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Glasgow Climate Pact – flawed but encouraging

The main result may have been to shunt some of the meaningful action needed on carbon emissions pledges forward a year, but this year’s United Nations COP26 climate change summit nevertheless closed with the signing of a Glasgow Climate Pact that promises much.

Although heralded as being the first climate agreement to explicitly mention a reduction in the use of coal, many delegations and observers were disappointed with the final deal, arguing that the pledges don’t go far enough to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, the more optimistic of the targets agreed in Paris in 2015.

analysis by Climate Action Tracker of the pledges made at COP26 for reductions of emissions over the next decade suggests that the world may still warm to 2.4°C.

The initial draft agreement had included a commitment to
phase-out coal and fossil fuel subsidies; later amended to move away from ‘inefficient’ subsidies and ‘unabated coal power’ (ie without carbon capture and storage). However, the wording in the final deal was watered down further to a ‘phase down’ of coal following objections led by China and India.

The final agreement also calls for more urgent emission cuts, with all countries agreeing to revisit and strengthen their current emissions targets to 2030, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), at next year’s COP27 in Egypt.

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.

COP26 also saw the ‘Paris Rulebook’, the guidelines for how the Paris Agreement is delivered, completed after six years of discussion. This will allow for the full delivery of the landmark accord, after agreement on a transparency process which will hold countries to account as they deliver on their targets. This includes Article 6, which establishes a robust framework for countries to exchange carbon credits through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

A deal on carbon markets was also reached, allowing countries that reduce emissions beyond their targets to sell carbon ‘offset credits’, each representing a tonne of CO
2 to other countries.

Meanwhile, COP26 also closed with a potential commitment made by developed nations to mobilise some $500bn by 2025 to emerging economies, to help them adapt to climate change, after the pledge made in 2009 to provide $100bn/y missed its 2020 deadline.

Developing countries had put forward a proposal for a new ‘loss and damage’ fund to assist nations which suffer losses due to storms, rising seas and other impacts of climate change. But the US opposed suggestions that those countries are entitled to compensation and insisted on watering down the proposal.

COP26 also saw a marked commitment to protect precious natural habitats, with 90% of the world’s forests covered by a pledge from 130 countries to
end deforestation by 2030.

The transition to zero emissions vehicles is also gathering pace, with some, but not all, of the largest car manufacturers pledging to
work together to make all new car sales zero emission by 2040, and by 2035 in main markets. Countries and cities are following suit with ambitious petrol and diesel car phase-out dates.

Commenting on the final Glasgow Climate Pact, COP26 President Alok Sharma acknowledged the scale of the task remaining: ‘We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5°C alive. But its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.’


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