Statement on coal power reductions watered down . . .
As the COP26 climate conference approached its close over the weekend in Glasgow, Scotland, emissaries from large countries shuttled back and forth in a last-minute effort to broker a deal over the future of greenhouse-gas-emitting coal as a source of electricity generation. At issue were two words in the final agreement: Should the world commit to the “phase-out” of coal, as written in the initially proposed text, or would coal’s “phase-down” suffice? India, with support from China, pushed for the less-restrictive “phase-down” amendment. “Phase-down” ultimately won out as countries contemplated the prospect of a weaker compromise or no climate deal. Still, many observers see COP26’s final agreement as the biggest, broadest, and most significant climate deal to date.
Of compromise and critique . . .
Criticism of the summit centred on the claim that it didn’t go far enough in limiting global emissions. Some questioned the number of fossil fuel companies active at the talks; more than 500 fuel industry representatives attended the summit, far outnumbering any single country delegation. Small island states were among the most vocal critics, pointing out that their power to drive policy pales compared to major polluters like China and the U.S. Yet, rising sea levels present a direct threat to their existence. Hundreds of civil society observers walked out of the event in protest on its last day, calling the summit “a performance” and claiming to have been shut out of the spaces where negotiations took place.
Challenging transitions ahead . . .
Now that COP26 has concluded, government focus should return to creating or modifying policies that promote and require emission reductions. Climate scientists agree that the need is urgent and that large emission reductions are required – a major reason why most countries outlined new emission reduction targets for 2030 in Glasgow. But change is seldom easy. How, for example, will China ensure it makes deep cuts to emissions by the end of the decade when it was announced only yesterday that the country’s coal production has reached its highest level since March 2015 as Beijing strives to offset electricity shortages? How will India make major cuts in its emissions when the country’s Supreme Court is urging that its capital city, Delhi, be locked down over life-threatening air pollution? And are measures in Canada sufficient to reduce emissions by 40-to-45 per cent by 2030 over 2005 levels?