The deal at COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow was nearly pushed into jeopardy after a late drama by India. Nearly 200 countries agreed to strike a deal to avert a climate crisis but the pact did not go far enough to tackle global warming and has been termed a disappointment.
The final text of the two-week long summit was adopted after a last-minute change by India, which called on accelerating efforts to ‘phase down’ rather than ‘phase out’ coal power, the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. India’s environment minister sought to block references to coal and fossil fuel subsidies, arguing there was no consensus on key issues and blaming unsustainable lifestyles and wasteful consumption patterns in rich countries for causing global warming.
Many countries, including small island nations who are most vulnerable to climate change, said they were deeply disappointed by watering down the crucial language. Alok Sharma, the British official chairing the summit, expressed disappointment for how the summit unfolded. UN chief Guterres called the deal ‘an importance step’ but said it was not enough. It is regrettable that countries cannot even reach an agreement even when the lives of future generations and the planet is at stake.
Countries such as India have maintained that coal was singled out in the climate deal. The truth remains that India relies heavily on coal despite the growing opposition against it. The biggest source of fuel for electric generation, industrial power and millions of people in developing countries still depend on it. Power demand in India is expected to grow faster than anywhere in the world over the next two decades and thus it is difficult for developing countries to quit coal completely.
Apart from falling short of expectations, the deal also gave developing counties more promises, but no guarantees, that they would finally get more financial assistance. After resistance from the US and EU, the deal omitted any reference for a financial facility for the damage climate change has inflicted in the developing world. Rich countries promised $100 billion a decade ago but have failed to provide them.
Governments around the world have an obligation to ensure the climate deal is adhered to and promises are fulfilled. The real work shall continue and nations should set tougher climate pledges for the sustainable future of our planet.