Li Zheng, a member of the Chinese delegation at COP26, said in an interview. on Friday, using a Chinese Maxim. “Demonizing fossil fuel will only hurt ourselves.”

With the world stuck in an energy crisis, India and China have both switched to mining more coal. That context would make climate talks difficult, especially any restrictions on the use of the dirtiest fossil fuels. Even in the US, where President Joe Biden is trying to pass a sweeping climate change package, he has had to bow to the will of elected lawmakers from the coal districts.

Experts following the negotiations strongly pushed back on the idea that India should be seen as responsible for the late amendment to the agreement, which should be reached by consensus. Some observers saw that developed countries were responsible for the diluted coal language because they had resisted additional financial pledges to poor countries.

“The problem is not India,” Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns for Action Aid USA, wrote on Twitter. “The problem is that the US and rich countries are refusing to curb the phase-out of fossil fuels in the context of global justice.”