COP26 Glasgow: Success or failure?

COP26 Glasgow: Success or failure?
Credit: European Space Agency

After lengthy last-minute negotiations on Saturday, the parties representing nearly 200 countries at the UN Climate Change Conference managed reaching consensus in the form of the Glasgow Climate Pact which is expected to keep the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5C alive.

“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive,” said COP26 President Alok Sharma when he thanked the parties and delegates on Saturday evening (13 November). “But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action. I am grateful to the UNFCCC for working with us to deliver a successful COP26.”

EU’s lead negotiator, Vice-President Frans Timmermans, was also satisfied. “It is my firm belief that the text that has been agreed reflects a balance of the interests of all Parties, and allows us to act with the urgency that is essential for our survival.”

”It is a text that can bring hope to the hearts of our children and grandchildren. It is a text, which keeps alive the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. And it is a text which acknowledges the needs of developing countries for climate finance, and sets out a process to deliver on those needs.”

However, the final verdict is still out there and depends on what will happen at next conference, COP27, and if pledges and commitments will be implemented in the next few years. As the latest update of the emissions gap shows, global warming over the 21st century is projected to 2.5°C - 2.7°C unless drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are carried out until 2030.

Small island countries, indigenous people, climate activists and non-state actors were largely disappointed with the outcome of the conference and the watering down by major polluters in developing countries on critical texts in the Glasgow Climate Pact on the ending or phasing out of fossil fuels.

The Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament criticised the last-minute change submitted by China and India to further weaken the text on the necessary phase-out of coal and of fossil fuels subsidies.

“Talks at COP26 have resulted in a series of ill-defined promises and announcements, insufficient to keep global temperature rises below 1.5°C,” commented the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament. “We are still far from reducing our global emissions by 45% by 2030.”

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead on Climate and Energy, was cautiously optimistic: “We must acknowledge that progress was made.  There are now new opportunities for countries to deliver on what they know must be done to avoid a climate catastrophe. But unless they sharply pivot to implementation and show substantial results, they will continue to have their credibility challenged.”

“This COP marks the first time that fossil fuels subsidies are mentioned in an approved decision text as well as the recognition of the need to ramp up investments in clean energy while ensuring a just transition.”

That said, we are still on track for warming well above 2°C according to recent analyses, a future that will be catastrophic for millions of people and for nature, WWF warned.

Despite their overall satisfaction with the outcome, the COP26 president and its executive secretary were well aware of the fact that the world is still far from a credible trajectory towards limiting global warming to 1.5°C. The emissions gap remains a serious threat to the future of the planet.

“If we succeed, he'll be living in a world that's liveable,” Commission Vice-President Timmermans said at an EU press conference on Friday, referring to his one-year-old grandchild. “He'll be living in an economy that is clean, with air that is clean, at peace with his environment.”

“If we fail, and I mean fail now within the next couple of years, he will fight with other human beings for water and food. That's the stark reality we face. So 1.5 degrees is about avoiding a future for our children and grandchildren that is unliveable."

Under the Paris Agreement, 195 countries set a target to keep average global temperature change below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C. Before COP26, the planet was on course for a dangerous 2.7°C of global warming. Based on new announcements made during the Conference, experts estimate that we are now on a path to between 1.8°C and 2.4°C of warming, according to the Commission.

In the Glasgow conclusions, Parties agreed to revisit their commitments, as necessary, by the end of 2022 to put the world on track for 1.5°C of warming, maintaining the upper end of ambition under the Paris Agreement.

In order to deliver on these promises, COP26 also agreed for the first time to accelerate efforts towards the phase-down (note: not phase-out) of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies (note: still allowed), and recognised the need for support towards a just transition.

COP26 also completed the technical negotiations on the so-called Paris Agreement Rulebook, which fixes the transparency and reporting requirements to track progress against emission reduction targets. The Rulebook also includes the Article 6 mechanisms, which set out the functioning of international carbon markets to support further global cooperation on emission reductions.

On climate finance, the agreed text commits developed countries to double the collective share of adaptation finance within the $100 billion annual target for 2021-2025, and to reach the $100 billion goal as soon as possible. Parties also commited to a process to agree on long-term climate finance beyond 2025.

Professor Emeritus Pinhas Alpert at the Department of Geophysics, Tel-Aviv University, told The Brussels Times that he is optimistic about the future. The author of more than 400 papers on climate change since 1979, he also represented Israel at COP15 in 2009 in Copenhagen.

“People were pessimistic about the ozone hole but the hole has started to close although it will take more years until it will be completed closed,” he said.

“I’m seeing a positive change in politics with more countries pledging net zero-emission by the mid of the century, including China, and more budgets allocated to climate mitigation and adaptation,” he underlined. “It’s a development we could only dream about in the past. The distance between words and action is small. With China deciding to reduce emissions, we’ll be on the right track.”

“Today, we are all aware of the urgent need to act in face of the recent extreme weather events caused by human-induced climate change.”

M. Apelblat

The Brussels Times

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