COP26 has ended in Glasgow with 196 countries agreeing the Glasgow Climate Pact which aims to keep the prospect of limiting average global temperature increases to 1.5C alive. The Conference succeeded in finalising the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement after six years with agreement on The Paris Rulebook; guidelines on how the Paris Agreement will be monitored and delivered.
However, key organising stakeholders acknowledged in closing comments that "while 1.5C remains in sight, it will only be delivered with concerted and immediate global efforts".
All countries present in Glasgow agreed to revisit and strengthen their current emissions targets to 2030, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in 2022. This will be combined with a yearly political roundtable to consider a global progress report and a Leaders summit in 2023.
For the first time, responding to calls from civil society and countries most vulnerable to climate impacts, COP26 agreed action on "phasing down" rather than "phasing out" fossil fuels. The language in COP26’s final text sees countries agree to “accelerating efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies" which represented a significant weakening of the language in earlier versions of the text. Nevertheless, many observers point out that the mention of fossil fuels in the final text is a significant moment and suggests that the writing is on the wall in terms of future fossil fuel use and, particularly, of coal.
COP26 provided the focus and backdrop for various ‘sector deals’ – on coal, deforestation, methane, vehicles, funding for overseas fossil fuels, and getting beyond oil and gas. Each, if properly implemented, should help limit the rise in global temperatures. Each is intended to send strong signals aiming to move markets, making fossil fuels less economic, and their clean alternatives more attractive to investors.
Full agreement was not reached on reparations and financial support mechanisms but the official position of COP26 organisers was that "decisions went further than ever before in recognising and addressing loss and damage from the existing impacts of climate change".
There were commitments to significantly increase financial support through the Adaptation Fund as developed countries were urged to double their support to developing countries by 2025.
Speaking at the conclusion of discussions, COP26 President Alok Sharma said: "Taken together this Package charts a course for the world to deliver on the promises made in Paris...
"Collectively, we have acknowledged that a gulf remains between short term targets, and what is needed to meet the Paris temperature goal [1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial level]. And so our Pact brings Parties back to the table next year to improve their commitments, to drive up ambition across this vital decade...
"It emphasises the urgent need to accelerate our efforts to turn targets into action to keep 1.5 within reach. That work must start now.
"Today, we can say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees within reach, but its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises. If we translate commitments into rapid action."
The final COP26 text follows two years of intense diplomacy and campaigning undertaken by the UK Presidency to raise ambition and secure action from almost 200 countries.
Two years ago, only 30% of the world was covered by net zero targets. Now this figure is around 90%. Over the same period, 154 Parties have submitted new national targets, representing 80% of global emissions.
The UK Presidency said: "We have seen a huge shift in coal, with many more countries committing to phase out unabated coal power and ending international coal financing.
"Alongside this, we have seen a marked commitment to protect precious natural habitats, with 90% of the world’s forests covered by a pledge from 130 countries to end deforestation by 2030.
"While on the world’s roads, the transition to zero emissions vehicles is gathering pace, with some of the largest car manufacturers working together to make all new car sales zero emission by 2040 and by 2035 in leading markets. Countries and cities are following suit with ambitious petrol and diesel car phaseout dates.
"Current policies would leave us on a path to a devastating temperature rise. But work done by independent experts Climate Action Tracker show that with the full implementation of the fresh collective commitments could hold temperature rise to 1.8C.
"Even with the action committed both during and before COP26, communities around the world will continue to feel the impact of our changing planet."
Some stakeholder responses following COP26 (Credit: Aldersgate Group for several as below):
Lord Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change: “Overall, COP26 has been a major step along the way, but it has still left us far short of the target of limiting warming to 1.5C. That it is why it is so important that countries agree to put forward by the end of next year more ambitious pledges for emissions cuts by 2030. COP26 embodied a shared understanding of just how dangerous our current path is, and indeed the dangers of warming beyond 1.5C.
“There is so much work to do over the next 12 months ahead of COP27 in Egypt. The work on finance will be crucial to raising ambition. If we are slow to unlock the finance, we will be slow to raise the ambition.”
Simon Virley, Vice Chair and Head of Energy and Natural Resource, KPMG UK, said: “While the debate has already begun about whether COP26 has been a success or a failure, the truth is it’s somewhere in between. Progress was made in a number of areas: initiatives like GFANZ that has mobilised $130 trillion of ‘net zero’ global capital and the ‘Glasgow Breakthroughs’ on clean tech are welcome, as are the agreements on reforestation, cutting methane, phasing out coal and the take-up of EVs. But, even with these measures, the world is definitely not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said: “It’s meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive, but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters. While the deal recognises the need for deep emissions cuts this decade, those commitments have been punted to next year. Young people who’ve come of age in the climate crisis won’t tolerate many more outcomes like this. Why should they when they’re fighting for their futures?
“Glasgow was meant to deliver on firmly closing the gap to 1.5C and that didn’t happen, but in 2022 nations will now have to come back with stronger targets...Time’s up, we’ve run out of road, and as a matter of self-survival we need to urgently mobilise to create irrepressible pressure that finally ends the era of all fossil fuels.”
Duncan Burt, Chief Sustainability Officer at National Grid, said: “COP26 has set us on a trajectory where we can conquer climate change but we are just at the beginning of a vast effort to deliver and exceed the promises that we have made. There remains much still to do but Glasgow’s COP26 has moved us firmly forward, bringing us with the margin of error of 2C warming. Many of the major building blocks of a climate friendly future are understood and now simply need to be built: zero carbon electricity supply, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure are all underway in the US, UK and around the world. But more needs to be done to demonstrate that richer nations will play their part on leading the global transition: richer nations should go faster and ensure the financial commitments to support the global transition are met."
Greg Jackson, Founder and CEO, Octopus Energy Group, said: "COP26 was a great chance for business leaders, governments and activists around the world to come together to work towards a green, clean future...We have the tools to make green energy the cheapest energy for everyone, let's not waste any more time in weaning ourselves off dirty fossil fuels for good."
Carl Ennis, Chief Executive Officer, Siemens plc, said: “Measure of the success of the COP negotiations must be more nuanced than simply the ultimate target. Net zero, with net benefits, is a journey, and whilst the discussions in Glasgow may not have detailed all the steps required, I believe that we should focus our efforts on delivering what we can do right here, right now. Business is ready to play its part.”
Darren Moorcroft, CEO, Woodland Trust, said: "At COP26 it has become clearer than ever that we must urgently drive down emissions and do all that we can to ensure that staying within 1.5 degrees stays alive. The stakes could not be higher. Life depends on it and that requires leadership which extends way beyond Glasgow and enables everyone to play their part to the full. Another powerful message emanating from COP 26 is that restoring nature is central to tackling the climate crisis and that they are two sides of the same coin."
Peter Jelkeby, Country Retail Manager and CSO, IKEA UK & Ireland, said: “COP26 was an historic opportunity to recommit the world to a 1.5 degree future, and as we emerge from the summit, at IKEA we’re clear that this remains the only way to deliver a more sustainable future. While we welcome the significant announcements made across COP26, governments and our leaders must now listen to the voices of the many people that were raised throughout the summit, including many thousands of inspirational young people to whom we must listen, learn from, and engage with. The UK Government must also recognise the demands for action from businesses and across society, and make good on their commitments and deliver the detailed pathways and policies we need to assemble a better and more sustainable future.”
Zemo Partnership Event: 'Good COP? Bad COP?' What does COP26 mean for the road transport agenda? 23 November, 4-5.30pm (Zemo members only). More details here.
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