Wednesday, December 8

COP26 in the final hours of climate negotiations


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GLASGOW — As delegates work overtime to reach a final deal at the UN climate conference in Glasgow, Reuters reporters are on the ground delivering the latest updates, scenes and insights.

All times are local (GMT).

1:06 pm

COP26 President Alok Sharma, who was in the plenary room on time at noon, has tried twice to get delegates from other nations to sit down. So far, an hour later, he has been unsuccessful. Large huddles of discussions persist on one side of the stage. US climate envoy John Kerry is working the room, going from group to group.

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12:30 pm

Delegates are anxious for updates on the negotiations, but are taking the delays in their stride.

“Well, it’s classic that the COP goes over time, so no surprise whatsoever,” said Axel Michaelowa, an advisor to the Honduras delegation.

In the cafeteria, views are mixed on what the delays mean for the final deal – does it suggest a strong accord that keeps 1.5C within reach, or a soft one that doesn’t?

“I think the fact that they didn’t close it at 6 o’clock, 8 o’clock last night shows that they might be committed to a sort of deal that works for everybody,” said Emily Wright, a representative from Save the Children International.

Naja Moretro, the head of the Norwegian Church Aid Youth Organisation, had a different view: “The texts have been getting weaker and weaker when it comes to clear language.”

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12:02 pm

Danish Climate Minister Dan Jorgensen, heading into the summit’s plenary room, explained his support for language in a final deal pushing for a phase-out of coal.

“I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t about shaming those countries (reliant on fossil fuels),” he said.

He said the text should acknowledge that some countries need help to move away from coal. “So this is why I said one improvement in the text is that it now also refers to’just transition’,” he said.

11:35 am

Nellie Dokie, 37, has been taking a two-hour trip each way to the conference center to work as a chef. She has been preparing meals for VIPs and delegates and finally stepped out into the main conference area to check out the scene.

Dokie lives in Glasgow but is from Liberia. She says: “I want to be a part of history. I played a small part.”

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11:20 am

US Special Climate Envoy John Kerry appeared to be in a cheery mood. “It’s a beautiful day in Scotland,” he said, walking alongside his top negotiators Sue Biniaz, Jonathan Pershing and Trigg Talley as reporters trailed him through the hallway.

It was unclear if his assessment was fueled by the state of negotiations at the conference, or the unusually sunny weather in Glasgow.

11:02 am

The action has shifted over the last 24 hours to “bilateral” meeting rooms scattered around the conference site. Delegates are huddled in windowless rooms guarded by security. They’re currently reviewing the draft text ahead of the noon stocktaking session.

8:53 am

A dozen Greenpeace staffers sat huddled together in the COP26 conference halls, hunched over laptops and with some sitting on the floor, as they prepared a new statement on the latest draft revisions.

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Spanish Energy and Environment Minister Teresa Ribera was seen rushing from her delegation’s office, as the UK COP26 Presidency dropped what many hope is the final draft of an overall Glasgow agreement.

Technical crews were boxing up flat-screen displays and carrying them out of meeting rooms, as they continued taking down parts of the venue.

8:21 am

After tense overnight deliberations, delegates were poised for the release of another draft agreement.

The delegation pavilions, where countries had showcased their climate-friendly initiatives, were all dismantled, but coffee stands were still serving.

Civil society groups who have been closely watching the deliberations were scouring documents released in the early morning for clues about what might go into the final deal.

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Friday

9:30 pm

The UK hosts of the conference issued a statement confirming there will be no deal tonight.

“I envisage formal plenary meetings in the afternoon to adopt decisions and close the session on Saturday,” Alok Sharma, the UK summit president said in a statement.

Delegations and the media appear to be headed back to their hotels for some rest before what promises to be a long day tomorrow.

8:40 pm

The COP26 conference halls have grown quiet with small groups of negotiators, including a dozen or so EU delegates, seen moving along the halls to and from meetings.

This “shuttle diplomacy,” as diplomats shuttle between rooms, is how most of the work gets done in the final hours of climate negotiations, Felipe De Leon Denegri, Costa Rica’s carbon markets negotiator, told Reuters.

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But this year may be particularly quiet as much of the shuttling is now done over the messaging app WhatsApp, he said.

“One of the perhaps weird things about COP in the 21st century is that shuttle diplomacy sometimes happens on WhatsApp,” De Leon said.

He said the pandemic and increasingly common virtual work probably means more exchanges than ever are being held on the Facebook-owned app, the negotiator said.

“It’s not that people aren’t working, it’s that they are working through their phone and they don’t seem to be moving anywhere.”

8:15 pm

Tuvalu’s Finance Minister Seve Paeniu, head of the island nation’s delegation, said he was up most of last night negotiating the part of the draft agreement dealing with “loss and damage.” Low-lying Tuvalu and other vulnerable countries dealing with impacts from climate change want rich countries responsible for most emissions to pay up. He said his team is working to push the United States and Australia to support a “standalone” loss and damage fund.

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More broadly, he said he will not be satisfied leaving Glasgow without a strong collective agreement that can keep alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C. “We do not see sufficient commitment made by countries to reduce emissions to achieve that 1.5 degree target ,” he said. “In terms of adaptation, there is insufficient focus on additional financing.”

Former UK Labour Party leader Ed Miliband stopped in the hallway to compliment Paeniu on a speech he gave earlier.

7:38 pm

The delegation offices at the summit complex are mainly quiet. Two of China’s leading negotiators are seen milling about in their office, while not far away a pair of US negotiators walk down the hall with sandwiches. All expectations are for a very long night as several major differences around ratcheting up emissions cuts pledges and how to deal with carbon markets and funding for poor countries remain.

(Reporting by Reuters staff in Glasgow Editing by David Gregorio, Jan Harvey and Frances Kerry)

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