At COP26 on Friday, teenage activists, indigenous leaders, and members of the Extinction Rebellion raised a cacophony of chants and drum beats.
At the same time, civil society groups within the conference complex staged a walkout to join them.
Delegates hurried through the endless meeting halls or crouched around laptops within the UN-controlled blue zone as the clock ticked down nervous minutes to the end of the 12-day conference generally seen as critical to humanity’s survival.
COP 26 was a significant initiative to grow and learn from our past mistakes for a better and more sustainable world.
The conference held in Glasgow had some considerable rights and wrongs to be implemented.
Table of Contents
1. Unable to fulfill the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius
From a scientific standpoint, COP26 was a failure. Even if COP26’s targets are met—a major “if”—by the end of the century, the planet will be 1.8-2.4 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial temperatures.
Anything above 1.5 degrees Celsius will have disastrous ecological and socioeconomic consequences, especially for the world’s most vulnerable communities, with each fraction of a degree raising the worldwide danger of catastrophic environmental tipping points.
Even 1.5 degrees will have significant consequences for how and where people live. Tina Stege, the Marshall Islands’ Climate Envoy, stressed that a world with a temperature of 1.8 degrees Celsius is unimaginable for many communities, including her own, which are already experiencing flooded homes during high tides and even larger destruction during major storms: “That’s happening now at 1.1.”
2. The blunders and detours
Richer countries have been chastised repeatedly in recent weeks for failing to meet long-standing $100 billion (£75 billion) objectives for delivering climate funding to developing countries grappling with a climate crisis that is not their fault.
This issue was not resolved here, and according to global debt campaigners, the final draft agreement announced on Friday morning still substantially underestimates the required funds.
Individual countries experienced low points. The Climate Change Performance Index put Australia’s policy response to the climate problem last in an evaluation of 60 countries, just days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison failed to sign the methane commitment during his brief and hesitant visit.
And it was revealed that the UK hosts would not join the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, which Denmark and Costa Rica created as a group of countries dedicated to phasing out oil and gas production.
3. Loss of funding mechanisms
Another dissatisfaction was the failure to agree on a new “loss and damage” funding mechanism to compensate communities for important climate costs that cannot be mitigated, such as irreversible land or ecosystem loss.
The Santiago Network on damage and loss of technical assistance was operationalized during COP26.
However, the most-affected communities’ primary demand for new financial compensation for loss and damage was denied.
Unsurprisingly, some of the world’s largest emitters, led by the United States and European Union members, are wary about exposing themselves to potentially unlimited liability for climate change and have blocked the development of a “Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility.”
4. Voice beyond the blue zone
Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate activist, promised to go “net zero on cursing” during an expletive-laced speech upon her arrival in Glasgow.
Still, she made no apologies for the intensity of her rage at the school strikes event last Friday.
She told a crowd of 10,000 young people in George Square, “This is no longer a climate conference.” “This is now a two-week-long global north greenwash event, a celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.”
Other activists who arrived during the first week shared her wrath and despair, having fought with Covid travel restrictions and pricey lodging.
Many people wondered why the green zone – where civil society, NGOs, and activists gather – was set up across the river from the leading conference site and why there was so little public space right outside the blue zone, causing police to corral protesters constantly.
Success of COP 26
1. Finalization of the rulebook
COP26 resulted in agreement on several challenging problems. The Parties also finalized the “rulebook,” which details the technical methods by which most of the Paris Agreement will be implemented.
These specifics are so complicated and controversial that they have been negotiated since 2015.
The Parties established an agreement at COP26 on complex topics such as the Enhanced Transparency Framework (emissions reporting method) and agreed on deadlines for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to emission reductions.
2. Carbon credit agreement
Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which governs carbon markets and cooperation partnerships, was tricky.
Delegates agreed on a framework for countries to exchange carbon credits through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Many people were concerned that the guidelines would allow “double-counting” pollution reductions, slowing global progress.
Although the worst of these fears appear to have been avoided, lobbying by the fossil fuel sector and petrostates such as Saudi Arabia has considerably undermined the mechanisms, and fake carbon offsetting schemes will continue.
3. Financial Aid
The Glasgow–Sharm el-Sheikh Work Programme on the Global Goals on Adaptation, a formal framework to channel resources toward adaptation, was also adopted at COP26, and adaptation financial commitments were at least doubled.
It also produced a slew of concrete agreements on everything from ending overseas support for fossil fuels to halting deforestation and switching to zero-emission automobiles.
The “ratchet mechanism” at the heart of the Paris Agreement was also demonstrated at COP26.
Countries agree to “ratchet up” their anticipated NDCs each year, gradually cutting emissions with the ultimate goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius with that provision.
Before COP26, more than 140 nations improved their NDCs, keeping the prospect of a 1.5-degree target alive, with Parties agreeing to reconsider their NDCs in light of the target before COP27.
What to expect from COP27?
COP26 gave new or renewed life to several political currents worth keeping an eye on in the coming years.
The mention of fossil fuel subsidies in the Glasgow Pact—estimated at $6 trillion globally in 2020—could boost urgent attempts to curb their use.
Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA), a group founded by Denmark and Costa Rica dedicated to terminating oil and gas production, was also launched during COP26.
At COP26, ten countries, plus Quebec and California, signed on to BOGA somehow. While no significant fossil fuel-producing countries are currently members, this is one of the first substantial attempts to address fossil fuel supply (rather than just use).
Another major trend was heightened focus on loss and damage funding, which has been on the UNFCCC agenda for years but gained significant attention at COP26.
Developing nations came close to establishing a separate loss and damage financing facility, and as climate impacts worsen year after year, the need for new funding will only increase.
Third, a collaboration between the United States and China has reappeared. The announcement of the US-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s during the second week of discussions gave the effort a much-needed boost.
Many observers were shocked as the United States and China looked to make little headway on climate engagement in the run-up to COP26.
Any climate solution will require joint commitment from the two most significant emitters.
The Declaration identifies several areas of common interest, including clean energy, methane, and speeding up the coal phase-out.
Increased agency and contributions from non-state and subnational entities are the fourth trends.
Under the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero Emissions, a collection of investors, banks, and insurers totaling $130 trillion in assets declared commitments to align their portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050 (although enforcement is elusive).
In the absence of government action, private actors, ranging from individual benefactors to foundations, are increasingly funding loss and damage mitigation on their own.
The Glasgow Pact also emphasizes the need to incorporate adaptation into local, national, and regional planning, reflecting that cities are already at the forefront of efforts to decrease emissions, develop resilience, and share best practices.
Also noteworthy: the Glasgow Pact, for the first time (amazingly), directly highlighted fossil fuels, calling for coal power and fossil fuel subsidies to be “phased down.”
Last-minute efforts by China and India to change the terminology from “phase out” to “phase out” were successful, disappointing COP26 President Alok Sharma and prompting harsh condemnation from the High Ambition Coalition and climate campaigners.
Nonetheless, it was an important step forward and one that few had anticipated at the start of the summit.
Overall, the text of the Glasgow Pact was far more urgent than previous COPs, “expressing alarm and deepest concern” about climate change—as forceful as UN-speak goes.