COP26 Agreement Is 'Not Enough' to Stave Off Global Climate Disaster, UN Chief Says

After two weeks of talks and a one-day extension, negotiators from almost 200 nations reached a climate agreement Saturday to ramp up efforts to address global climate change. But the United Nations secretary general warned that it is “not enough” to prevent climate disruptions.

“The outcome of COP26 is a compromise. It reflects the interests, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today. It is an important step, but it is not enough,” António Guterres said in a video released shortly after the agreement was announced. “It’s time to go into emergency mode.”

Guterres said that he had hoped for an agreement that would phase out coal, “put a price on carbon,” and protected vulnerable communities. “We did not achieve these goals at this conference. But we have some building blocks for progress,” he said.

The final agreement, known as the Glasgow Climate Pact, asks countries to return to the next conference in 2022 with more aggressive plans to reduce emissions. It also encourages wealthier countries to “at least double” their 2019 financial contribution levels by 2025 to help the nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

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A last-minute objection from China and India on the topic of coal softened language in the agreement from promising “the phase-out of unabated coal power” to only “phasing down” coal use. Coal is the single largest contributor to climate change, and India is one of the world’s most prolific users of coal. Still, the agreement represents a victory, in that it is the first time in the conference’s 26-year history that mentions coal and fossil fuels as a contributor to climate change.

“I understand the deep disappointment. It’s also vital we protect this package,” Alok Sharma, president of COP26, told the conference of the compromise.

Marshall Islands climate envoy Tina Stege expressed disappointment with the coal compromise. “This commitment on coal had been a bright spot in this package,” Stege said, according to The Washington Post. “One thing we were hoping to carry out of here and with pride. It hurts deeply to see that bright spot dimmed.”

Addressing activists, young people and indigenous communities who were hoping for more progress, Guterres said, “I know you are disappointed. But the path of progress is not always a straight line. Sometimes there are detours. Sometimes there are ditches. But I know we can get there. We are in the fight of our lives, and this fight must be won. Never give up. Never retreat. Keep pushing forward.”

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