COP26 had one job: To keep 1.5 degrees Celsius, the global warming target prescribed by the 2015 Paris Agreement, alive. After two weeks of frantic negotiations and a bewildering blizzard of carbon-cutting commitments, 1.5 still has a pulse. But it’s on life support.
“1.5 is still alive if we don’t rest on our laurels and see how things go,” Nigel Topping, a veteran climate economist tasked with drumming up private sector action during the COP, said in an interview on the summit’s last day.
By the time the gavel fell at 8:07pm GMT on Nov. 13, COP26 had yielded a number of noteworthy achievements, including the first-ever (albeit watered-down) mention of fossil fuels in a UN climate agreement, India’s first commitment to reach net-zero emissions (by 2070), and an agreement by all governments to accelerate their deadline to publish more ambitious climate goals.
Overall, if countries follow through on their commitments (a gigantic “if”), temperature rise by 2100 could be limited to 1.9°C, according to Carbon Brief. Based on existing policies, a more likely outlook is around 2.4°C.
The best proof climate diplomacy is working is that before Paris, the projection was as high as 3.7°C, a truly nightmarish future that’s now very unlikely. But now the lowest-hanging fruits for carbon abatement are plucked bending the curve all the way to 1.5 will be much harder.
For that to happen, countries will need to ratchet up their commitments every year. Governments, the media, and civil society groups especially need to hold the private sector accountable for its net zero commitments, and demand a climate action plan from every company.
And rich countries need to finally follow through on their long-neglected promise to provide funding for clean energy and climate impact adaptation in poor countries—a promise so neglected in Glasgow that the failure was condemned in the formal agreement.
Scientific uncertainty about the atmosphere’s exact sensitivity to greenhouse gases leaves open the possibility that 1.5 may already be in a coma. But mounting public pressure fueled by the deepening climate crisis itself could wake it up.
“1.5 stretches credibility,” said William Pizer, a former US climate negotiator and current vice president for policy engagement at Resources for the Future, a think tank. “But 2C is really possible, and just a few years ago it really wasn’t.”
UN-hosted COP26 Summit on climate change concluded with nearly 200 countries committing to the Glasgow Climate Pact:
COP26 finally came to an end, with 197 parties agreeing to the newly-dubbed “Glasgow Climate Pact”. Not the best deal, but the deal we have. The Glasgow Climate Pact has left a sweet-and-sour aftertaste. The deal includes the first-ever coal “phase-down” (not a phase-out), an end to “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies and stronger NDCs by 2022.
Many countries pushing for an ambitious deal agreed to the final text, but manifested “profound disappointment” for its soft language. Civil society was harsh on the outcome, some saying it’s “a betrayal” to people and the planet. Boris Johnson said it’s a 6 out of 10. A small step in a race against time
The #COP26 outcome is a compromise, reflecting the interests, contradictions and state of political will in the world today. It’s an important step, but it’s not enough. It’s time to go into emergency mode. The climate battle is the fight of our lives and that fight must be won.
There were several notable achievements. Countries committed themselves to further accelerating their decarbonisation plans and, specifically, to strengthening their emissions-reduction targets for 2030 by next year, rather than in 2025 as per the five-year schedule set out under the Paris agreement.
Developed countries were “urged” to increase funding for adaptation in developing countries. Rules to create a framework for a global carbon market were approved, settling a problem that had plagued negotiators since 2015. The need to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions by a whopping 45% by 2030 was formally recognised. Not the stuff of triumph; but not a trainwreck, either.
Vulnerable nations in peril: Vulnerable nations, in particular small islands, left COP26 without any real commitments from rich nations on loss and damage financing. Even though the entire developing world proposed to create a loss and damage financial facility which would support vulnerable nations devastated by extreme weather rich nations like the US, Australia, Japan, and the EU firmly opposed it.
“The deal does propose a dialogue that would in theory lead to the creation of the financial mechanism. However, the delays leave poor people in developing countries in a particularly vulnerable situation”, said Harjeet Singh, advisor to the Climate Action Network. “We are walking in inches when we must move in miles,” he added.
