Cop26: What has been achieved and agreed by leaders at the climate summit?

All the biggest developments and announcements from Glasgow as countries congregate to cut emissions and tackle the climate emergency

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Thursday 11 November 2021 10:25
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Cop26: David Attenborough urges world leaders to turn ‘tragedy into triumph’
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World leaders from 200 countries are in Glasgow for the Cop26 climate summit, along with 20,000 delegates and tens of thousands more protesters, campaigners and pressure groups all brought together in the latest international effort to thwart the worsening climate crisis.

The announcements and agreements are coming thick and fast, so to help you stay on top of what’s going on and what matters, The Independent is keeping track of all the major developments at the conference.

The main goal of Cop26 – and its unofficial strapline – is to “keep 1.5 alive”, meaning countries must commit to reducing world fossil-fuel emissions to net zero by 2050 – the date by which the UN has said further emissions will mean global average temperatures will rise at least 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

As part of this process, countries must set out their new emission-reduction targets, which are to take effect by 2030. These policy promises are known as “nationally determined contributions” or NDCs, and most countries submitted them ahead of the summit.

Already, the prospect of keeping 1.5 alive looks remote, as China – the world’s biggest polluter – is still focusing on a previously announced 2060 net zero goal, while India has told the conference it is now targeting a 2070 net zero deadline, and Russia is yet to set a formal goal.

But despite this inauspicious start, there are still many days left to hash out deals, and there is plenty of momentum to drive considerable change, not just on emissions but across a huge range of areas – from financing a shift to greener economies to international collaboration on decarbonisation efforts, such as reforestation, and reducing environmental impacts on oceans and soils, as well as technological responses to the climate crisis.

Here are the biggest moments of Cop26 so far:

100 countries sign up to deforestation pledge

At the end of day one, the UK government announced that almost 100 countries had signed up to a deforestation pledge to begin restoring the world’s forests by 2030.

Leaders representing countries that are home to 85 per cent of the planet’s forests – including Brazil – will commit to “halt and reverse” deforestation by the end of the decade.

Ecuador to expand Galapagos protections

Ecuador’s president announced that his country is expanding the marine reserve around the Galapagos Islands – one of the world’s biodiversity jewels – by almost half.

President Guillermo Lasso said a new marine reserve would cover 60,000 sq km (more than 23,000 square miles), adding to an existing marine reserve of about 130,000 sq km (50,000 square miles).

India sets out 2070 net zero target

India set out a net zero emissions target for 2070, along with a commitment to increase India’s renewable energy sources in the country’s energy mix by 50 per cent by 2030. Prime minister Narendra Modi said India was already making considerable efforts to stick to the climate pledges it made in 2015 as part of the Paris Agreement.

Countries back tech plan to hit net zero

A total of 40 nations are backing the “Glasgow Breakthroughs” – a commitment to give developing countries access to the innovation and tools needed to make the shift to net zero carbon emissions.

Downing Street believes the initiative can create 20 million new jobs globally and add over $16 trillion to the economies of both emerging and advanced economies.

South Africa paid to ditch coal

In a first-of-its-kind agreement, South Africa will receive around $8.5bn from the United States and European countries to help it ditch coal, its major power source.

The funds will be provided as loans and grants over five years to help South Africa move away from coal-fired plants, which provide about 90 per cent of the country’s electricity.

International methane agreement

On Tuesday almost 100 countries committed to cutting back emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane, thought to be responsible for around a third of global average temperature rises since the industrial revolution.

The nations have agreed to slash methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, compared to levels in 2020.

Finance industry forced to show net zero plans

The UK’s financial institutions and listed companies will be forced to publish their plans on how they will transition to net zero, the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday.

But Greenpeace said the plan to turn the country into a “net zero financial centre” was a marketing slogan, and still allowed companies to invest heavily in fossil fuels.

The end of coal?

One of the UK’s key aims for Cop26 was to try and draw a line beneath the world’s coal usage, and on Wednesday night, it was announced that 190 countries and organisations had agreed to end coal-fired power, including major coal countries such as Poland and Vietnam.

However, even larger players such as China, India and Australia have not signed up to the deal.

The pact will see major economies phasing out coal power in the 2030s and the rest of the world ending use in the 2040s.

World governments pledge to cut farming emissions

Some 45 governments around the world have pledged urgent action and investment to protect nature and shift to more sustainable ways of farming.

Announcing plans to reform agricultural practices on Saturday, the UK government acknowledged there was “an urgent need to reform the way we grow and consume food” to tackle the climate crisis.

UK pledges £290 million in climate aid

As the second week of the conference kicked off in Glasgow, the UK government announced it was pledging new funding of £290m to help countries largely across Asia and the Pacific better prepare for extreme weather and other potential changes.

Diplomats and negotiators are hoping to raise further funding pledges from other countries to add to the billions already raised from states including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the US.

Australia to encourage electric car sales

Australia’s prime minister on Tuesday announced plans to encourage people to buy electric vehicles weeks after his government was accused of being a laggard on tackling the climate crisis.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the price of the technology would reduce in time and offered no subsidies to buyers of electric cars.

“The costs of technology are coming down, and that means the choices available to Australians and right around the world are becoming more accessible, so our plans are all about supporting those choices,” Morrison said.

Nations’ short-term plans would result in 2.4C of global heating

Countries’ short-term climate plans are still far off what is needed to meet the Paris agreement’s target, a new analysis concludes, as the UK admitted there was still a “mountain to climb” before the finale of the Cop26 climate summit.

On Tuesday, the research group Climate Action Tracker (CAT) released a global update showing that nations’ plans for how they will slash emissions by the end of this decade would result in 2.4C of heating by 2100.

Cop26 draft outcome urges countries to strengthen efforts

A draft “cover decision” setting out the potential outcome from the Cop26 climate summit has been published by the UK presidency of the talks.

The document urges countries to “revisit and strengthen” their domestic climate pledges for 2030 by the end of next year to try to give the world a better chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the aspiration of the Paris Agreement.

It says that meeting the 1.5C aspiration needs meaningful and effective action in “this critical decade”.

Fossil fuel buses and lorries face sales ban from 2040

Wednesday was ‘Transport day’ during week two of Cop26. It was marked by a group of 13 nations setting out plans to end the sales of diesel and petrol buses and lorries by 2040 — matching an existing UK pledge, and 10 years after the end of petrol and diesel cars.

Described as a “turning point for the global transport sector”, the countries will work together towards an interim target of having 30 per cent of sales of new medium and heavy-duty vehicles being zero-emissions by 2030, with 100 per cent a decade later.

The countries include: Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Uruguay and the UK.

John Kerry says US will be coal free by 2030

Coal is the biggest contributor to the climate crisis, and remains a significant source of emissions in the US. As recently as 2020, Donald Trump was still talking about the valuable role “beautiful clean coal” played in the US economy. But not for much longer.

US climate envoy John Kerry has said the US will phase out burning coal by the end of the decade.

Speaking to Bloomberg on Tuesday in Glasgow, Scotland, Mr Kerry said: “By 2030 in the United States, we won’t have any coal.”

US and China make pact to cooperate on climate crisis

Late on Wednesday night the US and China made a joint declaration at the Cop26 summit to accelerate measures in the 2020s to tackle the climate crisis.

The world’s two largest polluters have committed to a working group for this decade, saying they will “meet regularly” and focus on “concrete actions”.

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