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where do all the words and numbers we heard at COP26 leave us?

Creator : Mary Gagen, Professor of Bodily Geography, Swansea College

No UN local weather convention has seen such a blizzard of promising local weather statements in such a brief area of time because the 26th convention of the events – COP26 – hosted in Glasgow. The convention concluded with 197 nations agreeing to a brand new local weather deal, the Glasgow Local weather Pact.

International locations had made various commitments to restrict emissions by 2030, often known as “nationally decided contributions” (NDCs), upfront of COP26. Many then added long-term web zero statements to their NDCs through the convention – such because the UK’s web zero by 2050 pledge – in addition to different, non-binding statements regarding difficulty comparable to renewable power.

That leaves three completely different sources of emissions claims to evaluate to take inventory of the place we now stand.

This COP has seen a slew of formidable statements – together with the first-ever alliance focusing on fossil gas extraction and a 220-member local weather motion coalition – but it surely’s tough to depend on their implementation.

Many statements have been made by coalitions of small nations on points comparable to deforestation, methane emissions and coal use. However these aren’t binding agreements amongst all 197 events to the UN Framework Conference on Local weather Change (UNFCCC) who participate in COP. They’re statements of intention which, sadly, usually are not all the time fulfilled.

And though local weather targets set by the Paris Local weather Settlement embody pursuing efforts to restrict floor warming of the planet to 1.5°C above its pre-industrial common by 2100, present emissions pledges will nonetheless seemingly end in warming of over 2°C. This disparity has been referred to as the “credibility hole”.

Land struck by drought
Because the world warms, droughts and heatwaves are forecast to extend.
GlobalWaterPartnership/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

In a world warmed by 1.5 °C, round 14% of the world’s 7.9 billion folks would expertise extreme heatwaves at the least as soon as each 5 years. At 2°C of warming, the variety of folks affected could be 3 times better, exposing an extra 1.7 billion folks to life-threatening excessive warmth.

To attain the 1.5°C goal, international emissions must fall by 45% by 2030. However an evaluation by award-winning local weather evaluation website Carbon Transient discovered that present local weather insurance policies will result in floor warming of round 2.7°C by 2100. If nations handle to fulfil all their NDCs for 2030 and ship on statements made at COP26, projected warming falls to round 2.4°C. If nations additionally meet their targets for reaching web zero, this might nonetheless imply 1.8°C of warming.


The ultimate hours of a COP are when numerous clauses turn into strengthened and weakened, from first to second to third to ultimate draft. These hours have been primarily spent debating three questions:

NDCs: Would the Glasgow Local weather Pact commit nations to lowering emissions as quick as doable by bringing them again annually to submit extra formidable NDCs?

Former UN local weather chief Christiana Figueres beforehand advised that nations strengthen their NDCs for 2030 in 2022, moderately than in 2025. In its ultimate model, the pact requests – not compels – nations to do that. It stays to be seen how nations will reply, nonetheless – within the hours after COP, the US and Australia had already declined requests to enhance their NDCs subsequent 12 months.

Fossil fuels: Would the pact embody agency commitments for winding down fossil gas manufacturing and finalise guidelines for emissions buying and selling and offsetting carbon air pollution?

For the primary time in a UN local weather settlement, all 4 drafts of the Pact – together with the ultimate model – contained a press release on fossil fuels. Sadly, this ultimate assertion was closely watered down.

Though the draft initially referred to as for nations to “speed up the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels”, this phrasing was modified to request that nations “speed up the phasing out of unabated coal and inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”.

A coal plant at night
Fossil fuels have been a spotlight of COP26 negotiations.

It was hoped this important assertion could be strengthened by the just lately introduced collaborative dedication between the present (China) and traditionally (US) largest greenhouse gasoline emitters to satisfy 1.5°C targets within the 2020s.

In the long run, it was this alliance that weakened the wording on coal. Consensus was solely reached when events agreed, with seen sorrow, to simply accept a late intervention to alter the “phasing out” of coal to “phasing down”. It’s unsurprising that the best pushback was on fossil fuels, an trade that obtained US$5.9tn (£4.4tn) of subsidies worldwide in 2020.

Finance: Would the settlement present ample ranges of economic assist to assist growing nations adapt to and survive local weather change?

Different important components of the pact revolve round monetary components of local weather change, together with setting costs for carbon buying and selling, funding local weather adaptation and paying for loss and injury brought on by excessive climate. An announcement in an early draft sought to determine monetary help to “avert, minimise and deal with loss and injury related to the antagonistic results of local weather change in growing nations”.

Two men stand in front of a sign
UK prime minister Boris Johnson and COP26 president Alok Sharma held a post-COP26 press convention to debate subsequent steps.
Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Avenue, CC BY

This might have established the Glasgow Loss and Injury Facility for channelling cash to help folks on the frontline of local weather change impacts. Nonetheless, this was blocked by the EU and US, a blow for growing world nations.

On a extra optimistic notice, the pact commits developed nations to doubling funding to assist growing nations adapt to local weather change by 2025. Plus carbon buying and selling guidelines have been lastly agreed, albeit with potential loopholes for firms wishing to make use of carbon offsetting to proceed emitting whereas paying others to go away carbon within the floor.

Shifting forwards

Views on the pact’s success are deeply polarised. The COP presidency received the pact over the road solely by asking for some to make sacrifices and others to simply accept smaller wins, in what COP president Alok Sharma argued was total a balanced settlement. The whole downside with local weather change, nonetheless, is that it’s the results of profound historic and ongoing imbalance.

The decision to maneuver past coal and fossil fuels subsidies, and to “hold 1.5 alive”, survived – albeit it in a important situation. However these hailing COP26 as a hit owe profound gratitude to the growing world nations who accepted the pact and selected to not ask for the stability on local weather change to be paid in full – but.

COP26: the world's biggest climate talks

This story is a part of The Dialog’s protection on COP26, the Glasgow local weather convention, by specialists from around the globe.

Amid a rising tide of local weather information and tales, The Dialog is right here to clear the air and be sure you get data you may belief. Extra.


The Conversation

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