A new age of climate finance? Climate finance is all over the Glasgow Climate Pact. Rich nations recognized they haven’t met the target of $100 billion per year for developing countries. They promised to fulfill “beyond” this compromise by 2025.
They also promised to double the amount of money destined to adaptation by 2025, parting from 2019 levels. Developing countries pushed hard for this issue during COP, even proposing a new target of $1.3 trillion per year by 2025. This proposal was not adopted.
Tougher NDCs: The COP26 deal urges countries to submit new NDCs by next year. These should be aligned with a 1.5C scenario, and should also incorporate the agreements of the Glasgow Climate Pact.
If their NDCs are not aligned with a 1.5C scenario, countries should justify why. Current NDCs lead us to a 2.4C warming scenario, which means a death sentence for many vulnerable nations, in particular small islands.
The COP26 deal also calls for countries who have yet to update their NDCs to have them by next year, aligning them with a long term net-zero plan.
The rulebook is finally complete: The infamous Article 6 of the Paris Agreement was finally solved (6.2, 6.4 and 6.8), completing the rulebook of the specifics of the treaty.
After fierce opposition from countries like Brazil, the text includes “corresponding adjustments” to all carbon offsets. That means double counting of emissions reductions can be fairly controlled, which was a major concern since parties and companies could report reductions that didn’t exist.
Some experts note that the text isn’t perfect, meaning that companies and countries with “bad faith” could still play the system. Some parties said in the closing plenary they would be vigilant against this. Transparency requirements and common timeframes (two very technical discussions from the Paris rulebook) were also solved, completing the set of rules for the treaty.
China and the US Glasgow Declaration: agreed to boost climate co-operation over the next decade, in a surprise announcement at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
- The United States and China recall their Joint Statement Addressing the Climate Crisis of April 17th, 2021. They are committed to its effective implementation and appreciate the intensive work that has taken place to date and the value of continued discussion.
- The United States and China, alarmed by reports including the Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report released on August 9th, 2021, further recognize the seriousness and urgency of the climate crisis. They are committed to tackling it through their respective accelerated actions in the critical decade of the 2020s, as well as through cooperation in multilateral processes, including the UNFCCC process, to avoid catastrophic impacts.
- The United States and China recall their firm commitment to work together and with other Parties to strengthen implementation of the Paris Agreement. The two sides also recall the Agreement’s aim in accordance with Article 2 to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C. In that regard, they are committed to pursuing such efforts, including by taking enhanced climate actions that raise ambition in the 2020s in the context of the Paris Agreement, with the aim of keeping the above temperature limit within reach and cooperating to identify and address related challenges and opportunities.
- Moving forward, the United States and China welcome the significant efforts being made around the world to address the climate crisis. They nevertheless recognize that there remains a significant gap between such efforts, including their aggregate effect, and those that need to be taken to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. The two sides stress the vital importance of closing that gap as soon as possible, particularly through stepped-up efforts. They declare their intention to work individually, jointly, and with other countries during this decisive decade, in accordance with different national circumstances, to strengthen and accelerate climate action and cooperation aimed at closing the gap, including accelerating the green and low-carbon transition and climate technology innovation.
- The two sides are intent on seizing this critical moment to engage in expanded individual and combined efforts to accelerate the transition to a global net zero economy.
- The two sides recall their intention to continue discussing, both on the road to COP 26 and beyond, concrete actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions aimed at keeping the Paris Agreement-aligned temperature limit within reach. With that clear purpose, and anticipating that particular forms of cooperation will have the effect of significantly accelerating emission reductions and limitations, including in the form of specific goals, targets, policies, and measures, the two sides intend to engage in the actions and cooperative activities set forth below.
- The two sides intend to cooperate on:
a). regulatory frameworks and environmental standards related to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in the 2020s;
b). maximizing the societal benefits of the clean energy transition;
c). policies to encourage decarbonization and electrification of end-use sectors;
d). key areas related to the circular economy, such as green design and renewable resource utilization; and deployment and application of technology such as CCUS and direct air capture.
- Recognizing specifically the significant role that emissions of methane play in increasing temperatures, both countries consider increased action to control and reduce such emissions to be a matter of necessity in the 2020s. To this end:
A). The two countries intend to cooperate to enhance the measurement of methane emissions; to exchange information on their respective policies and programs for strengthening management and control of methane; and to foster joint research into methane emission reduction challenges and solutions.
