The world’s most anticipated forum on climate change – the COP26 – on November 13, 2021, concluded in Glasgow with nearly 200 countries agreeing on the Glasgow Climate Pact to keep 1.5C alive and finalize the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement.
COP26 ends with a global agreement to accelerate action on climate this decade. Two weeks of intense negotiations finally complete the Paris Rulebook. For the first time COP agrees on the position of phasing down unabated coal power. The Glasgow Climate Pact caps two years of diplomacy and ambition raising.
The Glasgow Climate Pact, combined with increased ambition and action from countries, means that 1.5C remains in sight, but it will only be delivered with concerted and immediate global efforts.
It will speed up the pace of climate action. All countries agreed to revisit and strengthen their current emissions targets to 2030, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in 2022. This will be combined with a yearly political roundtable to consider a global progress report and a Leaders summit in 2023.
There were also commitments to significantly increase financial support through the Adaptation Fund as developed countries were urged to double their support to developing countries by 2025.
Work focused on driving the short-term reduction of emissions to limit temperature rises to 1.5C, mobilizing both public and private finance, and supporting communities to adapt to climate impacts.
When the UK took on the COP26 mantle, in partnership with Italy, nearly two years ago, only 30% of the world was covered by net-zero targets. This figure is now at around 90%. Over the same period, 154 Parties have submitted new national targets, representing 80% of global emissions.
In Sum… The UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) brought together 120 world leaders and over 40,000 registered participants, including 22,274 party delegates, 14.124 observers, and 3.886 media representatives.
For two weeks, the world was riveted on all facets of climate change — the science, the solutions, the political will to act, and clear indications of action. The outcome of COP26 – the Glasgow Climate Pact – is the fruit of intense negotiations among almost 200 countries over the two weeks, strenuous formal and informal work over many months, and constant engagement both in-person and virtually for nearly two years.
“The approved texts are a compromise,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “They reflect the interests, the conditions, the contradictions, and the state of political will in the world today. They take important steps, but unfortunately, the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions.”
Cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are still far from where they need to be to preserve a livable climate, and support for the most vulnerable countries affected by the impacts of climate change is still falling far short. But COP26 did produce new “building blocks” to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement through actions that can get the world on a more sustainable, low-carbon pathway forward.
What was agreed?
Recognizing The Emergency;
Countries reaffirmed the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C. And they went further, expressing “alarm and utmost concern that human activities have caused around 1.1 °C of warming to date, that impacts are already being felt in every region, and that carbon budgets consistent with achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goal are now small and being rapidly depleted.” They recognized that the impacts of climate change will be much lower at a temperature increase of 1.5 °C compared with 2 °C.
Countries stressed the urgency of action “in this critical decade,” when carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by 45 percent to reach net zero around mid-century. But with present climate plans – the Nationally determined Contributions — falling far short of ambition, the Glasgow Climate Pact calls on all countries to present stronger national action plans next year, instead of in 2025, which was the original timeline. Countries also called on UNFCCC to do an annual NDC Synthesis Report to gauge the present level of ambition.
Moving Away From Fossil Fuels;
In perhaps the most contested decision in Glasgow, countries ultimately agreed to a provision calling for a phase-down of coal power and a phase-out of “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies – two key issues that had never been explicitly mentioned in decisions of UN climate talks before, despite coal, oil, and gas being the main drivers of global warming. Many countries, and NGOs, expressed dissatisfaction that the language on coal was significantly weakened (from phase-out to phase-down) and consequently, was not as ambitious as it needs to be.
Delivering On Climate Finance;
Developed countries came to Glasgow falling short of their promise to deliver US$100 billion a year for developing countries. Voicing “regret,” the Glasgow outcome reaffirms the pledge and urges developed countries to fully deliver on the US$100 billion goal urgently. Developed countries, in a report, expressed confidence that the target would be met in 2023.
Stepping Up Support For Adaptation;
The Glasgow Pact calls for a doubling of finance to support developing countries in adapting to the impacts of climate change and building resilience. This won’t provide all the funding that poorer countries need, but it would significantly increase finance for protecting lives and livelihoods, which so far made up only about 25 percent of all climate finance (with 75 percent going towards green technologies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions). Glasgow also established a work program to define a global goal on adaptation, which will identify collective needs and solutions to the climate crisis already affecting many countries.
Completing The Paris Rulebook;
Countries reached an agreement on the remaining issues of the so-called Paris rulebook, the operational details for the practical implementation of the Paris Agreement. Among them are the norms related to carbon markets, which will allow countries struggling to meet their emissions targets to purchase emissions reductions from other nations that have already exceeded their targets.
Negotiations were also concluded on an Enhanced Transparency Framework, providing for common timeframes and agreed-on formats for countries to regularly report on progress, designed to build trust and confidence that all countries are contributing their share to the global effort.
Focusing On Loss & Damage;
Acknowledging that climate change is having increasing impacts on people, especially in the developing world, countries agreed to strengthen a network— known as the Santiago Network – that connects vulnerable countries with providers of technical assistance, knowledge, and resources to address climate risks.
They also launched a new “Glasgow dialogue” to discuss arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimize and address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.
New Deals And Announcements;
There were many other significant deals and announcements – outside of the Glasgow Climate Pact – which can have major positive impacts if they are indeed implemented. These include:
137 countries took a landmark step forward by committing to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. The pledge is backed by $12bn in public and $7.2bn in private funding. In addition, CEOs from more than 30 financial institutions with over $8.7 trillion of global assets committed to eliminating investment in activities linked to deforestation.
103 countries, including 15 major emitters, signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to limit methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030, compared to 2020 levels. Methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, is responsible for a third of current warming from human activities.
Over 30 countries, six major vehicle manufacturers, and other actors, like cities, set out their determination for all new car and van sales to be zero-emission vehicles by 2040 globally and 2035 in leading markets, accelerating the decarbonization of road transport, which currently accounts for about 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Leaders from South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, and the European Union announced a ground-breaking partnership to support South Africa – the world’s most carbon-intensive electricity producer— with $8.5 billion over the next 3-5 years to make a just transition away from coal, to a low-carbon economy.
Private financial institutions and central banks announced moves to realign trillions of dollars towards achieving global net zero emissions. Among them is the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, with over 450 firms across 45 countries that control $130 trillion in assets, requiring its member to set robust, science-based near-term targets.
Reflecting on the task ahead, COP26 President Alok Sharma said: “We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action. From here, we must now move forward together and deliver on the expectations set out in the Glasgow Climate Pact, and close the vast gap which remains. It is up to all of us to sustain our lodestar of keeping 1.5 degrees within reach and to continue our efforts to get finance flowing and boost adaptation.”