COP26: Final Climate Pact falls short of hopes and expectations
By Susy Hodges
The Climate Pact that was agreed at Glasgow inevitably ended up being a compromise deal reflecting the many competing demands of those attending the talks. On the plus side, the deal calls for the world’s major emitters of greenhouse gases to submit stronger emission cutting pledges by the end of 2022 to try to keep within the key target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also promises more money for developing nations to help them adapt to the worst effects of climate change and it delivered a major win in resolving the rules around carbon markets.
But the adopted deal was significantly weakened at the last minute when India, backed by China and other coal-dependent developing nations, rejected a clause calling for the “phase out” of coal-fired power. In the end, the delegates agreed to use the wording “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal. It was just the change of a single word but the implication of that switch was met with dismay by both rich countries in Europe and small island nations who are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change.
Reaction to the agreement reached at Glasgow has been mixed. Some observers still see the deal as a victory because it marked the first time coal is explicitly mentioned in a UN climate document of this type. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was still a huge amount more to do in the coming years but he hoped the COP26 deal would be seen as the beginning of the end of climate change.
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was less upbeat. He issued a statement saying our fragile planet is “hanging by a thread” and we are “still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe.” A number of climate activists, whilst acknowledging some progress had been made, said the final deal was too weak. They warned that the key goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees was only just alive.