The UN’s annual climate summit, COP26, ended on Saturday with the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact by nearly 200 countries. Some of those present at COP26, e.g.Others, such as climate activist Greta Thunberg, were not entirely happy with the final result.
This year’s summit was seen as “the world’s last best chance” for action against climate change, with the latest science suggesting that the world is heading for a dangerous rise in global warming by the turn of the century. And the situation is that it is urgent – drastic reductions in carbon emissions are necessary if the world is to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The pact goes some way towards determining how such a goal can be achieved, but views vary on whether it remains achievable. Climate scientists tend to think we will blow past the figure, while diplomats at the event maintained a more positive view. So what is in the pact, and what does it mean to combat the climate crisis in the coming decade? Let’s see.
1.5 degrees Celsius
Under the Paris Agreement signed in 2015, nations are required to limit global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)” before the end of the century and try to keep warming below 1 , 5 degrees Celsius..
How does the pact strengthen the position? That:
“Reaffirms the long-term global goal of keeping the rise in global average temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and “decides to continue efforts to limit the rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive,” said Alok Sharma, UK President of COP26. “But its pulse is weak, and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into swift action.”
Throughout the summit, various projections and models have shown that the world is likely to blow past this figure and reach somewhere between 1.8 and 2.7 degrees warming. Climate scientists I have spoken to agree that we are likely to see more than 1.5 degrees warming by the end of the century.
However, it is urgent again. Nations have been urged to return at COP27 in November 2022 with even more ambitious promises to reduce emissions by 2030, speeding up the timeline set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which called for more ambitious promises every five years . The increased haste has been welcomed by many experts.
Susan Harris Rimmer, director of policy innovation hub at Griffith University in Australia, said nations “will have to submit their homework again next year to show more stringent and realistic plans to achieve the promises made.”
To reduce emissions, the pact must:
“Encourages the parties to accelerate … efforts to reduce unreduced coal power and the phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. “
The key word here is “downsizing”. While the pact was being drafted, reports filtered out that the COP26 agreement would look in phase out coal power. Coal is responsible for almost half of man-made carbon emissions and the main source of electricity production, so a global commitment to stop using it will go a long way towards reducing emissions. But after a significant setback from India and China, the final deal uses the softer language of “downsizing”.
Sharma was critical of China and India in a BBC interview, but noted that “at the end of the day, it’s the first time ever that we have language on coal in a COP decision. I think it’s absolutely historic . ”
However, the diluted language has been seen by some island nations, such as the Maldives, as inadequate. Shauna Aminath, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Technology of the Maldives, tweeted Saturday that “a downsizing of coal will not save the Maldives and island nations.”
It has also been used as an excuse to continue digging up coal. In Australia, seen as a laggard when it comes to action against climate change, Senator Matt Canavan claimed that the phasing out was a “green light” to continue digging up coal. Climate scientists analyzing the agreement disagree.
“It’s extremely disappointing to see COP26 end like this – coal must be abandoned in order for us to ensure a secure climate future,” said Matt England, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales’ Climate Change Research Center.
Developing countries– they have emitted far less carbon dioxide and contributed less to global warming than rich nations, but as signatories of Paris, they have the task of managing themselves without fossil fuels. Still, they have it .
Rich countries had agreed in 2009 to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change by providing $ 100 billion a year in financial assistance from 2020. The Glasgow Pact:
notes with deep regret that the goal of the developed countries’ partners to jointly mobilize $ 100 billion a year by 2020 in the context of meaningful mitigation measures and transparency of implementation has not yet been met.
Developing countries expressed their extreme disappointment at the lack of urgent funding for adaptation projects, and the pact aims to increase funding for these projects. The pact calls on developed nations to “fulfill” this promise by 2025 – in particular, it emphasizes the importance of transparency in the implementation of the promises.
Developing countries have long sought compensation from developed countries for “losses and damage” already caused by the climate crisis. The Glasgow Climate Pact recognizes these issues but does not offer any clear path forward to address this issue.
The next climate summit, COP27, will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, between November 7 and November 18, 2022.
As they entered COP26, nations began updating their promises to reduce emissions, but the pact is putting pressure on them to reduce them further over the coming year. It makes it clear that the current trajectory leaves a small window to limit the heating to 1.5 degrees. COP26 may have been billed as the world’s best last chance, but it’s ended up buying a little more time – because that window still closes quickly.
“As of today, it’s about keeping those promises right and speaking out,” said Pep Canadell, CEO of the Global Carbon Project.