Climate Conference: Criticism of the weakened final draft

Status: 11/12/2021 2:18 p.m.

A new draft for the final declaration of the climate conference has been weakened at key points. Environmentalists sharply criticize the changes – but also see bright spots.

In a new draft for the final declaration of the World Climate Conference, the demands for an accelerated phase-out of coal and an end to subsidies for fossil fuels have been significantly watered down. In an earlier version it was mentioned that all states should accelerate the phase-out of coal. Now the call has been weakened with the addition “without CO2 capture”. Coal-fired power plants that use technologies to capture climate-damaging carbon dioxide are no longer affected.

In the appeal to the states to stop their subsidies for all fossil fuels, it was now restricted that “inefficient” subsidies are meant. This means that the promotion of natural gas infrastructure for a transition phase when switching from coal to renewable energies does not fall under this call.

If the wording of the new proposal remains unchanged, there could be loopholes for the continued burning of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels. The draft text is likely to continue to be struggled in negotiations. But observers saw the change in the wording as a possible signal that claims were being watered down. The proposal also restricted the call to states to review their climate protection goals more often than previously planned.

Criticism from environmentalists

Environmentalists were outraged at the slowdown. Oxfam climate expert Jan Kowalzig criticized, for example, that it would be at the discretion of the individual states which subsidies should be meant. The German Greenpeace boss Martin Kaiser said: “Now the moment has come when Environment Minister Svenja Schulze has to bring the weight of the fourth largest economy into the negotiations.” The loopholes on the subject of coal and subsidies urgently need to be closed. “Otherwise Glasgow will be a dangerous air act.”

The environmental protection organization WWF stated that the revised draft moved “backwards in key areas”. The fact that the formulation on fossil energy has not been dropped is “an important signal”, but the restrictions must be removed again. In addition, the resolution text is “not in line with the 1.5 degrees”. Climate activists also wanted to build up pressure again: On the streets of Glasgow they criticized the powerful as incendiary arsonists – sometimes disguised as Boris Johnson and other politicians.

Associations also see bright spots in the draft

But from the point of view of the environmental and development associations, there are also small bright spots. The request to all countries to improve their climate protection plans for this decade by the end of 2022 was retained. However, this remains voluntary, there is no obligation. The ministers should also meet annually on the subject.

For the first time, the draft also takes up the longstanding demand of poor countries to set up a money pot for aid in the event of damage and loss. This involves, for example, destruction and forced resettlement after droughts, storm surges or hurricanes, which increase as a result of global warming. The states are asked to pay into this new “facility”. However, there is no obligation to do so, and no specific amounts are given.

Oxfam expert Kowalzig saw an improvement in the draft text when it called on the industrialized countries to double their aid to poorer countries for adaptation to climate change. Since this is now required until 2025, this appeal is “no longer an empty shell”. So there was not dissatisfaction across the board among climate protection activists and experts. “Overall, this is a compromise that gives rise to hope,” said Yamide Dagnet from the World Resources Institute.

Exporting countries against the call for total exit

Fossil fuels in particular are considered to be the main driver of global warming. The future of fuels is therefore one of the sticking points at the two-week climate summit in Glasgow. Experts agree that an exit must be implemented as soon as possible. Otherwise the goal set in the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to the pre-industrial era will not be achieved.

However, some fossil fuel export countries are storming against the call for a total phase-out. Anchoring this explicitly in the summit’s final declaration is politically sensitive for states such as Saudi Arabia – they fear that their oil and gas businesses will consequently be targeted.

At the end of the climate conference with around 40,000 delegates – scheduled for Friday evening – the representatives of the around 200 countries have to unanimously decide on the final text of the declaration. All the conferences of the past years have been extended to the weekend.

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