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Greenpeace protesters

Climate campaigners demonstrated near a global climate summit known as COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland on November 1, 2021. (Photo: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Greenpeace)

First Draft of COP26 Decision Text Slammed as 'Love Letter' to Fossil Fuel Industry

"To keep 1.5 alive," said the head of Greenpeace, "fossil fuels phaseout" must be added, and "countries must come back next year to close the gap."

Jessica Corbett

As a new analysis revealed Monday that fossil fuel industry lobbyists have a larger presence at the COP26 than any country, global campaigners criticized the first draft of the final decision text for the United Nations climate summit for failing to even mention phasing out coal, gas, and oil.

"What the hell have they been doing? We are out of time. Glasgow must mean a total and immediate fossil fuel phaseout."

Greenpeace International, in a statement, highlighted that "this glaring omission" comes despite expert warnings about the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground that have mounted in the leadup to the ongoing summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

"What's very concerning here in Glasgow is that the first draft of the climate pact text is already exceptionally weak. Usually, the text starts with some ambition, which then gets watered down," said Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan.

Parties to the 2015 Paris climate agreement aim to keep global temperature rise this century "well below" 2°C, with a target of limiting it to 1.5°C. "To keep 1.5 alive," Morgan said, "fossil fuels phaseout" must be added to the decision text, and "countries must come back next year to close the gap."

The London-based Environmental Justice Foundation blasted the draft text as "a love letter" to the fossil fuel industry, with CEO and founder Steve Trent warning in a statement that "without a fossil fuel phaseout, 1.5°C is well and truly dead, taking with it countless lives, whole cultures, and entire nations."

"Negotiators now have just five days to prevent this partisan COP from degenerating into a love-in between the rich nations of the Global North and the fossil fuel industry," he continued, noting the new analysis about lobbyists' attendance. "Rather than the voluntary targets, gaping loopholes, and distant deadlines that we have seen in PR-stunts announced so far, the final text must include transparent, measurable milestones and clear, time-bound targets."

"My advice to negotiators now is do not fall prey to the weasel words of those countries in thrall to the fossil fuel industry, such as Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Brazil," he added. "Listen to the voices of those who are already on the frontlines of the climate crisis, listen to the experts who have repeatedly stated that we must leave fossil fuels behind."

Bangladeshi climate activist Tonny Nowshin emphasized that "this crisis is manmade" and "there's a certain, small percentage of the world's population responsible."

"We need to start holding the oil and coal companies accountable and we need to make them pay reparations for their profit," Nowshin asserted. "All this suffering is at the cost of their profit."

Arshak Makichyian, a 27-year-old Russian activist attending COP26, said that "it is astonishing to me that in all these years that world leaders have had to deliver the big solution to climate change—over my whole life—not once have they mentioned the cause of the problem."

"My future is resting on just 850 words—but we need four more: phase out fossil fuels," he added of the draft text. "What the hell have they been doing? We are out of time. Glasgow must mean a total and immediate fossil fuel phaseout. That's it."

During a press conference Monday, Alok Sharma, a British politician serving as president of the U.K.-hosted COP26, said that "nowhere is immune to climate change and this is precisely why we must come together to forge global agreement here in Glasgow."

"Finding consensus is not going to be straightforward," he said, kicking off the summit's second week. "But the progress made last week demonstrates that a constructive spirit amongst negotiators exists."

While Sharma celebrated last week's developments—which included a pledge to end public funding for fossil fuel projects abroad, a coal reduction plan, and a deforestation commitment—Kate Blagojevic, head of climate at Greenpeace U.K., called out the host country for its failures.

"The U.K. presidency has let the most vulnerable nations down by supporting such a weak first draft text," Blagojevic said. "Alok Sharma can still fix this and insist world leaders up their game through stronger commitments on phasing out fossil fuels and significantly increasing pledges on adaptation finance in the next draft. And that action can start in the U.K. today by ruling out all new fossil fuel projects, including the Cambo oil field, and making sure the U.K.'s climate finance contributions don't eat into the aid budget."

The campaigners' comments on the draft text came on COP26's "Adaptation and Loss and Damage Day," topics which "are more important than ever," according to Sharma, who noted that "over the last year we have seen extreme weather changes across the world."

One of the priorities of COP26, as reflected in the draft text and ongoing discussions, is ensuring that rich countries which have created the climate emergency provide financial support to Global South nations who are already disproportionately affected.

"We need to see the developed countries cut their fossil fuels now because if not, we are heading to a disaster," said Ugandan activist Rose Kobusinge. "We're heading to a disastrous time whereby the most vulnerable women and children and the most vulnerable Indigenous communities are going to perish."

Fellow Ugandan Edwin Namakanga, a Fridays for Future activist who arrived at COP26 on a Greenpeace ship last week, said Monday that "in my lifetime, I've seen firsthand the destructive impact of the climate crisis, which everyone knows is driven by fossil fuels."

"The result from Glasgow must be the end of new fossil fuels, and there must be proper financial support for countries in the Global South," Namakanga said. "We need solidarity and [a] just transition to renewable energy, because anything less is a death sentence for whole peoples, countries, and areas."

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