Narrowing the differences

As parts of COP26 spent a day taking up climate and gender connections, negotiations on a final outcome agreement entered high gear. Ministers led discussions to narrow differences on key issues that will determine climate ambition going forward. Smaller negotiating groups took up finance, adaptation, market solutions, the need for greater transparency and accountability, and a proposal for more frequent updates of national climate plans. 

COP26 President Alok Sharma said a text would be released overnight that reflects the state of the negotiations. “The time has now come to find political consensus on the areas of divergence, and we have only a few days left,” he said. While describing COP26 as making progress, he stressed that “we still have a mountain to climb over the next few days. The gap in ambition has narrowed. Now the world needs confidence that we will shift immediately into implementation – that the pledges made here will be delivered and that the policies and investments will swiftly follow.” 

Still off-track for 1.5°C

The most recent national climate plans will do little to alter the current global trajectory that leads to 2.7°C of warming this century. Per the latest count, 150 countries representing 80 per cent of emissions have submitted the plans. UNEP head Inger Andersen said that while the plans and new net-zero goals were welcome, they do not change the big picture much. “It’s like an elephant giving birth to a mouse,” she commented. 

UN Special Climate Advisor Selwin Hart said, “When one looks at the level of ambition, we’re way off target from meeting the 1.5C goal. And no amount of sugar-coating can convince us (otherwise). We need to turbocharge ambition. The fight to keep 1.5 degrees alive will be won or lost over the course of this decade.”

Planting a global future

Today was gender day at COP26. Representing young girls who could not be present was Little Amal, a not-so-little 3.5-metre-tall living artwork of a young Syrian refugee child. The giant puppet travelled 8,000 kilometres from Turkey, through Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium to the United Kingdom to focus attention on the urgent needs of young refugees. She stood on stage alongside climate activist Brianna Fruean from Samoa. 

“We have arrived here at COP from two very different places, but we are connected by the fact that we are living in a broken world that has systemically marginalized women and girls, especially women and girls from vulnerable communities,” said Fruean. Little Amal brought a gift of seeds to share with COP26 ministers, reminding them of their role as “planters of a global future”. 

In pursuit of gender parity

Despite moves towards gender equality in UN climate change work, male overrepresentation remains obvious in government delegations and beyond. A UNFCCC report released shortly before COP26 showed that women government delegates in 2021 occupied, on average, only 33 per cent of all positions in bodies established under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. 

At the last in-person climate change conference, COP25 in Madrid, 60 per cent of government delegates and 73 per cent of heads and deputy heads of delegations were men. While men accounted for 51 per cent of registered government delegates, they made up 60 per cent of active speakers in meetings attended by all Parties. They took up 74 per cent of speaking time.