International climate change negotiations came to an end yesterday with the Glasgow Climate Pact, an agreement among nearly 200 countries that includes “phasing down” coal use and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
Key parts of the agreement include keeping the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a requirement for countries to accelerate action on climate this decade, and an agreement to speed up efforts to “phase-down unabated coal” and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
The agreement is the first global climate deal to explicitly plan to reduce the use of coal, but an 11th-hour ask by India led to the term “phase out” being replaced by the weaker “phase down.”
IPCC climate report author and University of Canterbury professor Bronwyn Hayward told RNZ it was in itself a small victory that at least the 1.5 degree target remained the global goal.
“The second really big issue that [is often overlooked] is that we are now finally having a debate about how we phase down or phase out, but end, subsidies and support for coal and other fossil fuels.
“That in itself is a major achievement, even if it’s going far slower than most environmental organisations and scientists and communities would wish.”
Newsroom’s Rod Oram writes the Glasgow agreement is also notable because it identifies fossil fuels as the primary cause of the climate crisis, for the first time in a UN agreement since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
“But the Glasgow agreement badly fails developing countries. The US and EU refused to create a new fund that the poorest countries could draw on for crisis responses. They are far more exposed than rich countries to loss and damage from adverse climate impacts,” Oram writes.
Olivia Wannan’s extensive analysis on Stuff says that if we use the lowest bar for success – whether there is more global climate action today than there was two weeks ago – then COP26 has achieved that. However, Wannan reports even if every single commitment launched during the meeting will be met, that path would hold warming to 1.8C according to climate modelling.
“If the point of success is 1.5 degrees Celsius, then the conference will not earn that accolade,” Wannan writes.
“There will be a lot of interpretation of what it got wrong. But getting nearly 200 countries to collectively move, even on this existential issue, is a mammoth undertaking. For just a day or two, that needs to be celebrated.”
Coverage of the end of COP26: