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The Endgame Begins

What Happened Today

Asset managers set to cut by just 20% this decade

On The Ground

The burning of fossil fuels is, by far, the source of most of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It’s the top reason for the climate predicament, and not something in doubt among the more than 25,000 delegates at COP26. Yet the term “fossil fuel” has never made it into the official document published at the end any of the two dozen global climate talks since 1995.

That omission looked like it might finally end. A first draft circulated at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, in preparation for the final statement expected to be hammered out by the weekend, had an eye-catching statement. It called on countries to “accelerate phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.”

The fossil-fuel phrase—as well as the call to end coal and stop subsidies—is unlikely to survive the diplomatic endgame based on consensus. Even though the Group of 20 agreed to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies years ago, India is already pushing back on the line in the COP26 statement.

Rameshwar Prasad Gupta, environment secretary of the third-largest emitter, said in an interview this afternoon that India won’t phase out  fossil-fuel subsidies in the near term. Gupta also questioned why the draft document singled out coal, which many developing countries rely on, and did not explicitly mention ending the use of oil and gas.

It might seem odd that “fossil fuel” isn’t commonplace in high-level documents from a climate conference. But the phrase is similarly excluded from the authoritative and widely read summaries of science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While the science report is sacrosanct, the summary is picked apart by all countries under the consensus model used at COP. That process includes giant fossil-fuel producers and consumers.

The final draft will be published when the COP26 talks come to a close. The likelihood that “fossil fuels” remain in the draft is low. Does it matter either way?

Words matter, of course. But the exact phrasing may not always hold back progress. For instance, the IPCC only declared there was “unequivocal” evidence that humans cause climate change in its report earlier this year. Scientists were very, very sure of that a long time ago, even if the formal document couldn’t use the term.

All the net-zero goals—which now cover countries accounting for 89% of global emissions—will have to reduce fossil-fuel use to meet them. That’s true regardless of whether COP26 utters the unutterable.

Quote of the Day

“My big, big ask is to come armed with the currency of compromise.
 What we agree in Glasgow will set the future for our children and grandchildren.”

Alok Sharma,
COP26 President

COP26 Scorecard

One Key Number

$1 trillion


Amount of money India wants by 2030 before it sets stronger targets to cut emissions. The worlds biggest emitter says it needs more funds from rich countries before it can officially raise its climate goals and phase out coal.

From Bloomberg Opinion

As COP26 nears the end, the climate summit has made real progress. But it’s also been disappointing. The world’s wealthiest nations said that by 2020 they’d mobilize $100 billion a year to help emerging economies fight climate change. They haven’t delivered, and the editorial board says that it’s time to set this right. Maybe, like Anjani Trivedi, you’re sick of reading about huge climate goals. What we, and the planet, need are clear outcomes and targets that address specific problems with a defined way to finance them.



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