Concession on fossil fuel wording leads to COP26 agreement

COP26 has concluded in Glasgow with nearly 200 countries agreeing the Glasgow Climate Pact to keep 1.5C alive and finalise the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement.  

Climate negotiators ended two weeks of intense talks on Saturday with consensus on urgently accelerating climate action. The Glasgow Climate Pact, combined with increased ambition and action from countries, means that 1.5C remains in sight, but it will only be delivered with concerted and immediate global efforts.  

All countries agreed to revisit and strengthen their current emissions targets to 2030, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in 2022. This will be combined with a yearly political roundtable to consider a global progress report and a Leaders summit in 2023. 

The Paris Rulebook, the guidelines for how the Paris Agreement is delivered, was also completed after six years of discussions. This will allow for the full delivery of the landmark accord, after agreement on a transparency process which will hold countries to account as they deliver on their targets. This includes Article 6, which establishes a robust framework for countries to exchange carbon credits through the UNFCCC. 

And for the first time, heeding calls from civil society and countries most vulnerable to climate impacts, the COP agreed action on phasing down fossil fuels. 

While climate activists argue that the compromise on the language surrounding ‘phasing down’ fossil fuels, rather than ‘phasing out’, is weak and compromised, it nevertheless is a breakthrough in focusing on a just energy transition. 

“The call for emissions reductions of 45 per cent by the end of this decade is in line with what we need to do to stay under 1.5C and brings the science firmly into this deal. But it needs to be implemented,” said Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace International executive director. 

There were also commitments to significantly increase financial support through the Adaptation Fund as developed countries were urged to double their support to developing countries by 2025, and COP decisions went further than ever before in recognising and addressing loss and damage from the existing impacts of climate change. 

When the UK took on the COP26 mantle, in partnership with Italy, nearly two years ago, only 30 per cent of the world was covered by net zero targets. This figure is now at around 90 per cent. Over the same period, 154 Parties have submitted new national targets, representing 80 per cent of global emissions.  

The UK Presidency has also been focused on driving action to deliver emissions reductions. There has been a huge shift in coal, with many more countries committing to phase out unabated coal power and ending international coal financing.   

Alongside this, there has been a marked commitment to protect precious natural habitats, with 90 per cent of the world’s forests covered by a pledge from 130 countries to end deforestation by 2030.  

On the world’s roads, the transition to zero emissions vehicles is gathering pace, with some of the largest car manufacturers working together to make all new car sales zero emission by 2040 and by 2035 in leading markets. Countries and cities are following suit with ambitious petrol and diesel car phaseout dates. 

Current policies would leave us on a path to a devastating temperature rise. But work done by independent experts Climate Action Tracker show that with the full implementation of the fresh collective commitments could hold temperature rise to 1.8C.  

Even with the action committed both during and before COP26, communities around the world will continue to feel the impact of our changing planet.  

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Climate Change said: “I thank the Presidency and all Ministers for their tireless efforts throughout the conference and I congratulate all Parties on finalising the rulebook. This is an excellent achievement, and it means that the Paris Agreement can now function fully for the benefit of all, now and in the future.”  

Alok Sharma, UK president of COP26 said: “We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action. I am grateful to the UNFCCC for working with us to deliver a successful COP26.” 

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