As COP26 came to a close last Friday with what appeared to be a resounding success; many climate action groups, climate ambassadors, the United Nations & indigenous cultures are hailing it a falling short of the ambition & expectations needed to tackle advancing climate change.
Despite the proactive agreements of the first few days of COP26 finding global agreements to ban deforestation by 2030 & reduce methane emissions by 30% from 2020-2030; the final agreements & the adoption of the “Glasgow Climate Pact” despite being a more ambitious climate response, has not been as far reaching as had been hoped.
Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary General, has said that “The #COP26 outcome is a compromise, reflecting the interests, contradictions & state of political will in the world today. It’s an important step, but it’s not enough. It’s time to go into emergency mode. The climate battle is the fight of our lives & that fight must be won.” @antonioguterres Twitter
One of the most disappointing aspects of the final agreement from COP26, has been seen as the “watering down” of the language surrounding coal.
Under pressure from nations such as India & China who demanded the terminology changes in the final half an hour of debates on Saturday evening (13.11.2021); the final COP26 agreement has been changed from the ‘phasing out’ of coal to it being ‘phased down’
With Indian environment minister Bhupender Yadav having demanded the additional clause ‘while providing targeted support to the poorest & most vulnerable” as a last-minute change before they would sign the pledge, many countries took to the floor to express their “profound disappointment” at the shift in language, calling it a “bitter pill” & objecting to the way it had been agreed in closed-door negotiations between the US, EU, China, India and UK. (1)
Senator Matthew Canavan, the representative for Queensland, Australia tweeted that “Glasgow has turned out to be a “huge win for coal”. Let’s get digging then and sell more of the best coal in the world to others & bring millions more people out of poverty!” (2)
He is also quoted as saying that it was “good news for the world because… the most important thing for the world to do… is to bring more and more people out of poverty”. (3)
He went on to explain: “Coal & cheap energy helps do that. There are still a billion people… without access to electricity, hundreds of millions of them in India, & they deserve the same things that we take for granted. Denying poor people access to cheaper… energy is a completely inhumane policy approach & I’m glad it was defeated.” (3)
This is obviously a hugely disappointing outcome & threatens the ability for the world to keep to 1.5°C as carbon emissions continue to rise globally, ironically impacting those in poverty, rather than directly helping them as so many world leaders would have us believe.
Despite there having been a $100bn annual climate finance target having been set over a decade ago & rich nations pledging to support the most vulnerable to climate change; it was acknowledged at the start of COP26 that this has again fallen short.
Dr Emmanuel Tachie-Obeng, representing the Climate Vulnerable Forum, expressed many parties’ frustrations:
“I believe that the money is there – they don’t want to release it. Because looking at Covid…billions of dollars have been used over the years to take care of Covid. Do you think Covid is more important than climate change?” (1)
Many of the developing countries have also cited how difficult it can be to access the climate funds. “If climate finance is not predictable, accessible, grants-based and most importantly significantly scaled up, it seriously undermines the entire credibility of the Paris Agreement.” (1) Janine Felson, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) lead on finance.
Lorena González, climate finance lead at the World Resources Institute (WRI), told a press briefing after the event closed that all parties were somewhat “unsatisfied” with the results of finance negotiations, reflecting compromise on all sides. “COP26 has put into place the scaffolding for the post-2020 finance landscape,”. (1)
Ultimately, in the coming years, leaders will need to work out ways of turning the “billions to trillions” in total climate finance, something acknowledged by the UK presidency from the outset. (1)
Carbon markets & the rules governing them cited under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement were a contentious issue at COP26. With some 200 government negotiators having reached an agreement regarding carbon markets; it is noted that the haggling over this specific part of the Paris Agreement has taken six years to achieve.
However, the continued use of carbon offsets, which organisations use to compensate for their emissions have continued to increase & it is estimated that trading in the units could top $1bn by December 2021.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol established a system (the Clean Development Mechanism) that put into circulation hundreds of millions of carbon credits through thousands of projects. What is known as ‘zombie credits’ are of poor quality, lack environmental integrity & most of the projects they have financed would have happened anyway without the financial support. (4)
“International carbon markets only make sense if they support the climate solutions of the future, rather than giving the polluters of the present & past an easy way out,” Sam Van den plas, Climate Market Watch Policy Director.
The disappointing agreements with reference to coal production having already caused ripples amongst climate action groups & those from developing countries most affected by the current levels of carbon emissions; now see the continuation of carbon offsets as posing more threats to their futures.
“By and large, international carbon markets will be used to shift pollution from one place to another,” said CMW Policy Officer Jonathan Crook. “That governments would still want to rely on this faulty logic shows that our leaders have not grasped the urgency to act.” (4)
This is nothing new as we have seen some of the largest GHG emitters repeatedly use this tactic of offsetting their emissions for decades. China, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide on Earth, launched it’s ambitious carbon market earlier this year (2021)
China’s scheme is based on a cap-and-trade model, in which emitters — initially just coal- & gas-fired energy plants — are allocated a certain number of emissions allowances up to a set limit, or cap, & then either trade or buy allowances if they remain below or exceed this. (5)
China’s scheme differs from many other countries as they have chosen to focus on reducing the intensity of emissions generation, rather than absolute emissions.
Although this is a very small overview of some of the key agreements & outcomes of COP26, what is clear is that there is still a very long way to go to gain ambitious actions by some of the largest emitters of CO2 & GHG’s. With a focus seemingly still focussing on what is happening in the now rather than what is to come & with climate temperature predictions in some countries set to hit 4.0°C on their current trajectory; mindsets & future projections will need to adapt & change to protect the future of the planet.
Written & cited by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2
- Matthew Canavan Twitter @mattjcan