Nearly 200 countries attending the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, agreed on a global climate deal on Nov. 13, following last-minute changes pushed by China and India that watered down language about the use of coal power.
After two weeks of talks, the 197 nations didn’t veto last-minute changes to revise the final text of the deal, named the Glasgow Climate Pact, to “phase down” rather than “phase out” unabated coal.
Unabated coal power is the burning of coal without carbon capture and storage. An earlier draft of the agreement called to phase out all coal as an energy source.
The change in wording was also backed by other nations, including Iran and South Africa.
“May I just say to all delegates, I apologize for the way this process has unfolded and I am deeply sorry,” COP26 Conference President Alok Sharma told the assembly after he heard representatives from Switzerland, the European Union, and small island states express objections over the last-minute changes he approved before they had a chance to review them.
Sharma acknowledged that some of those nations had compromised on their own demands in the hopes of securing the outlined deal.
“I also understand the deep disappointment, but I think, as you have noted, it’s also vital that we protect this package,” he added moments before banging down the gavel on the deal.
The “phase out” wording had weathered four different drafts, but the Chinese delegation didn’t support the language, The Times reported. The United States ultimately brokered the deal with China and India to soften the wording, according to the outlet.
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told a press conference after the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact, “You have to ‘phase down’ coal before you can ‘end coal.’”
“We are, in fact, closer than we have ever been before to avoiding climate chaos and securing cleaning air, safer water, and healthier planet,” he said.