The US, EU and Marshall Islands are among nations to have demanded a contested fossil fuel statement lives on in a final agreement from COP26, as the Glasgow talks run into overtime.
A call in the first draft to “accelerate the phase-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels” survived a battering in the negotiations, though came out bruised, facing resistance from fossil fuel majors like Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The second draft, published Friday morning, calls upon parties to phase-out of “unabated” coal power and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsides.
As climate envoys aired their views on the latest draft, the EU’s Frans Timmermans said “without these concrete steps our targets will be meaningless”. John Kerry, representing the United States, said “to feed the very problem we are here to try to cure… that’s a definition of insanity.”
However, neither called for the language to revert to its original, stronger form and the references may yet be watered down further in the final version.
Tina Stege, climate envoy from the highly vulnerable Marshall Islands, said the subsidies were “paying for our own destruction,” saying “all” subsidies must end, not only “inefficient” ones.
The clock has run down on the time allocated for the talks, due to finish at 6pm but now set to run well into the night and beyond.
The UK presidency is desperately trying to bring consensus among the almost 200 nations involved before final agreements can be published.
Meanwhile, China and Saudi Arabia have resisted proposals for countries to ratchet up their climate action plans – known as NDCs – for the period to 2030 by the end of next year.
Sepi Golazari-Munro, director of climate think tank ECIU, accused the pair of attempting to “negotiate the non-negotiable”.
“The science is clear: to keep 1.5C alive, emissions need to be halved this decade,” she said. “But current pledges could instead see emissions rise by 14% in 2030. This is why over 100 countries are calling for an accelerated timetable for increased ambition.”
Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the landmark Paris Agreement, told Sky News the fact that current plans are “not up to the challenge” is the “main problem we are facing”.
Ms Stege, whose Marshall Islands are slowly being washed away by rising sea levels, said: “1.5C is non-negotiable. “We need to keep returning to the table. We must see 1.5C aligned NDCs and long-term strategies delivered by the major emitters next year.”
Ms Stege also welcomed a new request to “at least double” cash that developing countries send to developing counterparts to help them adapt to the changing climate. Adaptation has long fallen short, angering developing nations which generally have polluted the least yet are least able to cope with the results.
Analysis by Ashna Hurynag
This agreement has been hailed “comprehensive and ambitious” by the UK COP Presidency. After two days of overnight squirrelling away behind closed doors pouring over each turn of phrase and bullet point – finally the “near-final” agreement is here.
It’s significant that for the first time in a United Nations document of this kind, the terms coal and fossil fuels have been mentioned in such explicit terms.
However they are now couched in vague language. An earlier version called for a phase out of fossil fuel subsidies, whereas the new version prefaces that with “inefficient”. This allows wiggle room for nations to continue funding fossil fuel majors.
The fact that ending coal is on the table as an issue countries are willing to be held accountable for is something – but it doesn’t mention timings.
The climate crisis is happening now, and campaigners are calling a clear timeline or deadline for the eradication of coal, as well as an end to all subsidies for things like oil, gas and coal.
Money has been an issue like never before at these talks. This fresh draft agreement “notes with deep regret” that the $100 billion pledged by 2020 has not been met and “urges” it be met “urgently” and increased between now and 2025.
The annual target is due to land on developing nations’ laps finally in 2023 after being delayed already.
The terminology and tone is different in this draft too – some of the “urges” have turned into “requests” for the countries, leaving commentators wrangling over which word is stronger and which allows for more tactical manoeuvring.
But let’s remember the second-draft document is just that: a draft which holds no promises. All 197 parties need to agree on every word and the mood music from the conference today is that everyone is not yet signing from the same hymn sheet.
But Mohammed Adow, who runs climate think tank Power Shift Africa and has observed the Glasgow talks, said the text “largely reflects a COP in the rich world and contains the rich world priorities”.
“The vulnerable countries have been pushing for a loss and damage facility, and the reason is we failed to mitigate enough. We failed to adapt,” he said.
For full coverage of COP26 watch Climate Live on Sky channel 525.
Follow live coverage on web and app with our dedicated live blog.
Get all the latest stories, special reports and in depth analysis at skynews.com/cop26
Up to 350 people trapped on roof as fire breaks out at Hong Kong’s World Trade Centre, police say | World News
Up to 350 people are trapped on the roof of Hong Kong’s World Trade Centre after a major fire broke out in the skyscraper, police have said.
The fire started to rip through the 38-story building, which houses both offices and a mall, in the bustling commercial and shopping district of Causeway Bay early on Wednesday afternoon.
At least one person has been injured and taken to hospital.
Police also said 150 people are currently awaiting rescue.
Other people were said to be trapped in restaurants in the mall, according to the local South China Morning Post newspaper.
The blaze was also upgraded to a level three incident on a scale of one to five.
