COP26: World agrees to phase out some fossil fuel subsidies– but coal deal weakened at last minute

The COP26 climate talks in Glasgow has agreed to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsides. But after a last-minute manoeuvre by India, the conference further watered down plans on coal.


The Glasgow COP was the first to refer in a decision document to fossil fuels, one of the key contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

The section on fossil fuel subsidies was watered down over the past two days, with the addition of the word “inefficient”. But it survived, despite the fears of environmental campaigners.

The big surprise came at the final hour when the coal text was revised further. It had previously been weakened with the addition of “unabated” to the coal phase out. But this evening, it was watered down further with the change from “phase out” to “phase down”.

DrillOrDrop report on the day’s events

The COP26 president, Alok Sharma, apologised to delegates tonight about the way the process on coal had unfolded. He said:

“It is deeply disappointing”.

But in an emotional response he said:

“We have to protect the package”.

The change was also condemned by small island states, Switzerland, Mexico and the European Union.


At the heart of conference had been an ambition to hold temperature rise to 1.5C.

To achieve this limit, the decision document noted that the world must cut emissions by 45% by 2030, relative to 2010 levels.

But analysis from the Climate Action Tracker last week concluded that, even with the conference pledges on the table, temperatures will  rise to 2.4C by the end of the century. For some island nations, a 2C temperature rise was described as a death sentence.

Under the decision document, all major emitters will be compelled to return in 12 months and explain how their policies and plans are aligned to the goals of limiting temperature rise to 1.5C.

But the conference seems to have failed the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Tina Stege, delegate for the Marshall Islands

This afternoon, small island nations and countries vulnerable to drought and floods, repeatedly said they were disappointed with the draft decision document.

They were particularly concerned about the failure of COP26 to agree a package of finance for the loss or damage caused by climate change. This appears to have been blocked by the EU and US.

There was also criticism of developed countries for failing to meet the annual goal of USFD 100 billion for climate-vulnerable countries by the deadline of 2020.

What progress was made?

Alok Sharma told the closing session of the conference :

“History has been made in Glasgow.”

He said:

“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”.

Under the decision document, countries will be asked to revisit and restrengthen their 2030 emission reduction targets in their national plans.

COP26 agreed to invite countries to consider further actions to reduce by 2030 non-carbon dioxide emissions, including methane.

Developed countries will also need to double their collective funds for adaptation, based on 2019 pledges.

By 2024, all countries will have to report detailed data on emissions forming the baseline from which future reductions can be assessed.

Agreement on new carbon market rules closes down some loopholes and creates a structured trading regime between countries. But some analysts say the language isn’t clear enough to stop companies gaming the system.

There were agreements during COP26 on methane, coal, forests and fossil fuel finance. They could help to cut emissions, but they must all be turned into national policies and presented in Egypt next year.

In response to fears of greenwashing from companies, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced a new expert group to assess corporate net zero claims.

New rules are designed to ensure that by 2024 everyone can assess what other countries are doing. There should be more regular and robust information on the state of greenhouse gas emissions and progress made towards implementing national plans on emissions reduction.

The rules also mean that all countries are encouraged to deliver climate plans to the UN on five-year cycles.

DrillOrDrop’s reporting from COP26 was made possible by donations from individual readers

10 replies »

  1. It sounds like the largest delegation at COP26 – the one from the fossil fuel companies – will have headed home (on private jets?) quite ecstatic at the greatest success they could have expected.

  2. Quite, Mike. If Johnson can take time off from presiding over the death throes of his ghastly cabal, it will be instructive to see which way he now jumps over the new oil and coalfields, not to mention gas.

  3. OMG! Death throes?

    A huge majority and only two years into five. And then boundary changes impact.

    Another issue with maths.

    I suspect the oil will go ahead, as will the gas. The coal may not, depending on the cost of green steel introduction and subsequent subsidy.

    Meanwhile, I note Shell are moving HQ to UK, so HMG should have some more taxation to spend on things like subsidising green steel, as it is unlikely crowd funding will do the job.

    • Weren’t Shell promised a 130% tax rebate Martin? Doesn’t that mean another fat subsidy for fossil fuels and spending rather than receiving tax receipts?

      • Looks like a lot of companies have been promised a 130% rebate, so another fat subsidy for renewables I guess?O

    • Ah, but of course, Johnson has already preparaed the ground and said those won’t be his decisions. The buck stops somewhere else, not here.

      • You guess right. The key difference being that we desperately need a rapid increase in renewable power generation to avoid even more CO2 emissions that will make climate change even worse. At the same time we desperately need to rapidly reduce fossil fuels being burned for energy generation for the same reason. How perverse to invest taxpayer money into increasing emissions from the latter, while it’s likely to be massively cost-effective in the medium-long term for the former.

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