Glasgow deal COP26
Updated: May 26, 2022
Today’s newsletter is the last edition covering the COP26 conference. We wanted to give you a quick summary of hits and misses from the conference. We will return to the usual programming of tracking companies and startups / emerging technologies from next week.
What to expect today:
We would love to hear any feedback that you may have here. Thank you for your ongoing support!
Quick summary of COP26
Reached a deal amongst 200 countries
Commit to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030
Agreed upon the mechanics of carbon trading
Need to tackle methane mentioned for the first time
US and China strike a rare climate deal
Rich countries don't make clear pledges for climate finance
Most vulnerable countries to climate change don't get funds to cope
Language on use of coal watered down at the last minute
Current national pledges would put the world on track for 2.4C
What has been agreed at COP26?
Negotiators from nearly 200 countries at the COP26 summit on Saturday reached an agreement to try to prevent progressively worse and potentially irreversible climate impacts. The announcement comes several hours after the scheduled Friday evening deadline. Delegates had struggled to resolve major sticking points, such as phasing out coal, fossil fuel subsidies and financial support to low-income countries. So what did we finally achieve from this conference?
The US and China, in a surprise announcement, pledged to boost climate cooperation over the next decade. The two nations agreed to "recall their firm commitment to work together" to achieve the 1.5C temperature goal set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. In addition, steps were agreed upon a range of issues including cutting methane emissions, transition to clean energy and on de-carbonization. As the world's two biggest CO2 emitters, an agreement between the US and China is seen as critical in keeping the 1.5C temperature rise threshold within reach.
Cutting Methane emissions
A scheme to cut 30% of current methane emissions by 2030 has been agreed by more than 100 countries including the EU and the US. It is one of the most potent greenhouse gases and responsible for a third of current warming from human activities. Although there's more CO2 in the atmosphere and it sticks around for longer, individual methane molecules have a more powerful warming effect on the atmosphere than single CO2 molecules.
Seems like an obvious step right? Keep in mind that a lot of developing economies rely on these natural resources for exporting paper, palm oil etc. and can be a sticking point. Leaders from more than 100 world countries, representing about 85% of the world's forests, promised to stop deforestation by 2030. Indonesia, one of the main signatories to the agreement and second largest source of deforestation (after Brazil) later said the plan was “unfair”.
Establishing carbon markets
After six years of difficult and technical negotiations, the UN climate talks at COP26 in Glasgow finally gave us a strong Paris Agreement rulebook for international cooperation through carbon markets. Countries will be able to buy and sell carbon credits which avoids double counting and can be bought by carbon emitting countries to offset their emissions. The agreement, while not perfect, gives countries the tools they need for environmental integrity, to avoid double counting and ultimately to clear a path to get private capital flowing to developing countries.
What could have leaders done more?
While an agreement was reached - the Glasgow Climate Pact - some leaders and campaigners have already said the measures in it do not go far enough. Two areas where we believe world leaders could have done more are
Reducing the use of Coal
While countries had initially agreed to “phase out”” the use of coal, India, among the world’s biggest burners of coal, raised a last-minute change of fossil fuel language in the pact. The final wording now uses “phase down” of coal instead of “phase out.” After initial objections, opposing countries ultimately conceded. Several countries expressed their grievances to this change and environmental experts are deeply concerned the updated terminology creates a loophole to delay urgently needed climate action.
Lack of compensation to developing countries
The agreement, which is not legally binding, falls short of setting up a fund to compensate countries for climate-linked loss and damage. The G-77 group of developing countries expressed “extreme disappointment” at this omission. These developing nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis, which are the least responsible for climate change, have long sought financial support from high-income countries to compensate them for this damage. Rich nations, such as the U.S., U.K. and European Union have been reluctant to accept liability. The text emphasises the need for developed countries to increase the money they give to those countries already suffering the effects of climate change, beyond the current $100bn target (for reference, developed countries paid just $63bn to developing nations in 2019 which was the highest amount they contributed in any year).
What happens next?
The pact at COP26 asks countries to republish their climate action plans, with more ambitious emissions reduction targets for 2030, by the end of next year. The agreement - although not legally binding - will set the global agenda on climate change for the next decade.
Recommendations from the team
Bloomberg Green - Subscribe to Bloomberg Green for updates through Instagram
Tech Vision - Inside world’s first electric cargo ship (4 min video)
DW Documentary - Norway’s ingenious solution for CO2 (26 min video)