The result of COP26, hope or disappointment?

By Walter van Helvoirt, Head of ESG – EMERGY AS

Over the last two weeks the world’s leaders of 190 countries gathered in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss protecting our planet from warming up more than 1,5 Celsius.

Bit by bit, the outcomes of this ‘climate summit’ were communicated to the public. I wanted to summarize and take you through the final conclusions from this conference, which is relevant for all of us here at EMERGY. The latest IPCC report had landed with the participants in the conference: the sense of urgency that something must happen to divert our planet from warming up too much was in effect. For that reason, the conference started by the expression of great intentions from of the world’s leaders about the importance of this conference. All major state leaders were present, apart from China and Russia.

The following conclusions and agreements were reached in the final statement, the Glasgow Climate Pact:

  • Under the Paris Agreement, the result of the previous climate summit, 195 countries set a target to keep average global temperature change below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C. Before COP26, the planet was on course for a dangerous 2.7°C of global warming. Based on new announcements made during the Conference, experts estimate that we are now on a path to between 1.8°C and 2.4°C of warming. As a result of this Glasgow summit, Parties have now agreed to revisit their commitments and come back with a plan by end of 2022 to work towards 1,5° max.
  • Despite the efforts of many countries to erase this passage, COP26 agreed for the first time to accelerate efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and subsidies on inefficient fossil fuel and recognized the need for support towards a just transition.
  • COP26 also completed the technical negotiations on the so-called ‘Paris Agreement Rulebook’, which fixes the transparency and reporting requirements for all Parties to track progress against their emission reduction targets. This includes the functioning of international carbon markets to support further global cooperation on emission reductions.
  • On climate finance, the agreed text commits developed countries to double the collective share of adaptation finance within the $100 billion annual target for 2021-2025, and to reach the $100 billion goal as soon as possible. This basically translates to ‘actually paying the money to poor countries that was previously promised to finance their adaption to climate change.
  • Parties also commit to a process to agree on long-term climate finance beyond 2025. The COP also decided to establish a dialogue between parties, stakeholders and relevant organisations to support efforts to avert, minimise and address loss and damage associated with climate change. This is quite a weak text on the compensation that poor countries will receive from rich countries on climate damage (which is almost entirely caused by rich countries)

Further agreements that were reached (but were not signed by all countries):

  • the Global Methane Pledge, a joint EU-US initiative, has mobilised over 100 countries to cut their collective methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, compared to 2020 levels. Unfortunately Russia, an important methane emitter, was one of the parties that didn’t sign this agreement.
  • An agreement to end deforestation by 2030. This was also signed by Brasil.
  • An agreement to abandon sales of new petrol/diesel cars by 2040. This was not signed by amongst others the US and Germany, VW, BMW, Honda and Toyota, while some other big manufacturers like Mercedes Benz, Ford, GM and Volvo did sign).
  • An agreement on abandonment of subsidizing fossil fuels, providing support to the clean energy transition.

Due to high expectations and big words by world leaders at the start of the conference, many people see the final outcome of the conference as disappointing. The passage on stopping the use of coal was taken out at the last moment mainly due to high pressure from India and China, which led to a much weaker end statement. The final agreement states that countries should emit 45% less CO2 as compared to 2010, while their current plans actually increase emissions by 13,7%. Countries have agreed to revisit their plans by the end of 2022 and bring developments back on the 1,5 degrees pathway.

Despite the fact that some of this might be less than expected or wished for, several good steps have been made. The sense of urgency on climate change has been elevated, concrete new targets have been agreed, money will start to flow to countries and sectors that need to adapt and carbon accounting and crediting mechanisms will be functional. For us at EMERGY these are welcome steps which are expected to fuel our business, continuing our work on building a sustainable future.