COP26 & the Glasgow Climate Pact

The 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Glasgow concluded with the signing of the Glasgow Climate Pact. The pact has been widely described as a compromise that has kept the prospects of limiting warming to 1.5 degree Celsius alive by calling out the countries to come back next year with increased ambitions. For the first time in the UNFCCC process, there is a reference to phasing down unabated coal power and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

Despite the pandemic and consequent security restrictions, protesters thronged outside the Scottish Events Centre during the entire two weeks. The Blue Zone halls and pavilions inside were only accessible to accredited negotiators, observers, and media personnel. On the other side of the river Clyde, the Green Zone with technology exhibits and film shows was located at the Glasgow Science Centre and open to visitors.

Photos: Documentary shoot in Green Zone (left) and Blue Zone (right)

The Pact “urges” developed countries to meet the $100 billion per year, pledged to developing countries over a decade back in 2009, “urgently and through to 2025.” For adaptation, the pact called out the developed nations to “at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation” from the recorded levels in 2019 by 2025.

COP26 saw many disputes over “loss and damage,” which is considered as the third pillar of international climate policy along with mitigations and adaptations. Countries agreed to operationalize the Santiago Network of Loss and Damage initiated at COP25 by allocating funds “to support technical assistance for the implementation of relevant approaches to avert, minimize and address the loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change in developing countries.”

One of the key outcomes of COP26 is the conclusion of the Paris Agreement Rulebook, which will make it fully operational. On the Clean Development Mechanism, the pact removed a loophole that had been identified for double counting of carbon credits earned by reducing emissions.

The Global Methane Pledge signed by 103 countries aims to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels. More than 100 entities, including some countries, have signed the Glasgow Accord on Zero Emissions Vehicles to phase out new fossil fuel vehicles by 2040. More than 30 countries and financial institutions signed a statement committing to halting all financing for overseas fossil fuel development.

Photos: Action Zone (left side) and The People’s Plenary (right side)

The Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use was signed by more than 130 countries promising to “work collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”. The Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue was signed by 28 countries to support sustainable trade between commodity-producing-and-consuming countries.

Besides having a ringside view of the proceedings at the Blue Zone, I was a witness to the anxiety of the youth and anger of the affected communities including indigenous people from all over the world. I listened to Greta Thunberg and indigenous leaders at the George Square on the 5th and walked with the protesters in the cold November rain from Kelvingrove Park on the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice next day. Following the People’s Plenary on the 12th, thousands of us walked out of the Blue Zone to protest the lack of urgency and intent to deliver climate justice.

Photo: People’s Climate March

The Glasgow Pact does not guarantee a 1.5 degree Celsius limit to warming, but it is a strong framework for enhanced and collaborative action. The path to success has many obstacles and COP27 will be another opportunity to overcome these, because failure is not an option.

Image courtesy for all the images goes to the author.

About the Author

Rituraj Phukan is an environmental writer, adventurer and naturalist with personal experience of climate change impacts in the polar regions. He is also the National Coordinator for Biodiversity with The Climate Reality Project Foundation (India branch); COO of Walk For Water; Secretary General of Green Guard Nature Organization; and member, IUCN. He has worked extensively on the interconnected issues of warming, water, and wildlife, and has been sharing his learnings with audiences around the world as a guest speaker and mentor.