B). The United States has announced the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan.
C). Taking into account the above cooperation, as appropriate, the two sides intend to do the following before COP 27:
I). they intend to develop additional measures to enhance methane emission control, at both the national and sub-national levels.
II). In addition to its recently communicated NDC, China intends to develop a comprehensive and ambitious National Action Plan on methane, aiming to achieve a significant effect on methane emissions control and reductions in the 2020s.
The United States and China intend to convene a meeting in the first half of 2022 to focus on the specifics of enhancing measurement and mitigation of methane, including through standards to reduce methane from the fossil and waste sectors, as well as incentives and programs to reduce methane from the agricultural sector.
- In order to reduce CO2 emissions:
A). the two countries intend to cooperate on:
I). Policies that support the effective integration of high shares of low-cost intermittent renewable energy;
II). Transmission policies that encourage efficient balancing of electricity supply and demand across broad geographies;
III). Distributed generation policies that encourage integration of solar, storage, and other clean power solutions closer to electricity users; and
IV). Energy efficiency policies and standards to reduce electricity waste.
- The United States has set a goal to reach 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.
- China will phase down coal consumption during the 15th Five Year Plan and make best efforts to accelerate this work.
- Recognizing that eliminating global illegal deforestation would contribute meaningfully to the effort to reach the Paris goals, the two countries welcome the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use. The two sides intend to engage collaboratively in support of eliminating global illegal deforestation through effectively enforcing their respective laws on banning illegal imports.
- The two sides recall their respective commitments regarding the elimination of support for unabated international thermal coal power generation.
- With respect to COP 26, both countries support an ambitious, balanced, and inclusive outcome on mitigation, adaptation, and support. It must send a clear signal that the Parties to the Paris Agreement:
A). Are committed to tackling the climate crisis by strengthening implementation of the Paris Agreement, reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances;
B). Recall the Paris Agreement’s aim to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C and are committed to pursuing such efforts, including by taking ambitious action during this critical decade to keep the above temperature limit within reach, including as necessary communicating or updating 2030 NDCs and long-term strategies;
C). Recognize the significance of adaptation in addressing the climate crisis, including further discussion on the global goal on adaptation and promoting its effective implementation, as well as the scaling up of financial and capacity-building support for adaptation in developing countries; and
D). Resolve to ensure that their collective and individual efforts are informed by, inter alia, the best available science.
- Both countries recognize the importance of the commitment made by developed countries to the goal of mobilizing jointly $100b per year by 2020 and annually through 2025 to address the needs of developing countries, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, and stress the importance of meeting that goal as soon as possible.
- Both countries will work cooperatively to complete at COP 26 the implementing arrangements (“rulebook”) for Articles 6 and 13 of the Paris Agreement, as well as common time frames for NDCs.
- Both countries intend to communicate 2035 NDCs in 2025.
- The two sides intend to establish a “Working Group on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s,” which will meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process, focusing on enhancing concrete actions in this decade. This may include, inter alia, continued policy and technical exchanges, identification of programs and projects in areas of mutual interest, meetings of governmental and non-governmental experts, facilitating participation by local governments, enterprises, think tanks, academics, and other experts, exchanging updates on their respective national efforts, considering the need for additional efforts, and reviewing the implementation of the Joint Statement and this Joint Declaration.
India’s coal move: Let’s start with the elephant in the room. At the last minute of the closing plenary, India solicited to water down the final text, changing the words “coal phase out” into a “coal phase down. “A visibly emotional Alok Sharma, COP26 president, accepted the change, adding he was “deeply sorry” about the last minute move.
As some analysts pointed out, the move also responds to a lack of an ambitious climate financing agreement, since countries like India would need massive investments in renewables to meet their unfulfilled electricity demands.
China, along with India, does not sign the global coal pledge to phase out coal-fired power and refrain from building new coal plants
Oil and gas supply cuts: The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, an international group to halt new oil and gas drilling led by Costa Rica and Denmark, now has 11 signatories including France, Greenland, Ireland, Quebec, Sweden, and Wales (California and New Zealand will join as associate members).
