Climate talks back off from call to end all coal use

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Negotiators at this year’s U.N. climate talks in Glasgow appeared to be backing away from a call to end all use of coal and phase out fossil fuel subsidies completely, but gave poor countries hope for more financial support to cope with global warming.

The latest draft proposals from the meeting’s chair released Friday call on countries to accelerate “the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.”

A previous proposal Wednesday had been stronger, calling on countries to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuel.”

While the chair’s proposal is likely to undergo further negotiation at the talks, due to end Friday, the change in wording suggested a shift away from unconditional demands that some fossil fuel exporting nations have objected to.

There was a mixed response from observers at the talks on how significant the addition of the words “unabated” and “inefficient” was.

“Those qualifiers completely undermine the intention,” said Alex Rafalowicz, director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Intiative, an environmental campaign group.
“They’re loopholes so large you could drive a lorry through them,” he said, using the British term for a truck.

Helen Mountford, a senior climate expert at the World Resources Institute, said allowing countries to determine which subsidies they consider inefficient would water down the agreement.

“It definitely weakens it,” she said. Even so, the explicit reference to ending at least some state support for oil, gas and coal offered “a strong hook for phasing out fossil fuels subsidies, so its good to have it in there,” she said.

The question of how to address the continued use of fossil fuels responsible for much of global warming has been one of the key sticking points at the two-week talks.

Scientists agree it is necessary to end their use as soon as possible to meet the 2015 Paris accord’s ambitious goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).

But explicitly including such a call in the overarching declaration is politically sensitive, including for countries, such as Saudi Arabia, that fear oil and gas may be targeted next.—AP

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