Patricia Espinosa: UN climate chief says COP26 keeps 1.5C goal alive as activists say summit was not up to expectations

The Glasgow Pact secured at the COP26 talks has received a mixed reaction from the UN’s climate change chief and activists.

The summit was billed as the last best chance to keep the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C within reach – and avoid the worst impacts of climate extremes.

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‘Specific direction’

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that target was “definitely alive” after the conference.

She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are very far from that goal but we did manage to get together this big package of different decisions that will allow us and gives us very, very specific direction on what we need to work on in order to get there.”

She said the difference between 1.5C and 2.4C of warming, which the Climate Action Tracker forecasts the current pledges would result in, is “the survival of millions and millions of people and species”.

Start for more ambition

The Glasgow Pact must be the start for more ambition and climate action, according to Ms Espinosa.

She welcomed the historic – if watered down – move against coal in the new Glasgow Pact, calling it a “very difficult issue”.

She said: “I would like to underline that the huge step forward in our negotiations was the fact that for the first time in this context we mentioned coal and fossil fuels.

Coal is tough balance

“Before, it had not been possible, of course, because… we have to be very conscious that there are millions and millions of people that depend on fossil fuel industries, and in terms of coal there are many people, especially venerable and poor people, that also depend on that as a source of energy.

“So, on the one hand, we have clarity that this is a very big source of emissions and we need to get rid of that.

“On the other hand, we need to also balance out the social consequences for so many people around the world, especially in the poor countries.”

‘People over profits’

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai said the COP26 summit had not lived up to climate activists’ expectations.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai (Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson/AFP via Getty Images)

She told the Andrew Marr Show: “It was my expectation that the leaders would do something but unfortunately they have not met the expectations of me and other climate activists.

“I think leaders must prioritise people and the planet over profits in this moment.”

The Pakistani activist participated in COP26 virtually and pushed for climate education for children and girls.

“We know that climate change is not an issue in isolation, it’s connected to gender equality and girls’ education as well,” she said.

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