Why has it been so hard to get fossil fuels mentioned in U.N. climate deals?

Youth climate activists protest fossil fuels outside the plenary rooms at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 10. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

A preliminary draft of the COP26 climate summit agreement was released earlier this week with landmark language explicitly calling for the reduction of fossil fuel consumption, in a break from previous climate accords.

It called on nations to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuel.” But by early Friday, as negotiators continued to hammer out the details of a deal, some of that language was already watered down.

Now, more recent draft proposals instead urge countries to speed up “the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.”

Still, in the context of sensitive climate diplomacy, the new language marks a significant step.

Over two decades of global climate talks, collective calls from negotiating nations to eventually halt the use of fossil fuels have been rare.

Here’s why that’s the case.

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