COP-26 was anxiously anticipated as a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change. It was seen as a decisive moment to catalyse global collaboration on climate. The pressure was on to deliver key objectives and secure a commitment to implement long-term effective strategies against global heating.
If you want the full context, you can get up to speed with the major aims of COP-26 in our previous blog article.
In Alok Sharma’s words, Paris promised, Glasgow must deliver. But did it? Amongst all the daily announcements, dense analysis, and emotive critique, it can be difficult to know. In this article, we decipher what the results, successes, and shortcomings from the conference actually were.
So what were the key outcomes from COP-26? Let’s take a look.
COP-26 culminated in a new global agreement that commits to ‘accelerating action on climate this decade’: The Glasgow Climate Pact.
The Glasgow Climate Pact is the result of over two years of diplomatic negotiation. In these two years, multiple global actors have rallied to raise global ambitions in the face of the Climate Crisis. Its most notable difference from the Paris Climate Agreement is its shift in emphasis from ‘rulemaking’ to ‘implementation’. In addition, it surpasses similar documents in length and also in specificity of the language used.
The fundamental outcomes secured by the Glasgow Climate Pact are the following:
COP-26 was the first time the ratchet mechanism developed under the Paris Climate Agreement was put to test. The ratchet mechanism stipulates that countries should submit updated ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ every five years. With each renewal or update, there is an implicit expectation that countries should ‘ramp up’ their goals to be more ambitious. However, in the run-up to the conference, there was some disappointment arising from less-than ambitious NDCs submitted by some attending parties.
Under the Glasgow Climate Pact, nearly 200 countries agreed to ‘revist and strengthen’ their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by the end of 2022. The 200 signatories will also attend an annual political roundtable, as well as a Leaders Summit in 2023.
As a part of the Glasgow Climate Pact, The Paris Rulebook was also finalised. This was a critical element of the shift from rulemaking and ‘promising’ to implementation and ‘delivery’.
The Paris Rulebook is essentially the implementation framework for how the Paris Agreement’s promises will actually be delivered.
Some of the most fundamental negotiations within the Paris Rulebook related to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Article 6 states that Parties can choose to cooperate internationally to achieve their NDCs using emissions reductions that have occurred in other countries. This can happen if one county buys international carbon credits or offsets or if they create a link between carbon markets.
The agreement of Article 6 of the Paris Climate Agreement was a crucial goal at the beginning of COP-26. This is because of the international cooperation needed in relation to the global carbon markets that Article 6 provides for.
A standardised governance framework was clearly needed to supervise how parties behave around ‘internationally traded mitigation outcomes’ (ITMOS).
At COP-26, the three parts of Article 6 were negotiated and agreed upon.
Under the agreed rulebook, the parties agreed a robust system for the exchange of carbon credits. Consensus was reached on the most contentious political issues that had prevented agreement previously: double counting of emissions reductions, use of Clean Development (CDM) credits, as well as adaptation finance.
Under the agreement, there is now a limitation on the carbon credits that parties can carry over from the Kyoto Protocol era.
The Article 6 agreement also pointed to the establishment of an independent grievance process for disputes surrounding specific carbon-offset projects. This was a fundamental demand from many indigenous and environmental parties.
This agreement will allow for the transition from the old Kyoto Protocol to the new Paris Agreement framework.
Another critical subject was the Common Time Frames for the NDCs. Previously, although the Paris Climate Agreement as a whole had been accepted, there had been no consensus as to the timeframe for the implementation of the Parties’ NDCs. The lack of standardised period challenged consistent tracking, comparison, or analysis of targets and implementation. In response, the Paris Rule Book recommends a common time frame. This should mean that NDCs moving forward all cover the same time frame.
The Enhanced Transparency Framework is essentially an accountability mechanism that relates to the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Prior to COP-26, there had been no consistency as to how and in what detail different countries were reporting on their climate action. Under the agreed Enhanced Transparency Framework, a common reporting mechanism will help Parties to track emissions and their progress in a way that is consistent across the board.
The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first-ever COP decision and climate deal to explicitly secure a plan to move away from coal power.
It directly addresses and secures agreement on the necessity for a move away from fossil fuels. The adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact signifies an international consensus on the need for an accelerated green transition.
In the end, this landmark decision was tainted for some parties. Specifically because the Pact only secured agreement on the basis of a ‘phasedown’ of unabated coal power and a ‘phase out’ of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
The negotiation surrounding the strength of the language used was highly contentious, and in the end, a compromise on use of weaker language was successful, although led to some parties expressing their ‘profound disappointment.’
Even though the parties agreed to the use of ‘phase out’ in reference to ‘fossil fuel subsidies’, they added a strong caveat: ‘while providing targeted support to the poorest and the most vulnerable according to their national circumstances.’
The failure to establish a ‘Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility’ was perhaps one of the most controversial outcomes from COP-26.
The Loss and Damage facility is a financial mechanism that would respond to current climate damages. This mechanism would see poorer, developing economies benefit from funding on the basis of loss and damage. This is the idea that richer, developed economies should be accountable for their actions in causing global heating. And as a result, should compensate those poorer countries that are now suffering the consequences.
In a greatly disappointing moment for many parties in attendance, the proposed Loss & Damage Facility was blocked by the US and the EU.
In its place, the agreement established the ‘Glasgow Dialogue’, a two-year discussion period in which funding for the aversion, minimisation and adapatation of loss and damage would be negotiated.
Going into COP-26, Climate Finance was a crucial topic. The 2009 pledge by developed countries to provide $100 billion per year to emerging economies had missed its 2020 deadline.
In fact, the Glasgow Climate Pact actually ‘notes with deep regret that the goal of developed country Parties to mobilize jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020….’
As such, securing an agreement on adaptation finance at COP-26 was absolutely critical. The Glasgow Climate Pact managed to see developed countries double their promised adaptation finance and also for long-term climate finance, pledging $365 million to the Adaptation Fund.
COP-26 also saw more than 100 world leaders commit to ‘halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.’ $12 billion of public finance and $7.2 of private investment was pledged to both protect and revive forests.
Firstly, COP-26 did see many landmark agreements, compromises, and commitments come to life. However, beyond being ‘landmark’ and ‘pivotal’, are these agreements enough?
For many onlookers, the conference did not go far enough. The failure to push through the Loss & Damage Facility, for example, constituted a major blow.
But it is perhaps impossible to properly measure the significance, or the success, of Glasgow in its immediate aftermath. Instead, parameters of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ will only become apparent when and if the conference’s commitments materialise in global, coordinated action.
As Alok Sharma said in his closing remarks, ‘we can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.’
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