Progress, but hardly success. Five key conclusions from the International Climate Negotiations in Glasgow

    24 Nov 2021

    The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP26 ended on 14 November in Scotland. After two weeks of international climate talks, the countries of the world signed the Glasgow Climate Pact. The document calls on governments to improve their climate targets as early as next year and gradually reduce coal use in electricity generation. What other initiatives and decisions were made at this year’s conference?

    Let’s check the summary made by Ecoaction NGO.

     

    1. The climatic goals of the countries are more ambitious than the previous ones, but they are insufficient

    The Paris Climate Agreement, signed by almost all countries in 2015, aims to curb the rise in average global temperature at 1.5-2° C compared to pre-industrial levels. Most countries have updated their climate targets in the form of so-called Nationally Defined Contributions to the Paris Agreement before this year’s conference. But making these contributions, international analysts have found that they lead to a warming of 2.4° C.

    Therefore, the consensus of the negotiations was an agreement between the countries to reconsider their climate goals by the end of 2022 and improve them “in accordance with the purpose of the Paris Agreement, taking into account national circumstances.”

     

    1. Coal is a thing of the past

    For the first time, the final decision of the talks mentions “coal” and “subsidies for fossil fuels.” Even in the Paris Agreement itself, there were no such mentions, although scientists have long proven that burning coal, oil and gas are among the main causes of climate change. According to the International Monetary Fund, in 2020 global subsidies for fossil fuels amounted to about $ 6 trillion, which does not contribute to the fight against climate change and other environmental problems, such as air pollution. Therefore, the final text of the conference finally acknowledged the obvious, urging countries to “[…] accelerate efforts to gradually reduce the use of […] coal in electricity generation and [reduce] inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

     

    Probably the most notable event in Glasgow was the joining of dozens of countries and companies to the International Coalition for the Abolition of Coal (Powering Past Coal Alliance). Most of them have announced a clear date for abandoning the use of coal in electricity generation.

    In addition, before and during the climate talks, several countries, including China, the United States and Switzerland, announced a halt to direct investment in coal projects abroad over the next year. The only exceptions were projects that are “comparable to the warming limit of 1.5° C and the objectives of the Paris Agreement.”

     

    1. Oil, gas and methane emissions – in sight

    Although coal has been the focus of negotiations as the dirtiest fossil fuel, problems with the oil and gas industry and its impact on the climate have also been actively discussed. On the one hand, a coalition of states has been formed, which has announced a date for the cessation of oil and gas production, and on the other – most countries have agreed to focus on reducing methane emissions.

    Earlier this year, Denmark and Costa Rica announced the creation of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA), the first time the world has spoken out against these fossil fuels.

    In addition, the United States and the European Union have launched the Global Initiative to Reduce Methane Emissions by 30% by 2030, which has been joined by more than 100 countries, including Ukraine. Methane is an important greenhouse gas that has been in the atmosphere for decades and is provoking climate change. But so far, methane emissions and leakage are little regulated by countries. Most methane emissions are generated in the energy sector: in coal mines due to mining transportation and transportation of oil and gas. But there are other essential sources: agriculture and landfills. In general, it is estimated that if all signatories to the initiative meet the target of reducing methane emissions by 2030, this will help prevent global warming by 0.2° C.

    It was a big surprise that China, within the framework of a cooperation agreement with the United States to combat climate change, also announced that it planned to address its methane emissions. Prior to that, China focused mainly on carbon emissions.

     

    1. Billions of dollars in climate finance each year: but not for everyone

    Climate finance is one of the key issues in the negotiations. Developed countries have a historical responsibility for climate change, and back in 2009, they promised to allocate $100 billion annually to developing countries to combat and adapt to climate change. Despite this, the promised amount was never achieved: in 2018 and 2019, it was less than $80 billion.

    For developing countries, money is an essential condition for increasing their climate ambitions, and for some of them, it is a matter of survival. Their financial capabilities are smaller, but at the same time, they suffer from climate change many times more than in rich countries. Developing countries demanded increased funding for adaptation to climate change and compensation for losses and losses from these changes, but the expected breakthrough did not happen. Developed countries have only confirmed their previous promise to mobilize 100 billion a year.

    Also, although a small but positive development, the Climate Pact states that “not only developed countries but also other parties may provide or continue to provide [financial] support on a voluntary basis.” This means that the world’s major economies, such as China, have been encouraged to provide climate finance to other countries, although they have the status of developing countries. Given that China is refusing to fund coal projects abroad, it would not be surprising if it does start providing it for more climate-friendly projects.

     

    1. Countries and companies promise to protect forests

    During the climate talks, more than 130 countries signed the Declaration on Forests and Land Use. The main goal is to stop forest loss and land degradation by 2030. Governments have not indicated what they will do to achieve this goal. But after the declaration was announced, dozens of statements of support related to forests were made. These statements include significant financial commitments from countries and funds totaling more than $ 19 billion to support tropical forests primarily, better manage them, and restore degraded lands.

     

    ***

    The Glasgow climate talks can be called progress but hardly a success. Many important decisions were made at the conference, and several loud declarations were signed, but this is certainly not the final step in overcoming the climate crisis. Each country now has to do its “homework” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because the difference between statements and actual actions is one degree of warming, which can lead to enormous consequences in every corner of the globe.

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