Threat of failure looms over COP26 as Glasgow climate summit enters final day

Sienna Rodgers
© Philip King/
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Ed Miliband is worried about failure at COP26. The chief aim of the climate summit was ‘keeping 1.5 alive’, which means limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels, as stated in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Although a surprise US-China declaration this week committed to working together to achieve it, there was little detail. So far, the 1.5°C goal looks unlikely to be met – and there is also a long way to go for 2°C. UN secretary general António Guterres has said the ambition is on “life support” as COP26 enters its final day, while Miliband doesn’t want to preclude the possibility of further progress before negotiations are over but has described 1.5°C as being “in mortal peril”.

The Labour frontbencher and shadow COP26 president had warned before the summit that the key to success would be an alliance, a ‘high ambition coalition’, of vulnerable and developed countries. But this was not done ahead of COP26. And as Miliband says: “In the two weeks of a summit, you can’t make up for what hasn’t happened in the two years before.” Driven by Gordon Brown, the UN Copenhagen conference saw wealthy countries pledge $100bn a year of climate finance for developing and vulnerable countries, yet this has not been delivered. “We are still arguing, in the final hours of this summit, about this blasted $100bn,” a frustrated Miliband noted last night.

Labour MP Barry Gardiner is keenly aware of the COP26 failures: he has been in Glasgow since the start of the summit. His piece today for LabourList gives examples of problem areas, from use of coal to transparency and measures of international emissions. But he has chosen to focus on where there has been some success: nature-based solutions. If you would like to read a less gloomy view of COP, do check out his piece, which provides a thorough look at the role of nature. Gardiner has offered some cause for optimism. All are agreed, however, that new political commitments must be made concrete via the final communiqué. And so far it simply doesn’t look like the level of ambition and detail required will be reached.

Elsewhere on LabourList, I followed up on the BBC report on Zarah Sultana and Taiwo Owatemi being at risk of deselection with a piece on how likely it is that these two Coventry Labour MPs will be triggered. There are local dynamics that will shape the outcome of their trigger ballots, but crucially it is the rule change passed in September that means even the most controversial MP looks more likely to be automatically reselected than triggered. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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