A “first of its kind” alliance of governments has committed to phasing out the production of oil and gas.
Each member will commit to ending new licensing rounds for oil and gas exploration and production. They must also set an end date for oil and gas production and exploration that is aligned with Paris Agreement objectives.
Judging the “cover decision”: The final draft of the COP26 final agreement waters down language about a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies. It now merely “requests,” rather than “urges,” countries to update their climate plans annually.
Fossil fuel data: The Global Registry of Fossil Fuels will be the first comprehensive public database on fossil fuel production and reserves when it launches next year.
262 million metric tons (289 million tons): Emissions that could be cut by 2030 if the 100 highest emitters in the Science Based Targets Initiative follow through with their promises
Climate science is clear. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5°C stated in 2018 that to avoid the worst effects of climate breakdown, global temperature increase must be capped at 1.5°C. To achieve this, emissions must be halved before 2030 and reach net-zero before 2050.
Back then, 2°C scenarios were the backbone of the Science Based Targets initiative’s (SBTi) framework. Of the 220+ companies with approved targets, only a handful were consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
COP26 WORLD LEADERS SUMMIT- PRESIDENCY SUMMARY
On November 1st and 2nd, 120 world leaders gathered in Glasgow to kick start a decade of accelerated climate action.
Leaders were joined by civil society, international organisations, businesses and youth to mark the start of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties.
Over two days featuring national statements and a series of high-level meetings and events, Heads of State and Government were clear in their determination to take ambitious action to tackle climate change and seize the opportunities of a clean and resilient transition; at COP26 and through the critical decade ahead.
Leaders assembled against the backdrop of the extraordinary challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of climate change already being experienced across the world. Urgency in overcoming this collective challenge was front and centre of discussions, emphasised by the prominence of many of the world’s poorest and most climate vulnerable countries. In the face of this crisis, leaders from across the world came together in solidarity.
Leaders made clear that climate change is a global problem. The world is welcoming in a new era of economic and political partnership with climate action at its heart. The task of the decade will be to deliver the finance, resources and tools to rapidly deliver climate action at scale.
Leaders made clear their expectation for COP26 to accelerate action by 2030.
While recognising every country’s unique circumstances and responsibilities, leaders from all regions spoke about the need to urgently address the gaps in ambition – on mitigation, adaptation and finance – and their determination to do so at COP26 and beyond. Statements from the High Ambition Coalition and Climate Vulnerable Forum both added strong calls for greater ambition.
Across the Summit, leaders outlined what must be achieved in Glasgow; sending a signal to negotiators to work together to accelerate climate action in this crucial decade, stressing the need to drive progress on all issues and conclude the Rulebook to support delivery of the Paris Agreement goals.
Many leaders spoke about the vital importance of charting a path to keep the prospect of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C within reach; including by closing the gap between the current Nationally Determined Contributions to 2030 and requirements of science; revisiting and updating them as necessary.
They issued clear calls to continue to scale up climate finance from all sources, including urgently delivering the $100bn per year goal and deepening work across the financial system to align financial flows with the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.
Additionally, they called for agreement on an inclusive approach for setting a new collective quantified goal beyond 2025, fit for purpose for delivering the Paris Agreement. Many spoke about the pressing need for predictable and accessible finance. Some raised the importance of enhanced action in technology development and transfer, and capacity building.
Leaders raised the importance of adapting to the impacts of climate change as a matter of survival and the need to implement the Global Goal on Adaptation. Many highlighted the need for a step-change in finance for adaptation and for the COP26 outcome to show a collective aim to achieve this. Some called for at least a doubling of current funding, towards the balance collectively agreed in Paris.
Many leaders stressed the growing reality of loss and damage associated with climate change, and called for operationalisation of the Santiago Network and greater efforts to ensure international finance and technical assistance is scaled up.
The Summit showed the Paris Agreement is working and made progress in key areas.
While recognising the need to continue to go further and faster, leaders set out how their countries are doing more; demonstrating how the Paris Agreement is working to increase ambition – on mitigation, adaptation and finance – and how they are acting on the economic and social opportunities this presents.
