Compromise and contradictions
“The outcome of COP26 is a compromise. It reflects the interests, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today. It is an important step, but it is not enough,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the conclusion of the conference. Watch below.
The Glasgow Climate Pact, adopted by almost 200 countries after two intense weeks of negotiations, will not radically alter the global landscape on climate change. It does provide important advances, however. For starters, it recognizes the global climate emergency, citing recent IPCC findings. It expresses “alarm and utmost concern that human activities have caused around 1.1°C of global warming to date and that impacts are already being felt in every region.” Parties also recognize that the impacts of climate change will be much lower at a 1.5°C rise compared with 2°C, and resolved to pursue efforts to keep to 1.5°C.
The Pact significantly ramps up the call for greater action and financing for adaptation. It urges developed countries to at least double their collective climate finance for adaptation in developing countries from 2019 levels by 2025, to ensure a balance between adaptation and mitigation. It calls on multilateral development banks, other financial institutions and the private sector to enhance finance mobilization to deliver the scale of resources needed to achieve climate plans.
COP26 also reached agreement on key provisions of the “Paris Agreement Rulebook”, a source of contentious negotiations over the last six years. The agreement covers issues around market mechanisms and transparency.
Multilateralism in action
Hours of wrangling before the adoption of the COP26 decision required carefully addressing the views and interests of close to 200 parties. There were countries focused on limiting global warming to 1.5°C. There were developing countries intent on securing firm pledges on climate finance. And there were vulnerable countries demanding compensation for those suffering the impacts of climate change. Agreement in one area affects agreements in others – it’s a give and take.
Read the final wrap-up from UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa on four significant accomplishments in the world’s efforts to confront the climate crisis.
The adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact did not come easily. A much-contested clause to phase out coal and end fossil fuel subsidies was changed at the last moment, at the insistence of India. It offered a new formulation on the “phase-down” of coal. Other Parties accepted this, but grudgingly, at best. Switzerland called the new language “watered down” and said, “This will not bring us closer to 1.5, but it may make it more difficult to reach it.” The Marshall Islands and others said they would accept the change “with the greatest reluctance”.
That was not the only issue that did not please many parties. “By no means perfect,” said China. “Least-worst agreement,” said New Zealand. “We still have issues and deep concerns,” said Bolivia. “Text on the table makes us uncomfortable,” said Grenada. India felt that the agreement was unfairly calling for developing countries to take actions that could threaten their development. But almost every country affirmed that while the outcome was far from perfect, the alternative – walking away with no agreement – would be worse.
COP27 starts now
While COP26 didn’t deliver the full range of ambition needed to address climate change, it did provide many of the building blocks for future action. “I know we can get there,” the Secretary-General said. “We are in the fight of our lives. Never give up. Never retreat. Keep pushing forward. I will be with you all the way. COP27 starts now.”