The COP26 clock is ticking as negotiators battle to keep 1.5 alive

Negotiators from around the world are rushing to finalise a deal to make COP26 a success, ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger reports

With COP26 into its last few days the real business of deal making is now well underway.

The UK Presidency has circulated a first draft of what’s called its “cover decision text”. This dry sounding document contains the main political outcome of the COP26 talks.

The negotiators, who have gone as far as they can, have handed back to their ministers to make the really hard decisions.

The COP27 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP27? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP27 is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from November 6-18.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP27:

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is attending the conference, after initially saying he wouldn't as he was too busy focusing on the economy within his first weeks in office.

  • US President Joe Biden and his experienced climate envoy, John Kerry, will appear at the talks.

  • France President Emmanuel Macron will also be among the heads of state from around the world staying in Egypt.

King Charles III will not be attending COP27, despite being a staunch advocate for the environment. The decision was made jointly by Buckingham Palace and former prime minister Liz Truss.

Elsewhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will not attend the talks just as they decided to do for COP26.

Back to top

What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Ensure full implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions - included within this is the target of limiting global warming to well below 2C.

2. Cementing progress on the critical workstreams of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage, while stepping up finance notably to tackle the impacts of climate change.

3. Enhancing the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.

Back to top

No one is getting much sleep any more. Now the to-ing and fro-ing is increasingly frantic as leaders send their comments and alterations back to their negotiators to try to hammer out a deal.

Sustained by “bad food and weak coffee” - as Barack Obama put it during his visit here - the talking now reaches the early hours.

As one source close to the negotiations put it: “A lot of times delegations will split the team between those who will stay overnight and those who will go back and get a couple of hours sleep to come back fresh in the morning. It's probably a last night for some people to get some sleep because they're going to just be running on energy”. It's a slog but by the end of Wednesday nations are expected to have made their thoughts clear.

The UK Presidency will be hoping to deliver a second draft of the text at some point on Wednesday night.

It's all about COP26’s singular mission: to keep 1.5 alive, limiting global warming to the target of one and a half degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. There are sticking points on a number of issues like measuring emissions transparently and whether countries need to come back more regularly to update their climate ambitions.

As another source told us late on Tuesday: “The key thing we're really looking for in this text is how it deals with getting countries to come back to the table next year to scale up their commitments to get on the track to 1.5 (degrees Celsius)”. The UK Presidency will be searching for any country willing to go a yard or two further on the emissions cuts already offered, to get the summit closer to that 1.5 degree target.

The final days of the conference will be about making deals to ensure action on climate promises. Credit: PA

To thrash all that out, ministers will have to come back to Glasgow to try to break the deadlock. That’s why it's not surprising that the Prime Minister is coming back for a quick flying visit today (although this time, at least, he’s taking the train).

But it all makes for a very tight timetable if the summit is to finish on time on Friday evening. Many of the delegates here, already starting to look rather wan, are bracing themselves to work on into Saturday. Tempers aren’t yet fraying, although one source close to the negotiations is preparing for some difficult moments ahead: “Things are still pretty polite and decorum is being held. But we've had moments in the past when COPs have come down to the wire and the time for frank speaking has emerged”. In the crowded halls and corridors on the banks of the Clyde, the clock is ticking.

Some progress has been made but right now, these Glasgow talks still feel a very long way from success. It will be a tense 48 hours.