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Before climate talks end, many agreements still need to be negotiated


We are starting off the final week of the COP26 climate summit, and there are still more demands for change and lots of deals that still need to be negotiated.


Many of the world's leaders left big promises behind when they left Glasgow. More than 100 countries agreed to end deforestation by 2030. Some made broad promises to cut carbon and methane levels and stop overseas fossil fuel projects. But environmental groups and thousands of people who demonstrated over the weekend say those pledges do not go far enough. And they are demanding that global leaders do more to limit the warming of the planet. They also want this week to reflect that.

MARTIN: Sarah Kaplan is a reporter for The Washington Post. She's been covering the summit from Glasgow. And she joins us now. Hey, Sarah.


MARTIN: So all the big heads of state have left, and now it's down to brass tacks for the people who actually do the work of making these negotiations. What can we expect this week?

KAPLAN: Yeah, this is kind of the technical, boring part of the COP summit. It's all about...

MARTIN: Sarah, you can't lead with, this is the boring part.

KAPLAN: (Laughter).

MARTIN: This is the - this is where it happens.

KAPLAN: But this is where the rubber meets the road.

MARTIN: There you go.

KAPLAN: This is where you make sure that people actually follow through on their promises. So the main agenda item is finalizing what they call the rulebook for the Paris Agreement that was signed six years ago.


KAPLAN: You know, agreeing to standards for reporting emissions, sketching out a global carbon market where countries can buy and sell credits to help them achieve their climate goals. Some countries are also pushing for an accelerated timeline for updating the plan for cutting carbon. Technically, that happens every five years. But, you know, this cycle, many countries submitted kind of underwhelming targets. And activists say if they wait five years to update them, it'll be too late.

MARTIN: So is that what's motivating all these protests? I mean, there were demonstrations in Scotland over the weekend, even though it was pouring rain. What are the specific demands coming from activists right now?

KAPLAN: I think there's just, like, a lot of skepticism about the whole COP process. Many people were angry that because of COVID-19 measures, access for civil society to these big negotiations and big meetings has been restricted. And a lot of people feel like this is just rich countries negotiating over bad behavior. They don't really have faith that this process is going to lead to change, and it's kind of understandable that they feel this way because the U.N. has been holding COP summits for almost three decades, and the world is still on a pretty dangerous path.

MARTIN: So, you know, talk about this idea that is kind of embedded into the firmament of every global summit on climate change - that it's the rich countries that are doing the emitting, and yet the worst effects of climate change are affecting more developing countries or poorer nations. How is that discrepancy being acknowledged by the leaders there who are trying to make these promises?

KAPLAN: Yeah. I mean, I do think, you know, for all the criticisms of this process, these U.N. negotiations are really the only system where every country has a seat at the table. And it's one country, one vote. So even though the biggest and most powerful countries with big economies - they have a lot of clout. But you also see smaller, developing countries band together to push for what they want. And kind of that topic of equity that you mentioned is going to be a big topic for them. Developing countries, you know, hard-hit, vulnerable nations want the wealthy world that made its wealth on the burning of fossil fuels to pay up for both helping to, you know, decarbonize and switch away from fossil fuels but also helping them adapt and pay for the damage that climate change is already causing.

MARTIN: I mean, this is the whole rub with these conferences, right? There are limitations to what the summits can do, how you get all these global leaders and these parties to make these kinds of commitments. And yet it's sort of the only way to do it, right? Do you hear that sentiment there, this balance of disappointment and continued purpose nevertheless?

KAPLAN: Absolutely. And I think, you know, at the end of the day, people say, you know, this - we have to do this because the planet and the future of humanity is on the line. So, you know, there's pretty high stakes.

MARTIN: Sarah Kaplan reporting from Glasgow with the Washington Post. Thank you.

KAPLAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.