Britain says COP26 climate agreement ‘historic’ but ‘disappointed’

The United Kingdom, which has hosted the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow for the past two weeks, hailed the deal issued on Saturday as “game-changing” but “disappointed”.

“Yesterday evening we finally came to the kind of game-changing agreement the world needs to see,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference in Downing Street, describing it as a “decisive shift in the world’s approach” to dealing with climate emissions.

It also represented the “beginning of the end” for coal electricity generation, he said – noting that parties to the agreement had given a mandate to cut coal.

“Glasgow has sounded the death knell for coal power,” Johnson said.

The Final agreement called for states to accelerate “efforts toward relentlessly phasing out coal capacity and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,” which many said was a last-minute compromise that dealt a blow to the deal.

“You have to phase out before you phase out,” said conference president Alok Sharma, stressing that the agreement was the first to actually mention coal.

But Johnson admitted that his “happiness with this progress is tainted by disappointment,” noting that some climate change is already a matter of life and death.

“We can’t force sovereign nations to do what they don’t want to do,” Johnson said.

Many activists criticized the conference as mere rhetoric lacking real ambition to curb global warming. Before the UN conference, experts had low expectations of what it could offer.

“The text is meek, it’s weak, the 1.5°C target is still alive, but the signal has been sent that the age of coal is ending. And that’s important,” said Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace.

Many say that despite some steps in the right direction, much will depend on how governments now implement what was agreed at the conference. Morgan said the agreement eventually pushed decisions to next year’s conference.

“COP 26 will not be able to stop climate change,” Johnson said. “What people thought we could do was slow the rate of increase and equip ourselves with the tools to change it.”

He praised the many agreements reached on the sidelines of the conference, such as the commitment of more than 100 world leaders to reduce deforestation by 2030which critics say lacks accountability.

Sharma said people’s fulfillment of their commitments is important and talked about agreeing to the Paris Rule Book, which sets out transparency requirements and timelines for countries.

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