The 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) has stirred up controversy with a last-minute amendment to the wording of the convention without the knowledge of the majority of delegates. Reuters reports that the delegates from China, India, the United States and the European Union left the conference last Saturday and claimed to have reached an agreement within 30 minutes.
Reuters reports that as delegates at COP26 prepared to take their seats on Saturday night for the adoption of the day’s draft at the plenary session, many were unaware that things had taken a turn for the worse. Delegates from developing countries with rich coal deposits, including China, India, South Africa and Bolivia, pressed the conference to change the “phase-out” of coal use to a “phase-down” by breaking the agreement. They argued that this was unfair and would undermine their hopes for economic growth. Soon after, representatives from China, India, the US and the EU left the room to deliberate. About 30 minutes later, China’s special envoy for climate change Xie Zhenhua returned with a thumbs up and said, “We have a deal.
However, no one wanted the meeting to end without an agreement and no delegation formally objected to it. If we hadn’t done this, we wouldn’t have reached an agreement,” said US President’s Special Envoy for Climate Issues John Kerry afterwards.
For the first time, the UN Climate Conference included “fossil fuels” and “coal” in the final text. Speaking to the Guardian on his return to London, Sham Ho Man admitted that the watered down wording was not what he wanted, but feared that if there was no agreement and a commitment to coal was never forthcoming, then two years of hard work would be wasted and developing countries would have nothing to show for it.