The gavel finally came down at COP26 a day after the conference was due to end (well, technically, a year after). Moments later, summit president Alok Sharma took to the podium and had to compose himself after a last-minute intervention from India and China to change the wording in the COP26 cover text to ‘phase down’ rather than ‘phase out’ coal.
His emotional response to changing a single word in the Glasgow Climate Pact highlights both the high stakes and political realities of such consensus-driven negotiations. In addition to the cover text, two weeks of talks resulted in changes to the Paris Agreement’s rulebook and a flurry of announcements and initiatives from countries and companies on climate change.
What are the most-important takeaways from COP26?
The rules of the Paris Agreement
One of the main aims of the meeting was to finalise the ‘Paris rulebook’, originally to be agreed upon at COP25. Outstanding elements most notably included Article 6 on carbon markets.
COP 26 passed rules to establish a global carbon market and to facilitate bilateral carbon trading. A compromise was agreed between nations looking for a robust market that avoided any risk of emissions double-counting, and others looking to use older carbon credits from the Kyoto Protocol. Under the deal, credits extending back to 2013 can be traded between countries and used against national emissions reduction targets.
Transparency rules were agreed that will see all countries report their climate pledges and their progress towards these in a common format by 2024, allowing for easier comparability between climate plans. This agenda item survived despite significant pushback, although some low-emitting developing countries were given exemptions under the reporting rules.
A return to NDCs
To realise the ambition of the Glasgow Climate Pact and limit global warming to 1.5C means cutting emissions 45% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050. This is some way from being achieved: analysis from Climate Action Tracker puts the world on a 2.1-2.4C warming pathway accounting for existing pledges and targets (see Exhibit 1).
Parties have agreed to revisit their climate pledges – or nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – at COP27 with the aim of strengthening them by the end of 2022. This is a critical step in closing the emissions gap to 1.5C.
Glasgow saw countries agree, as part of the rulebook, to encourage other nations to set their NDCs in five-year periods beyond 2031. Many wanted the wording to be stronger here to force countries to use a five-year timetable.
From a financial perspective, countries agreed to phase out ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies. This, along with the specific reference to coal mentioned above, marks the first time fossil fuels have been specifically called out in a COP outcome text.
The Glasgow Climate Pact mentions for the first time the need to cut other greenhouse gases alongside CO2. In this regard, the Global Methane Pledge was signed by over 100 nations, notably without China, to reduce methane emissions 30% by 2030.
- Over USD 19 billion n in both
public and private funds will be put towards ending deforestation by 2030. However,
Indonesia – one of the world’s most heavily forested countries – has already
seemingly reneged on the agreement, along with Brazil.
- More than 20 countries
committed to ending the financing of overseas fossil fuel projects, instead
pledging to divert funding to green energy initiatives. Furthermore, more than
40 nations have pledged to ditch coal.
- The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, which
comprises 450 worldwide companies including BNP Paribas Asset Management, BNP
Paribas and Cardif, highlighted that more than USD 130 trillion of global
assets are now focused on tackling climate issues.
- A slew of national net-zero
commitments were made. India unveiled a surprise 2070 net-zero target and
Nigeria – Africa’s largest oil producer – announced it is seeking carbon
neutrality by 2060.
- Finally, several countries and six major carmakers agreed to phase out the production of fossil fuel-based vehicles by 2040.
Another positive outcome was an announcement from the US and China that they would boost their climate cooperation over the next decade.
The Glasgow Climate Pact includes an explicit goal for developed countries to double their climate adaptation funding for developing countries by 2025 from 2019 levels, taking the annual figure to around USD 40 billion.
An additional USD 356 million was committed to the Adaptation Fund, and an important dialogue has been started on the contentious issue of ‘loss and damage’.
While this is all welcome progress, developed countries are still failing to meet their USD 100 billion per year climate financing commitment to emerging economies, which was supposed to have been reached in 2020. At Glasgow, nations now pledged to fully deliver on that goal by 2025.
The failure to reach the USD 100 billion, alongside providing broader adaptation support, shows the continued need to push for a just transition and highlights the role that private finance can play given the failure so far to reach the public investment levels needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. This marks a clear call to action for private investors to help direct capital to where it is most needed in support of climate mitigation and adaptation.
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Also watch the video with Thibaud Clisson on what happened at COP26