analysis

Cop26: 10 key takeaways from the final deal agreed in Glasgow

The marathon climate summit saw progress in key areas but disappointment in others. Daisy Dunne, Louise Boyle and Andrew Woodcock walk through the 10 key conclusions

Saturday 13 November 2021 22:01
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<p>The Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow has finally drawn to a close</p>

The Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow has finally drawn to a close

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After more than two straight weeks of tough negotiations, shock announcements and late-night huddles, the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow has finally drawn to a close.

The final agreement from the summit, known as the Glasgow Climate Pact, has been signed off by 197 countries, ranging from the big emitters such as China and India to the small island states whose very existence is imperilled by the climate crisis.

Reached by consensus, the document aims to keep alive hopes of keeping global temperatures at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, the aspiration of the Paris Agreement. Below are 10 of the key takeaways from the landmark agreement.

Countries ‘requested’ to set tougher 2030 climate plans

A crucial element of the new deal is a request for countries to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 climate plans by the end of next year. Before this, countries were not expected to come back with new national climate plans until 2025.

This passage matters because analysis shows that countries’ current 2030 plans would result in 2.4C of global heating by 2100, far above the Paris aim of keeping temperatures below 2C with the aspiration of keeping them at 1.5C.

By inviting countries to submit new plans, the new pact has given fresh life to hopes the world can get on track to meet the 1.5C goal. However, there is no guarantee that countries will come forward with tougher climate plans by the end of 2022.

Fossil fuels feature for first time – with a last-minute adjustment

Another key element of the text is a call to accelerate “phasing down” unabated coal power and phasing out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. (“Unabated” means coal power that is not tied to a still-emergent technology for capturing CO2 emissions.)

The language in this section was weakened at the very last minute, with India calling for “phasing down” to replace a firmer “phasing out” during the conference’s final plenary on Saturday night. India’s move prompted an emotional Alok Sharma, Cop26 president, to apologise.

Despite this, it is the first time a mention of fossil fuels, the major driver of the climate crisis, has been included in a UN climate document of this kind.

‘Alarm and utmost concern’ over current pace of global heating

The text expresses “alarm and utmost concern” that humans have already caused global temperatures to increase by 1.1C since the start of the industrial era, leading to impacts in “every region” of the world.

This language reflects the conclusions of a recent landmark climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is formally “welcomed” in the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Rich world admits ‘deep regret’ over broken finance promises

The final agreement from Glasgow expresses “deep regret” that a long-held promise from wealthy nations to provide $100bn in funding to poorer countries grappling with climate impacts by 2020 was not met.

This was a specific demand of developing world nations, who say the failure to meet the promise has irrevocably damaged trust. The text also calls on developed countries to deliver on the $100bn “urgently” and through to 2025.

Developed countries agree to double funds for adaptation

As part of the pact, developed countries have pledged to double the amount they spend on helping poorer countries adapt to climate impacts from 2019 levels by 2025.

It comes after a UN report published last week found that the cost of climate impacts in developing countries would have been between five and 10 times higher than the amount of financial aid on offer from rich nations ahead of the conference.

Developing world disappointed over ‘loss and damage’

Despite some progress on finance, developing countries left Glasgow largely dissatisfied on the issue.

Many developing countries had called for the creation of a financial assistance programme to help them deal with the “loss and damage” caused by the climate crisis, such as the loss of human life during extreme weather events.

However, the idea received strong pushback from the US and EU and did not feature in the final Glasgow Climate Pact.

Call to curb methane by 2030

The text invites countries to consider how they will cut methane, a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas created by animal agriculture and fossil fuel production, over the next decade.

It comes after around 100 countries signed up a global pledge to slash methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, when compared to levels in 2020. China also agreed to slash its methane emissions in a separate deal with the US.

Mention of ‘nature-based solutions’ deleted

“Nature-based solutions”, tools to tackle the climate crisis by harnessing natural habitats, was billed to play a major role at Cop26 but ended up getting cut from the final agreement.

While the first draft of the Cop26 emphasises “the critical importance of nature-based solutions”, the final agreement instead notes “the importance of protecting, conserving and restoring nature and ecosystems”.

Paris rulebook finalised

The new texts agreed in Glasgow saw countries finally tie up the remaining sections of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement.

This includes new rules on “transparency”, meaning all countries will now have to report emissions and progress every two years. It should give observers a clearer picture on whether nations are living up to their climate promises.

It also includes a solution for a little-known and highly contentious section of text known as Article 6, which covers carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation. There are fears that the conditions agreed do not go far enough.

Role of indigenous people, youth and children ‘recognised’

The final text from Glasgow makes a specific mention of the “important role” that “indigenous peoples, local communities, youth, children, local and regional governments and other stakeholders” play in tackling the climate crisis.

Young climate activists staged multiple protests in Glasgow over the past two weeks. On the summit’s first day, 12-year-old Francisco Vera from Colombia called for Cop26 to hear the “voices of children”.

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