Ratchets, phase-downs and a fragile agreement: how Cop26 played out

(The Guardian, 15 Nov 2021) Last-minute hitch on coal almost reduced Alok Sharma to tears as Glasgow climate pact made imperfect progress.

As weary delegates trudged into the Scottish Event Campus on the banks of the Clyde on Saturday, few realised what a mountain they still had to climb. The Cop26 climate talks were long past their official deadline of 6pm on Friday, but there were strong hopes that the big issues had been settled. A deal was tantalisingly close.

The “package” on offer was imperfect – before countries even turned up in Glasgow they were meant to have submitted plans that would cut global carbon output by nearly half by 2030, to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Although most countries submitted plans, they were not strong enough and analysis found they would lead to a disastrous 2.4C of heating.

The gap between countries’ targets and the emissions cuts scientists say are needed had been known since before the start of the talks – what was crucial in Glasgowwas to find a roadmap to closing it, which involved forcing some highly reluctant countries to agree a timetable of swift revisions. Finally, after two weeks of wrangling, a “ratchet” had been settled, with countries agreeing to return next year, and the year after, with amendments.

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The Guardian, 15 Nov 2021: Ratchets, phase-downs and a fragile agreement: how Cop26 played out