COP26 final day: UN Secretary General warns climate deal is on 'life support'

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. Picture date: Thursday November 11, 2021.
United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. Picture date: Thursday November 11, 2021.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls for 'action' as the Cop26 climate talks reach their final scheduled day

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In a speech at the Cop26 summit, the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that governments, non-state actors and civil society need to hold each other accountable to "keep 1.5 degrees within reach".

Guterres said he welcomed the U.S.-China agreement announced on Wednesday (November 10).

The agreement between the world's two biggest greenhouse gas emitters boosted hopes that the almost 200 national delegations can toughen up their collective commitments by the time the end of the summit on Friday (November 12).

Guterres warned that "promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions in subsidies."

He also announced the creation of a group of experts to propose clear standards to measure and analyse net zero commitments from non-state actors.

"We need action if commitments are to pass the credibility test," Guterres said.

The UN Secretary General António Guterres also said in a statement to the Associated Press news agency that the climate deals goal were on "life support".

The summit’s president Alok Sharma warned there is still “a monumental challenge ahead”.

The talks are scheduled to finish at 6pm on Friday, but could overrun as negotiators come under pressure to resolve issues around finance for poor countries, calls for accelerating the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies and coal, and the efforts of countries to cut emissions in the 2020s.

A new version of the overarching deal that could be agreed at the summit in Glasgow is expected overnight into Friday.

The first draft of the “cover decision” urges countries to “revisit and strengthen” targets for cutting emissions by 2030 in their national plans, to align them by the end of 2022 with the Paris goal of keeping temperature rises to “well below 2C” or to 1.5C.

The document published on Wednesday includes a call for developed countries to at least double their collective provision of finance to help developing countries adapt to climate change, as part of scaling up funding for poorer nations to tackle the crisis and address loss and damage.

Some of the most vulnerable nations have raised concerns about the lack of detail.

It is thought the commitment to phase out fossil fuels, the first time this has appeared in such a text, is unlikely to make it into the final document.

As the talks entered the final stretch, Cop26 president Alok Sharma warned: “We still have a monumental challenge ahead of us, but collectively we have no choice but to rise to that challenge and strain every sinew to achieve a timely outcome that we can all be proud of.

“Because ultimately, this outcome, whatever it is, will belong to all of us.”