The Glasgow COP26 has concluded with its aim to keep the Paris Agreement alive- limiting global temperature rise within the 1.5°C mark or below 2°C.
Two days before the event ends, on 10 November, the UN released a first draft agreement where it sets what negotiators hope to achieve during the summit. The first draft urges countries to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 climate plans by the end of 2022, set how countries could cut emissions to avoid temperature rise beyond 1.5°C, and encourage rich countries to scale up climate finance support to poorer nations.
India’s new 2030 pledge is significant progress to the summit. However, analysis from the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), an independent, nonprofit scientific body based in Germany, even with India’s new pledge, all governmental pledges taken together is still inadequate to meet the 1.5°C global warming limit but will instead cause a 2.4°C warming by the end of the century (Vaughan, 2021).
Rincon (2021) reports that the deal is the “first-ever climate deal to explicitly plan to reduce coal, the worst fossil fuel for greenhouse gases”. It also presses for more urgent emissions cut and promises more money for developing countries – to help them adapt to climate impacts. But these pledges don’t go far enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5C warming, a threshold that scientists warned would bring the catastrophic and irreversible effect of climate change (Rincon, 2021).
On the last day (12 November) of the two-week summit, world leaders finally agreed on a COP26 deal, despite a compromise on coal.
The Guardian mentions, “The negotiations carried on late into Saturday evening, as governments squabbled over provisions on phasing out coal, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and providing money to the poor world” (Harvey & Carrington, 2021).
“The “Glasgow climate pact” was adopted despite a last-minute intervention by India to water down language on “phasing out” coal to merely “phasing down”.
COP26 President Alok Sharma said he was “deeply sorry” for how events had unfolded and were choked with emotions as he told delegates that it was vital to protect the agreement as a whole (Rincon, 2021).
India’s climate minister Bhupender Yadav defended their actions to intervene by asking how developing countries could promise to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies when they “have still to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication”.
The Guardian reports that while the deal was welcomed by world leaders and environmentalists for keeping alive the “hope of capping global warming at 1.5°C”, many of the nearly 200 delegates wished they had done more” (Harvey & Carrington, 2021).
Watered down climate pledges.
Switzerland’s environment minister, Simonetta Sommaruga expressing her disappointment with the summit’s outcome, said, “We would like to express our profound disappointment that the language we agreed on, on coal and fossil fuels subsidies, has been further watered down,” Swiss environment minister Simonetta Sommaruga said. She adds that “This will not bring us closer to 1.5°C but make it more difficult to reach it” (Rincon, 2021).
But despite the disappointments that environmentalists have expressed, Rincon (2021) notes some positive outcomes. “Despite the weakening of language around coal, some observers will still see the deal as a victory, underlining that it is the first-time coal is explicitly mentioned in UN documents of this type.”
Rincon (2021) further mentions:
- “Coal is responsible for about 40% of annual CO2 emissions, making it central in efforts to keep within the 1.5°C target. To meet this goal, agreed in Paris in 2015, global emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and to nearly zero by mid-century”
- Another observer who felt let-down by the Deal is Lars Kock, a policy director for charity ActionAid who say that the fact that coal was the only fossil fuel mentioned “gives a free pass to the rich countries who have been extracting and polluting for over a century to continue producing oil and gas.”
As part of the deal, countries will meet next year to pledge further carbon reductions to meet the 1.5°C targets.
Despite disappointment expressed by climate activists regarding the Glasgow climate pact, there are a few things in it that are worth celebrating.
The RNZ article, “COP26 agrees new global climate deal with last-minute change on coal”, lists three main achievements of the deal:
- Revisiting emissions-cutting plans next year to try to keep the 1.5C target reachable
- The first-ever inclusion of a commitment to limit coal use
- Increased financial help for developing countries.
Vaughn, A. (2021, 9 November). Current COP26 climate plans would lead to 2.4C of global warming. New Scientist. Retrieved from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2296697-current-cop26-climate-plans-would-lead-to-2-4c-of-global-warming/
Rincon, P. (2021, 14 November). COP26: New global climate deal struck in Glasgow. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-59277788
Harvey, F. & Carrington, D. (2021, 14 November). Glasgow climate pact: leaders welcome COP26 deal despite coal compromise. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/14/glasgow-climate-pact-leaders-welcome-cop26-deal-despite-coal-compromise
COP26 agrees new global climate deal with last-minute change on coal. (2021, 14 November). RNZ. Retrieved from https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/455658/cop26-agrees-new-global-climate-deal-with-last-minute-change-on-coal