COP26 achieved more than expected but less than hoped for


COP26 has always struggled to meet the world’s expectations. The conference did not, in the end, move the world decisively on a path that will save it from the worst ravages of climate change, although events prior to its inception had already made it an unrealistic hope. This COP still left the door open, albeit by only an inch, to contain the general temperature rise to 1.5C – provided countries pay attention to returning in a year’s time with more carbon reduction plans. ambitious for the rest of what is a crucial decade.

Conference chairman Alok Sharma paused briefly at the end, apologizing for a process that allowed for a controversial last-minute change in wording. future of coal. To the anger of many countries, India and China have successfully pushed for the final text to commit governments to phasing out coal energy rather than phasing it out as proposed by an earlier version.

However, the fact that the final agreement also mentions coal by name was a step forward for a UN climate conference, as well as another commitment to phase out subsidies for “inefficient fossil fuels”. So what is the expression of the meeting of “deep regret” for the failure of rich countries to meet the climate financing commitments made to the poorest countries more than a decade ago, and the vote to at least double the funding to help those nations to adapt to a warm climate. These moves are welcome, as is COP26’s spate of side deals aimed at reducing emissions faster, which have been hailed by some of the largest companies and investors.

Yet delegates from nearly 200 countries gathered in Glasgow over the past two weeks are leaving the Scottish city with the same grim math problem they had when they arrived.

All their plans and climate commitments for this decade are still not enough to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global warming “well below” 2 ° C compared to what it was at the time. pre-industrial, and preferably the safest limit of 1.5 ° C. Instead, climate analysts estimate the world is on track for about 2.4C heating, a sobering prospect considering the raging heat, floods and fires that came with the roughly 1.1 ° C of warming the Earth has already experienced. A better estimate of a 1.8 ° C temperature rise is only possible on the basis of the heroic assumption that countries will deliver on all their 2030 promises, as well as pledges to reduce their emissions to zero by 2050 or shortly thereafter.

This finding was largely unavoidable considering how many countries came to Glasgow with weak or substandard plans to cut their emissions. This does not mean, however, that COP26 was useless.

The meeting strengthened the Paris Agreement in several important ways. First, it recognized the primacy of its 1.5 ° C target and the scientific consensus that achieving it will require global emissions to nearly halve by 2030 and reach net zero by around 2050.

The final text asked countries to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 goals as needed to be in line with the Paris target by the end of next year. Finally, they also approved rules to make the Paris Agreement work more transparently and effectively, demonstrating the extent to which global change in sentiment about the need to tackle climate change continues to accelerate.

Other benefits include the unexpected recognition from the United States and China that the imperative to tackle climate change overcomes the many disagreements that divide the two superpowers. The two must now put their words into action, devising dates and plans to accelerate climate action. If emissions in China, which account for around 27% of global greenhouse gas pollution, do not peak before 2030, this raises doubts as to whether the 1.5 ° C target can be reached.

In another encouraging step, Western nations announced at COP26 A $ 8.5 billion deal to help South Africa close its coal plants faster and move to a clean energy economy over the next five years. This concrete evidence of how a “just transition” from dependence on fossil fuels could be achieved is commendable and should be replicated in other large emerging economies that need help with faster decarbonisation.

More offers to cut methane, stop deforestation and phase out sales of new petrol and diesel cars have laid the groundwork for future COPs to spur more direct action. This is also good news. But that’s not good enough either. Around this time next year, Egypt will host COP27. Governments need to ensure it does better than COP26.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here