Glasgow summit: COP26 climate pact in a nutshell

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Highlights 

  • This year’s COP26 was critical as the next decade is crucial to stay committed to the 1.5 degrees target set in the historic Paris summit.
  • The Glasgow summit couldn’t get the NDCs of all the countries in line with the 1.5C target as only one major emitter, India, came forward with a new NDC.
  • An agreement to double to climate finance for adaptation was made at the Glasgow summit.

After being overrun by a day, Saturday bought an end to the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference hosted by the UK in Glasgow. Government representatives, negotiators, businesses, and citizens from all over the world came together at the summit to find solutions for climate issues. COP26 was critical as the next decade is crucial to stay committed to the 1.5 degrees target set in the historic Paris summit. The window to achieve this target is closing and thus countries must take more steps than planned earlier to control the global temperatures.

Let’s briefly take a look at some of the key point that the delegates agreed upon.

  1. Emission cuts

The nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which are basically the current plans of countries to reduce emissions by 2030, are not enough to control the temperate rising over 1.5C. The temperature could even reach 2.4C if the plans aren’t revised, as per the analysis published during the talks.

The Glasgow summit couldn’t get the NDCs of all the countries in line with the 1.5C target as only one major emitter, India, came forward with a new NDC. However, as the NDCs are to be revised every five years, the 2025 summit will be scheduled to set the new NDCs for beyond 2030. This requirement to discuss the new NDCs every five years were set at the 2015 Paris Summit. As sticking to the 2015 NDCs would not be able to sustain the 1.5C goal, swifter revisions were necessary. The next year’s COP summit is to be held in Egypt with the agenda to revise the NDCs, which will continue in the 2023 COP.

The Glasgow summit wasn’t intended to resolve the climate crisis and laying up a roadmap for the revision of NDCs next year is a good move or now. Laid back countries will hopefully follow the lead of countries with higher ambitions to cut emissions.

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  1. Coal

The world can’t stick to the 1.5C goal if coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, isn’t phased out and replaced by cleaner sources of energy, as per the International Energy Agency. No new coal-fired power plants should be built and at least 40% of the existing 8,500 plants should be shut down by 2030 to achieve this goal.

The commitment regarding “phasing down” of power generation from coal was the most controversial topic of discussion as India insisted to alter the original plan of “phasing out”, despite request from other developing countries.

Fossil fuels are the focal point of the climate crises but ironically no direct reference has been made to the phasing out fossil fuels under any COP decision since the 1997 Kyoto protocol.

This represents the aggressive objection from the countries producing oil and coal and from those who are highly reliant on the consumption of fossil fuels.

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  1. Adaptation and climate finance

In 2009, rich countries across the globe came together and agreed upon creating a US $100 billion (£75 billion) fund, which will be used by poor countries to cut emissions and fight climate change a year from 2020. However, the commitment wasn’t met and only US$80 billion flowed as per the 2019 data. This has antagonised developing countries, and thus they have been promised $500 billion of climate finance as compensation in the next five years. Instead of emissions cuts, the developing countries want more finances for adaptation, as emissions-cutting projects can be funded even without help because they generate profits. While on the other hand, adaptation requires a lot of funding, especially by the poor countries that are already hit the hardest by climate crisis.

An agreement to double to climate finance for adaptation was made at the Glasgow summit. Even though a 50:50 split was called for between funding for emissions cuts and adaptation, the funding made available isn’t enough, but it was still an important step forward.

Loss and damage

Very little progress has been made regarding loss and damage caused by natural calamities, like hurricanes and cyclones. The repairs take away a large chunk of funds available with the developing countries, which increases the burden on their already stretched budget, while developed countries are just trying to get away with the legal liability to compensate for their disproportionately high contributions towards such calamities.

This issue will hopefully be addressed next year as no further steps regarding loss and damage funding mechanism have been taken at the COP26, despite the Santiago Network being set up at the last year’s COP.

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Bottom line

The Paris goals were reaffirmed at the Glasgow summit, which was a big achievement in itself as stronger initiatives must be taken by countries to stick to the 1.5C goal. Every fraction of a degree counts and nations must stand together in this fight against climate change and contribute as much as possible to limit rises the temperate to 1.5C.



 


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