An agreement at Cop26 in Glasgow is “possible but not certain”, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has said, predicting that the summit which was due to end on Friday could run into Sunday.
“It’s very important that there’s the potential for an agreement which would help us to keep [the] 1.5-degrees [goal] alive and stop the most dangerous climate change, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
“We can’t agree a deal that doesn’t meet the science, that goes without saying. I think it’s possible but it’s not certain. It may run into tomorrow . . . there’s nothing certain yet.”
Mr Ryan was speaking as delegates from almost 200 countries discussed the latest draft of an agreement aimed at keeping alive the prospect of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Divisions remain over a number of issues, notably phasing out subsidies for coal and oil, and financial support for poorer countries to deal with the impact of climate change.
“One of the key issues in getting an agreement I think will be how we help developing countries, poorer countries, and I think Ireland has a role to play in that,” Mr Ryan said.
He said that Ireland and three other European Union member states on Saturday morning pledged immediate finance – €5 million in Ireland’s case – to strengthen the Santiago network that links vulnerable countries to sources of assistance and expertise.
He also offered Ireland as a location for a dialogue on how to improve support for poorer countries dealing with the impact of climate change.
“I think Ireland can help in that way and we also have a good record on humanitarian relief and helping countries manage loss and damage,” he said. “What I’m saying to my European colleagues is that we’ll provide whatever support and help so that . . . the poorest countries are protected and that we don’t ignore the science.
“You can’t negotiate with the science. So I hope that our contribution today will be to try to help get that sense into the dialogue here so that we can get an agreement.”
Carbon markets deal
Negotiators began to close in on a deal to settle rules for carbon markets on Saturday, as new draft documents on implementing Article 6 of the 2015 Paris Agreement suggested progress around all three of the key sticking points that have skuppered a deal on the issue at the past two UN climate conferences.
Article 6 would set the rules allowing countries to partially meet their climate targets by buying offset credits representing emissions cuts by others.
Companies as well as countries with vast forest cover are keen for a robust deal on government-led carbon markets in Glasgow, in hopes also of legitimising the fast-growing global voluntary offset markets.
But balancing those interests against worries that offsetting will go too far in allowing countries to continue emitting climate-warming gases has made some wary of a hasty deal.
On the issue of whether certain carbon trades should be taxed to fund climate adaptation in poorer nations, the latest proposals offer a two-track approach.
Bilateral trades of offsets between countries would not face the tax. That suggests capitulation to rich nations including the United States, which had objected to poor countries’ demands for the levy.
In a separate centralised system for issuing offsets, five per cent of proceeds from offsets will be collected to go toward an adaptation fund for developing countries.
Also in that system, two per cent of the offset credits will be cancelled. That aims to increase overall emissions cuts by stopping other countries using those credits as offsets to reach their climate targets.
Another stubborn roadblock had been whether carbon credits created under the old Kyoto protocol, the Paris Agreement’s predecessor, should be included in the new offset market system.
Negotiators had been wrangling over a compromise that would set a cut-off date, with credits issued before that date not being carried forward.
The latest text would carry over any offsets registered since 2013. That would allow 320 million offsets, each representing a tonne of CO2, to enter the new market, according to an analysis by the NewClimate Institute and Oko-Institut non-profits.