Hong Kong’s government said firefighters were battling the fire with two water jets and had deployed breathing apparatus.
Firefighters also used an extendable ladder to rescue several people who were trapped on the lower floors of the building.
The emergency services cordoned off the area outside the building.
COVID-19: US coronavirus deaths top 800,000, with more than 25% coming after vaccines became available | US News
COVID-19 deaths in the United States have topped 800,000, with more than 25% of fatalities coming after vaccines became available earlier this year.
The number of deaths hit what President Joe Biden called a “tragic milestone” on Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The overall death toll is roughly equal to the population of Atlanta and St Louis combined – or Minneapolis and Cleveland put together.
It is also roughly equivalent to how many Americans die each year from heart disease or stroke.
The US also has the highest reported toll of any country, accounting for approximately 4% of the world’s population but about 15% of the 5.3 million known deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
The true number of deaths in the US and around the world is believed to significantly higher because of cases that were overlooked or concealed.
A closely watched forecasting model from the University of Washington projects a total of more than 880,000 reported deaths in the US by March.
Mr Biden on Tuesday reiterated calls for unvaccinated Americans to get jabs for themselves and their children and urged the vaccinated to get booster shots.
He said: “I urge all Americans: do your patriotic duty to keep our country safe, to protect yourself and those around you, and to honour the memory of all those we have lost.
“Now is the time.”
Health experts also lamented the number of deaths, saying many were especially heartbreaking because they were preventable by way of the vaccine, which became available around a year ago and was thrown open to all adults by mid-April.
Around 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated – or just over 60% of the population, which is well short of what scientists say is needed to keep the virus in check.
“Almost all the people dying are now dying preventable deaths,” said Dr Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“And that’s because they’re not immunised. And you know that, God, it’s a terrible tragedy.”
When the vaccine was first rolled out, the country’s death toll stood at about 300,000. It hit 600,000 in mid-June and 700,000 on 1 October.
The US crossed the latest threshold with cases and hospitalisations on the rise again in a spike driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, which arrived in the first half of 2021 and now accounts for practically all infections.
Now the Omicron variant is gaining a foothold in the country.
Dr Beyrer recalled that in March or April 2020, one of the worst-case scenarios projected upwards of 240,000 American deaths.
“And I saw that number, and I thought that is incredible – 240,000 American deaths?” he said. “We’re now past three times that number.”
“I think it’s fair to say that we’re still not out of the woods.”
The Christians release Christmas single Naz Don’t Cry to support imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe | UK News
An unusual contender for the Christmas No 1 is released today.
Thirty years ago the pop group The Christians released a song to support British hostage John McCarthy kidnapped for five years in Lebanon.
Today they rereleased a refashioned version of the song Man Don’t Cry to send a message of hope and support to British Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe currently being held against her will in Iran.
Singer Gary Christian says the plight of Nazanin and her husband Richard’s hunger strike outside the Foreign Office inspired the band to make the move.
He said: “When you see something like this you feel so impotent, you can’t do anything, you’re sitting there kind of in tears watching this and you think what can we do.”
The Christians invited Richard Ratcliffe and the couple’s daughter Gabriella to Liverpool to record the song retitled Naz Don’t Cry.
He’s urging people to buy it in solidarity with Nazanin and family. All proceeds go to charity.
“I hope people just, even if they don’t like the song, they don’t like me, the Christians or anything, forget that just download,” he says. “We want to raise money, we want to get Nazanin back, back home.”
The song is accompanied by a moving video featuring some of the more emotional moments of the five-year effort to get Nazanin home.
Former hostage John McCarthy told Sky News he welcomed the song being used again and said the video is a powerful watch.
“Looking at the video, it’s taken me back to seeing things after I came back,” he says.
“And you know it’s slow-moving seeing Richard out in Westminster Square on his hunger strike … it’s very powerful, you know. After a couple of viewings one is in tears.”
Nazanin is being held in Tehran against her will and faces being returned to jail on more trumped-up charges.
She was able to join the recording by video call to hear what’s being done in her name.
Her husband Richard told Sky News he hopes it helps raise her spirits.
“It’s a lovely song,” he says. “It’s a nice uplifting song. It’s a song that says don’t be sad, we’re still thinking of you, we’re still battling for you, your husband’s still going, there will be a tomorrow.”
The star of the video is Gabriella, Richard and Nazanin’s daughter, who appears to play the guitar and dreams as well as playing to the cameras.
Mr Ratcliffe said: “Coming up to Christmas she was asking yesterday when’s she coming back, and also why does it have to be my Mummy – and there are no easy answers to that.”
This will be Nazanin’s sixth Christmas apart from her family. Efforts to secure her release are not making progress.
Richard has now done two hunger strikes to highlight her plight.
Her family hope music might make a difference where diplomacy has so far failed.