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Climate negotiations at COP26 center on timeline and aid to developing countries

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

U.N.-sponsored negotiations in Glasgow on climate change have gone into overtime. Nations have been divided on just how quickly they should ditch fossil fuels and also over money. Emotions have been running high both inside and outside the negotiating rooms.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHANTING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Hey hey, ho ho. Fossil fuels have got to go. Hey hey, ho ho. Fossil fuels have got to go.

SIMON: The latest draft decision being debated today would call for a quicker cut in greenhouse emissions than what countries had previously agreed to. NPR's Dan Charles is at the talks. Dan, thanks so much for being with us.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: Hi, Scott. Nice to be here.

SIMON: Well, thank you. And remind us who's at the talk, more than a hundred nations.

CHARLES: Yeah, the entire world is represented here. The plenary sessions are in these vast halls that they've put up for the occasion. All these people are trying to bring more specifics to a promise they've been making for almost 30 years now, that they'll stop the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, keep global warming from harming human communities and ecosystems around the world.

SIMON: And what's in this draft agreement?

CHARLES: So just came out this morning - this is a third one of these drafts. We may be edging closer to a final agreement. There are two main parts to it. The first part is it sets out goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. It says we really have to keep the planet from warming up more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial times. And to do that, it asks countries to come back next year with actual plans to cut those emissions by 45% within a decade. Now, that part is - that is new.

SIMON: And it sounds like a big shift in a short time.

CHARLES: It would be a huge shift, big shift from the path we're on right now. And there are countries suggesting that it's just not realistic. Others, though, are saying it's essential. Seve Paeniu from the Pacific island of Tuvalu told the conference the alternative is catastrophe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SEVE PAENIU: Our land is fast disappearing. Tuvalu is literally sinking. We must take action now.

SIMON: And you can certainly hear the urgency in his voice and words. What's in the second part of this draft decision?

CHARLES: So that's where the biggest sticking point is. It calls on wealthier countries to deliver money to help poorer countries cope with climate change - you know, build cleaner energy systems - also to compensate them for the damage that climate change is already causing. And it has exposed a divide in the room between richer and poorer countries. So here's Kenya's Keriako Tobiko speaking at the plenary session yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KERIAKO TOBIKO: The major emitters bear the greatest responsibility. It is not just. It is not fair.

CHARLES: So richer countries actually promised a decade ago to provide $100 billion a year in what they call climate finance. They never completely followed through on that. The current draft promises once again that they'll do this and build on that in the future specifically in some areas that have been shortchanged in the past like adapting to hotter temperatures, also compensating countries for what the warming climate is destroying. The developing countries have been pushing for a new organization to handle those loss and damage claims. The U.S. seems to be dead set against that. The current draft is not what developing countries wanted, and we don't know yet if they'll take this deal.

SIMON: I have to ask, though, if they approve it, will much of anything change?

CHARLES: You know, it's a hard question to answer. You know, the U.N. cannot force countries to do any of this. But diplomats spend all this time fighting over the words because I think those words can reset expectations. And once leaders sign these agreements, they'll be under more pressure to keep those promises.

SIMON: NPR's Dan Charles in Glasgow, thanks very much for being with us.

CHARLES: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.