UN COP26 climate summit: what was accomplished?

Glasgow, Scotland – November 11: António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaks during the high-level event for Global Climate Action.

Jeff J. Mitchell | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The United Nations Global Climate Summit concluded in Glasgow, Scotland, over the weekend with an agreement among nearly 200 countries to speed up the fight against the climate crisis and commit to stricter climate pledges.

The two-week conference ended with some significant accomplishments, including new pledges on methane pollution, deforestation and coal financing, as well as completing long-awaited rules on carbon trading and a landmark US-China deal. The summit also concluded with calls for governments to return in 2022 with stronger pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions and make more funding available to countries most vulnerable to climate change.

But some climate scientists and legal and political experts have argued that the final deal from Glasgow has led to incremental progress that is insufficient to tackle the severity of the climate crisis. Some climate activists and activists have also strongly criticized COP26 as a two-week investigative session of talks that has become a public relations practice.

Young protesters take part in the Friday For Future march in Glasgow, Scotland on November 5, 2021, during the COP26 climate summit.

Daniel Lil Olivas | AFP | Getty Images

Some experts suggest that the true measure of success after COP26 will be if and when countries turn their promises into action.

“In a year marked by uncertainty and mistrust, COP26 emphasized the importance of collective global action to tackle the climate crisis,” Annie Dasgupta, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, said in a statement.

“Although we are not on the right track yet, the progress made over the past year and at the COP26 summit provided bright spots,” said Dasgupta. “The real test now is whether states step up their efforts and turn commitments into action.”

Here is a look at some of the highlights from the 26th UN Climate Summit:

New pledges on methane pollution

More than 100 countries have now joined a US- and European Union-led coalition to cut 30% of methane emissions by 2030 from 2020 levels, an important step toward reducing one of the major causes of climate change.

The Global Methane Pledge covers countries that account for nearly half of global methane emissions and 70% of global GDP. Methane is 84 times stronger than carbon and does not last long in the atmosphere before it decomposes. This makes it a critical target for rapidly combating climate change while simultaneously reducing emissions of other greenhouse gases.

While the summit devoted unprecedented attention to reducing methane emissions, the pledge is only the beginning, said Barry Raab, a professor at the University of Michigan and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“The Glasgow meetings serve as a reminder of how difficult it is to make transformative progress on climate change in just a few weeks, despite all the melodramatic events,” Rabe said. So he said, [there’s] Some real progress here on issues like carbon markets, coal transformation, methane, and more. The emerging question is whether these areas of agreement can be implemented.”

US President Joe Biden speaks onstage during a meeting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1, 2021.

Brendan Smilofsky | AFP | Getty Images

The pledge includes six of the world’s 10 largest methane emitters – the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Mexico. But China, Russia and India, which together account for 35% of global methane emissions, have not joined the alliance.

“It will make a huge difference, not just when it comes to combating climate change — it will improve health, improve food supplies and boost economies,” President Joe Biden said at the launch of the pledge.

The eleventh hour agreement on coal

Summit negotiations concluded on Saturday with a final agreement among nearly 200 countries that for the first time targeted fossil fuels as a major driver of climate change. However, the deal included a last-minute change that some officials described as a softening of critical language regarding coal power.

India and China, two of the largest coal-burning nations, insisted on a last-minute change of fossil fuel language in the agreement, shifting the words from “phasing out” to “phasing out” of coal. Opposing countries fought the request but eventually accepted.

A demonstrator holds a sign “Stop fossil fuel subsidies” during the demonstration in the City of London.

Vuk Valsik | SOPA photos | Light Rocket | Getty Images

Some experts, disappointed by the change of language on coal power, said the deal is still better than nothing and provides incremental progress in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

“It’s modest, it’s weak and the 1.5°C target is still alive, but a signal has been sent that the age of coal is ending. And that’s important,” Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, wrote in a tweet about the deal.

US-China pledge to slow climate change

The United States and China, the world’s two largest carbon emitters, agreed to cooperate during this decade to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius and ensure that the conference results in progress. The alliance between the two rivals surprised the delegates during the summit.

The US-China agreement lacks specific details or deadlines, but it does assure that Chinese and US leaders will work to promote clean energy, mitigate deforestation and reduce methane emissions. The joint declaration said the two nations would work together to help accelerate the transition to a zero-zero global economy.

US climate envoy John Kerry speaks during a China-US joint statement on a declaration to advance climate action, at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Britain on November 10, 2021.

Jeff J. Mitchell | pool | Reuters

“There is no shortage of differences between the United States and China,” US special climate envoy John F. Kerry said in announcing the agreement during the summit. But in terms of climate, cooperation is the only way to get this job done.”

Promote 2030 goals to reach the 1.5°C target

Some experts have described the conference as humanity’s last and best opportunity to support the goal of not exceeding 1.5°C of global warming – the temperature target set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Countries eventually agreed to present stricter 2030 targets next year and put forward long-term strategies to help transition to net-zero emissions by around mid-century in order to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

A delegate walks in front of a banner during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 11, 2021.

Eve Hermann | Reuters

The draft final COP26 agreement did not provide an annual rolling review of the climate pledges some developing countries had urged. Countries are now required to reconsider their pledges every five years. The agreement also left unresolved answers about how much and how quickly each country would reduce its emissions.

Keeping global temperatures from above 1.5 degrees Celsius will require the world to nearly half of greenhouse gas emissions within the next decade to reach net zero emissions by 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Scientists warn that the world’s temperature is already about 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Despite global pledges, the world is on track to see a global temperature rise of 2.4°C by the end of the century.

James Salzman, professor of environmental law at UCLA Law School, said the summit reflected an important shift in global climate strategy toward a sectoral approach because it included separate agreements on issues such as methane, coal and deforestation, rather than focusing solely on mitigating greenhouse gases. . .

“Talk is cheap, of course, and it remains to be seen if this amounts to more than ambitious rhetoric,” Salzman said. “But the pivot can be important in breaking down a big problem into small-scale approaches.”

– CNBC channel Sam Meredith Contribute to reporting

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