By Charles B. Chilufya, S.J

The COP26 climate talks are about to close today, in less than a couple hours, after two weeks of deliberating, negotiating, and a bit of protesting. Negotiators are still scrambling for a final deal. A draft deal was published this morning but negotiators are still at it to settle on an agreement. While some are positive about the draft, others have expressed concern that the language on fossil fuels has been critically weakened. There is still room, though, in the little time left for the line on phasing out coal to be strengthened before the meeting closes.

At any rate, some experts feel that some progress has in fact been made. They opine that the draft deal is more balanced than the first draft. The first draft was quite strong on measures to cut emissions, but weak on the provision of finance for vulnerable and poorer nations.

The summit’s final agreement will actually be a landmark success if it keeps and strengthens the line on fossil fuels as this will be the first time that fossil fuels would be referenced in a United Nations decision document of the sort. It will bolster the landmark deal to end international public financing for fossil fuels that was announced at the beginning of COP 26 and supported by more than 30 countries and institutions, including the United States, Canada, Mali and Costa Rica. These countries launched a joint statement committing to end direct international public finance for unabated coal, oil, and gas by the end of 2022 and prioritize clean energy finance. 

According to an estimate by civil societies, if well implemented, the end of financing fossil fuels will reallocate $18 billion per year of international public financing from fossil fuels to supporting clean energy. There are other similar commitments that have been made but last week’s announcement at COP 26 was the first international political commitment that also addresses public finance for oil and gas. The switching of public finance for energy toward clean energy from all fossil fuels and into clean energy is an urgent matter. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in order for nations to limit global warming to 1.5°C, new investments in not only coal, but also new oil and gas supply need to end now. This is a challenge to the narrative that oil, coal, and gas are necessary for the development of low-income countries.