Insight

Beyond the Glasgow Climate Pact

The Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed late on Saturday 13th November, finally drew COP26 to a close. Speaking at a press conference the following day, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the summit as a success and the ‘world is undeniably heading in the right direction’ but even he acknowledged that much work remained to be done and the final agreement fell short of the aspirations of many.

While the COP26 agreement is a milestone and significant progress has been made in some areas, the new emission pledges still do not yet achieve the 1.5C target agreed in Paris. Importantly though it lays down the expectations of what countries are expected to do ahead of the next round of negotiations next year. So, the Glasgow Climate Pact potentially paves the way for more radical plans to be presented at COP27 in Egypt and for nations to scope out how that target can be achieved, instead of the current forecast 2.4C trajectory.

It is also important to look at what’s been achieved beyond the deal, including agreements on deforestation and 500 global financial services firms agreeing to align $130 trillion to the Paris goals. However, there is lingering regret that key issues have been left unresolved or ‘watered down’, including fossil fuels after India and China’s last-minute intervention to change the language from ‘phasing out’ to ‘phasing down’ their use.

Post-Glasgow, a fundamental question now is what needs to change to get even more traction on this and other challenges, with the clock ticking towards what scientists warn are dangerous levels of climate change on the horizon. After all, Egypt will not be able to mobilise the diplomatic resources for COP27 next year that the United Kingdom has brought to bear in 2020 and 2021.

While the answer to that is multi-faceted, one potential driver of change is Sino-US leadership on climate change that re-emerged at Glasgow. Despite their wider bilateral tensions, and China’s continued addiction to coal, this G2 partnership to tackle global warming could be a potentially very important during the remainder of Joe Biden’s presidency.

Reactions to the deal have been very mixed. António Guterres, UN Secretary General said: “It is an important step but is not enough. We must accelerate climate action to keep alive the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.” While most global leaders have acknowledged progress, there is also a sense that the final deal falls short. Many poorer countries, while acknowledging that some finance has been made available, are disappointed about the lack of recognition of the principle of loss and damage and that the level of finance on the table is not nearly enough. The sense of disappointment is shared by climate activists. John Kerry, the US Climate Envoy, perhaps summed up the deal’s impact most accurately when he said that though it will not end the climate crisis, a new ‘starting pistol’ had been fired to address global climate change post-Paris.

All eyes now turn to COP27 in Egypt. Next year’s meeting will aim to secure further pledges from each nation to make major carbon cuts to get much closer to the 1.5C goal with greater movement needed by larger emitting countries such as Russia and India to get there.

One of the key lessons of the last six years since Paris is that delivery is now critical with implementation of climate deals best through national laws. So, the country ‘commitments’ put forward so far, will be most credible – and durable – if they are backed up by legally-binding legislation. If that happens, and key powers including the United States and EU continue to raise the bar of overall global climate ambitions, the 1.5C aspirations of Paris can still potentially be kept in play.

 

Would you like to know more? Our team can help you navigate post Cop26 developments and support you in your engagement with decision makers and the broader public: cop26@grayling.com

 


In Insight