COP26: In the race to meet the 1.5-degree-Celsius target, UN climate negotiations have gone into overtime

Two weeks of U.N. COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow blew past a deadline on Friday, as the convention president urged governments to make a final push to secure agreements that may rein in rising temperatures that imperil the world.

With a deal now expected early on Saturday, there was still a lot of work to be done on issues like the phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies, carbon markets, and monetary help for impoverished nations to deal with climate change.

A draft of the final agreement, released early on Friday, asks states to make greater long-term climate promises next year — in an attempt to bridge the gap between current objectives and the far deeper cutbacks experts estimate are required this decade to escape catastrophic climate change.

“We’ve gone a long way in the last two weeks, and now we’d need that last injection of that ‘can-do’ mentality, which is prevalent at this COP, so we can bring our joint endeavor across the line,” said Britain’s COP26 President Alok Sharma.

Late on Friday, Sharma announced that talks would continue into Saturday and that an agreement would be reached later that day. According to him, a revised copy of the agreement might be released Saturday morning to kick off the last round of discussions.

The meeting’s ultimate objective is to keep the 2015 Paris Agreement’s aspirational target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, which experts believe would prevent the worst effects.

Underneath current national commitments to reduce emissions this decade, experts predict the world’s temperature would climb far over that limit, unleashing catastrophic sea-level increases, droughts, storms, and wildfires.

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The revised draft is a balancing act, attempting to incorporate the demands of the world’s most climate-vulnerable states, corresponding to low-lying islands, the world’s worst polluters, and those whose exports of fossil fuels are critical to their economy.

“China believes that the current draft should go further to improve and deepen the components of adaptation, financing, know-how, and capability building,” said Zhao Yingmin, the world’s greatest greenhouse gas emitter.

The draft retained its most important demand for nations to set more durable local weather pledges for the following 12 months, but couched that request in weaker language than previously, while failing to provide the rolling annual assessment of local weather pledges that some developing nations have requested.

Nations are currently obligated to review their promises every five years.