COP26: Alok Sharma vows to end late-running conference 'this afternoon' as Nicola Sturgeon urges PM to intervene in talks

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today called on Boris Johnson to get “directly involved” in the late-running COP26 talks to beef up the final agreement.

The move came as UN Conference of the Parties (COP) President Alok Sharma was due to give an update on progress amid speculation the climate change conference may not conclude until the afternoon or evening at the earliest – 24 hours after it was due to finish.

However, nearly one hour and three quarters after the plenary session was due to start at noon, he announced it would not begin until 2.30pm to allow further negotiations between countries to continue.

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But Mr Sharma vowed: “I would like to make clear it is my intention that we will close this COP this afternoon – this will close.”

He told delegates: “At the end of the day what has been put forward here is a balanced package.

“I hope that colleagues will appreciate that what is on the table, whilst not every aspect of it will be welcomed by everyone, collectively this is a package that really moves things forward for everyone.”

Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Repeating my urgent call for PM - as head of government holding COP Presidency - to get directly involved in negotiations today.

"While there’s progress in some areas, the text badly needs strengthened in many others, esp accountability on pathway to 1.5 and loss & damage.”

COP26 President Alok Sharma taking advice before postponing the latest session of the late-running conference today. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The latest draft agreement, published at 9am, retained a crucial reference calling on countries to accelerate the phase out of "unabated coal” [without measures such as carbon capture] and "inefficient fossil fuel subsidies".

However, the text appears to have been watered down with the addition of “efforts towards” added to the “phase out” reference.

Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said: “The key line about fossil fuels is still in the text.

"It’s weak and compromised, but it’s a breakthrough, it’s a bridgehead and we have to fight like hell to keep it in there and have it strengthened.

Groups of COP26 delegates informally discussing the latest developments at the conference on Saturday. Picture: The Scotsman

"Today’s plenary could witness a defining moment with a clutch of countries seeking to strike that line from the deal and dilute plans to force nations to come back next year with better emissions plans.”

The latest draft, published more than 13 hours after the UN climate conference in Glasgow was due to have finished, also requests countries "revisit and strengthen" their 2030 emissions-cutting targets by the end of 2022.

This is seen as key to keeping the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C, beyond which the worst impacts of extreme weather and rising seas will be felt, within reach, although it does not specifically refer to the 1.5C goal.

It requests countries revisit the targets "as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022, taking into account different national circumstances".

Sunshine over the Squinty Bridge beside the COP26 summit venue on Saturday - but will the outcome be as bright?

In the Paris Agreement in 2015, countries committed to limit temperature rises to "well below" 2C and try to limit them to 1.5C to avoid the most dangerous impacts of storms, droughts, crop failures, floods and disease.

Scientists have warned that keeping temperature rises to 1.5C requires global emissions to be cut by 45 per cent by 2030, and to zero overall by mid-century.

But despite countries being required to update their action plans, known as nationally determined contributions, for emissions cuts up to 2030 in the run-up to Glasgow, the latest pledges leave the world well off track to meet the goal.

Therefore, countries are under pressure to come up with a deal in Glasgow that will see them rapidly increase their ambition for emission cuts in the 2020s to stop the 1.5C goal slipping out of reach as well provide the finance for developing countries to cope with the crisis.

It also urges developed countries to at least double their collective provision of climate finance to help developing nations adapt to climate change, from 2019 levels by 2025.

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The historic reference to coal and fossil fuel subsidies has survived into the latest draft of the "cover decision" text for an overarching deal that countries are hoping to strike in Glasgow, despite expected pushback from some big producer and emitter nations.

It is the first time a climate change agreement of this kind specifically mentions coal or fossil fuels.

It calls on countries to accelerate technology and policies to shift towards low emission energy systems, by scaling up clean power generation and energy efficiency, including accelerating efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

But it also recognises the need for support towards a "just transition", seen as important to protect those who might be hit by job losses or higher costs from the shift to clean energy.

Ms Morgan added: “The coal and subsidies language now includes a reference to a just transition and that is very welcome.

"Fossil fuel interests should be put on notice, the deal on the table is weak but if they gut it they’ll have to answer to the young, to people on the front line of climate impacts and ultimately to history.

"Today the eyes of the world are on Glasgow and the loudest voices in the room need to be the nations now fighting for their lives.”

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