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COP26 keeps 1.5C alive, finalises Paris Agreement

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries at the COP26 summit on Saturday reached an agreement to try to prevent progressively worse and potentially irreversible climate impacts.

The announcement comes several hours after the scheduled Friday evening deadline.

Delegates had struggled to resolve major sticking points, such as phasing out coal, fossil fuel subsidies and financial support to low-income countries.

India, among the world’s biggest burners of coal, raised a last-minute change of fossil fuel language in the pact, going from a “phase out” of coal to a “phase down.” After initial objections, opposing countries ultimately conceded.

In an emotional address to assembled delegates, the U.K.’s COP26 President Alok Sharma said he was “deeply sorry” for the way the process had unfolded. “I understand the deep disappointment. It’s also vital we protect this package,” Sharma said.

The U.N. meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, was billed as humanity’s last and best chance to keep the all-important goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius alive. This temperature threshold refers to the aspirational target inscribed in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

Keeping average temperatures from surpassing this level requires the world to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions in the next 8 years and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. It is critically important to prevent the worst of what the climate crisis has in store.

The world’s leading scientists have warned the world has already warmed roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and the latest projections, despite numerous pledges at the Glasgow summit, show the world is on track for a rise of 2.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had bluntly warned the carbon-cutting pledges on the table during the final throes of the marathon talks were “very probably” not enough to avert a climate catastrophe. He told the Associated Press news agency that the goal of keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius alive was on “life support.”

Climate activists and campaigners have been sharply critical of COP26, describing it as an “exclusionary” fortnight of talks centered on “business as usual and blah, blah, blah.”

“The road to 1.5 just got harder when these talks should have cleared the way to make it a whole lot easier,” Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner of environmental group Friends of the Earth, said in a statement Saturday.

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