Boris Johnson has said India’s push to water down the wording on coal in the final Cop26 summit deal will not affect UK trade negotiations with the Commonwealth country.
Johnson said at a press conference today that “I don’t think there’s any need in particular to introduce this into our bilateral relations”, after Cop26 president Alok Sharma expressed his disappointment at India and China over their stance on coal.
Sharma today said the two countries will “have to justify” their stance on coal to countries most at risk of climate-related catastrophe.
He was forced to hold back tears last night as it was announced China and India had dictated a change of words in the final Cop26 deal, which saw countries agree to “phase down” coal instead of phasing it out.
Johnson still claimed the deal agreed by 197 nations at the United Nations summit in Glasgow last night was “historic” and “game changing”, despite the UK’s disappointment over not reaching agreement to phase out the use of coal.
An agreement to ban fossil fuel subsidies by national governments was also watered down.
“It’s an immense thing to get a commitment from 190 countries to phase down or phase out coal,” Johnson said.
“Whether the language is ‘phase down’ or ‘phase out’ doesn’t seem to me as a speaker of English to make that much difference – the direction of travel is pretty much the same. That’s never been said before.”
Sharma last night said “to all delegates I apologise for the way this process has unfolded and I am deeply sorry”.
Speaking to Sky News today, Sharma said: “Of course I would have liked to maintain the ‘phase out’ rather than changing the wording to ‘phasing down’. But you know on the way to phasing out you have to phase down, but ultimately of course what we need to ensure is that we continue to work on this deal and on these commitments.
“On the issue of coal, China and India are going to have to justify to some of the most climate vulnerable countries what happened. You heard that disappointment on the floor.”
The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first Cop deal to include a clear commitment to reduce the use of coal, which is the worst fossil fuel for carbon emissions.
However, representatives from island nations that are vulnerable from climate change-related sea level rises said this wasn’t enough to save them from disaster.
Aminath Shauna, Maldives environment minister, said “it will be too late for the Maldives”.
Indian climate minister Bhupender Yadav justified his nation’s stance by saying that developing countries like his still “have still to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication”.
The text of the pact also included a push for countries to cut their carbon emissions quicker and agreement from the world’s richest countries to provide more funding to help developing countries decarbonise.
There were also side deals done during the summit to end deforestation by 2030 and severely reduce methane emissions.
However, analysis shows that deals struck at the summit will lead to more than 2 degrees celsius of global warming – not the 1.5 hoped for by Boris Johnson and others.
Johnson’s slogan at the summit had been that the world needs to “keep 1.5 alive”.
Sharma said last night that 1.5 is still alive, but that it has a “weak pulse”, while shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said it was “in intensive care”.
Sir Dieter Helm, professor of economics and energy policy at Oxford University, was less upbeat about what was achieved at the summit.
“If the objective at Cop26 was to keep 1.5 degrees alive, it’s dead,” he told Sky News.
“Even if, for the first time ever, every country does everything that it promised to do we won’t be able to achieve 1.5. There is this illusion that climate change is going to be solved in the UK, if only we do stuff here it’s going to be fine.
“No, the truth is that the future of climate in this world will largely be determined by China, India, Sub Saharan Africa, in the rainforests and so on.”