They outlined their national targets to reduce emissions. 151 parties have now submitted updated Nationally Determined Contributions, with a further 8 announcing their intention to do so. Almost 90% of global emissions and over 90% of global GDP is now covered by mid-century net zero or carbon neutrality commitments, rising from just 30% of global GDP at the end of 2019.
Going beyond headline targets, leaders explained the steps that their countries are taking to deliver these commitments; including action on coal, cars, cash and trees, among others.
A significant number of leaders spoke about ending coal power. 42 countries have set coal phase out dates and international public finance for coal is coming to an end.
There was a clear commitment to working together to achieve climate aims, including with the private sector, international organisations and civil society. Significant announcements included:
- Over 40 leaders joined the Breakthrough Agenda, a 10-year plan to work together to create green jobs and growth globally, making clean technologies and solutions the most affordable, accessible and attractive option before 2030 – beginning with power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture.
- Over 120 countries covering more than 90% of the world’s forests endorsed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests & Land Use committing to work collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, backed by the biggest ever commitment of public funds for forest conservation and a global roadmap to make 75% of forest commodity supply chains sustainable.
- A Just Energy Transition Partnership was announced to support South Africa’s decarbonisation efforts; a powerful example of collaboration between an emerging economy and international partners.
- The launch of the Global Methane Pledge saw over 100 countries committing collectively to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
Across the two days, it was evident that finance for low-carbon and resilient development continues to increase. However, leaders were clear that this remains far short of the levels needed. Many leaders expressed disappointment that the $100 billion goal would not be met in 2020. Developed countries outlined how the goal will be delivered by 2023 at the latest. Several made new increased climate finance commitments, including for adaptation, meaning almost all have now come forward with new pledges to 2025.
Many leaders highlighted the severe fiscal pressures they face, exacerbated by the combined threats of climate change and COVID-19. They called for the financial system, including the International Monetary Fund and Multilateral Development Banks, to build on recent progress with greater efforts to respond to the needs of climate vulnerable and developing countries. Several countries outlined how they are supporting a resilient and sustainable recovery from COVID-19 and will increase investment and partnerships for clean and green infrastructure through Build Back Better World.
Leaders highlighted the need for all countries to urgently scale up action to adapt to climate change. A number of developed countries were clear about their commitment to achieve a balance between mitigation and adaptation in their climate finance, including through a new Champions Group on Adaptation Finance, and with some committing to 50% adaptation finance.
Further support for adaptation was showcased through the African Adaptation Acceleration Programme and a new Infrastructure for Resilient Island States fund. Many leaders spoke about their national and locally-led plans, with 32 countries now having submitted Adaptation Communications or National Adaptation Plans, now representing more than 2 billion people, helping share best practice and mobilise action.
A range of participants representing civil society, youth, indigenous peoples, businesses and international organisations contributed actively throughout the Summit, demonstrating the role that all actors have to play in raising ambition and building a net zero and resilient future.
Leaders sent a clear signal that COP26 must keep 1.5C in reach.
The Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, and COP President, Alok Sharma, called on leaders to empower negotiators to deliver an outcome that responds to the best available science and the demands of people the world over, to urgently accelerate climate action and ensure that finance is flowing to support this transition, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable.
The United Kingdom, as COP26 Presidency, in partnership with Italy, looks forward to working with all Parties and Observers, building on the momentum and direction set out by leaders to deliver a successful outcome in Glasgow that leaves no one, and no issue, behind.
WHAT IS CLIMATE JUSTICE
If there is one message coming out loud and clear from this week’s COP26 meeting thanks to the activists and protesters who took to the streets of Glasgow it’s that the world needs climate justice.
But what is climate justice? The data shows what it is not.
The poorest 50% of the world, those most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change, was responsible for just 7% of global greenhouse emissions between 1990 to 2015, according to research by Oxfam, an international nonprofit focused on poverty reduction. Yet the richest 10% of the world’s population is responsible for more than half.
Since the start of the industrial revolution, in 1751, the countries that are now the US and the European Union have generated 47% of the world’s total carbon emissions, while combined, all of Africa and South America produced just 6%.