Glasgow Climate Pact – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

The Glasgow Climate Pact (GCP) was adopted by 196 parties at the Glasgow climate change conference (COP26).

The pact is being termed as a mixed bag, with some tangible achievements and multiple unfulfilled expectations.

Most countries insisted that the agreement was an important, though small, step in keeping alive the hopes of achieving the 1.5oC temperature goal. On the other hand, observers and civil society groups saw it as a missed opportunity to enhance global climate action.

Let’s take a deeper look.

What are the key points of Glasgow Climate Pact?

On mitigation: The Glasgow agreement has emphasized that stronger action in the current decade was most critical to achieving the 1.5-degree target. Accordingly, it has:

– Asked countries to strengthen their 2030 climate action plans, or NDCs (nationally-determined contributions), by next year (This means that nations will now have to come forward with improved NDCs not in 2025 but next year, at the COP27 summit at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt)

– Requested the UN Secretary General to convene a meeting of the world leaders in 2023 to scale-up ambition of climate action.

– Called for a phase-down of coal, and phase-out of fossil fuels.

On Adaptation: Most of the countries, especially the smaller and poorer ones, and the small island states, consider adaptation to be the most important component of climate action. The pact has:

– Asked the developed countries to at least double the money being provided for adaptation by 2025 from the 2019 levels. In 2019, about $15 billion was made available for adaptation.

– Created a two-year work programme to define a global goal on adaptation.

– The agreement will also fund the Santiago Network, which is supposed to build technical expertise about climate adaptation in vulnerable nations. (The Santiago Network is a network to enable loss and damage fund flow from developed to developing countries. It was created at the Madrid COP in 2019 )

On climate finance: In 2009, developed countries had promised to mobilise at least $100 billion every year from 2020. This promise was reaffirmed during the Paris Agreement, which also asked the developed countries to scale up this amount from 2025. The developed nations have now said that they will arrange this amount by 2023.

Must Read: The coal controversy at the Glasgow summit

Target of 1.5oC kept alive: The agreement acknowledges that commitments made by countries so far to cut emissions of greenhouse gases are not enough to prevent planetary warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. To attempt to solve this, it asks governments to strengthen those targets by the end of next year, rather than every five years, as previously required.

On burning of fossil fuels: The pact for the first time includes language that asks countries to reduce their reliance on coal and roll back fossil fuel subsidies.

On Net Zero – Glasgow has brought both developed and developing countries on board, offering to reduce emissions to net zero. Brazil, for example, said it would advance its net-zero target year from 2060 to 2050. China promised to come out with a detailed roadmap for its commitment to let emissions peak in 2030, and also for its 2060 net-zero target. Israel announced a net zero target for 2050.

On Loss and Damage: Also, for the first time, a mention of “loss and damage” has been made in the cover section of the agreement.  Under the deal, though, developed countries have essentially just agreed to continue discussions on the topic. It is now part of the multilateral discourse and the US has agreed that it should be examined in working groups.

Loss and damage refers to the costs that some countries are already facing from climate change, and these countries have for years wanted payment to help deal with it.

On global carbon markets: A carbon market existed under Kyoto Protocol but is no longer there because the Protocol expired last year. The developing countries wanted their unused carbon credits to be transitioned to the new market. The Glasgow pact has allowed these carbon credits to be used in meeting countries’ first NDC targets.

These cannot be used for meeting targets in subsequent NDCs. That means, if a developed country wants to buy these credits to meet its own emission reduction targets, it can do so till 2025.

Credits issued before 2013 will not be carried forward. That is intended to ensure too many old credits don’t flood the market and encourage purchases instead of new emissions cuts.

The resolution of the deadlock over carbon markets represents one of the major successes of COP26.

Multiple Side deals: There were a number of notable side deals too. For instance: The Global Methane Pledge, US-China Joint Declaration on Climate Change, Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda

What is the significance of the pact?

First clear recognition of the need to transition away from fossil fuels, though the focus was on giving up coal-based power altogether.

– Recognition of the importance of Adaptation and a commitment to double the current finance available for this to developing countries.

This is the first time that coal has been explicitly mentioned in any COP decision.

India announced a Panchamrita (a mixture of five elements) of climate actions.

What are the issues/concerns with the climate pact?

Climate finance: A new commitment has now been made to deliver on the earlier climate finance pledge in the 2020-2025 period, with a promise of an enhanced flow thereafter. But in a post-pandemic global economic slowdown, it is unlikely these promises will be met. In any event, it is unlikely that India will get even a small slice of the pie.

Moreover, the earlier finance commitment (of $100 bn per year) is based on a time when the full extent of the adjustment developing countries would need to make was not adequately known. The emission-reduction targets agreed in Glasgow will call for much larger investments.

Amar Bhattacharya and professor Lord Nicholas Stern have estimated that developing countries (excluding China) would need about $800 billion per year by 2025, going up to $2 trillion per year by 2030. This is a huge sum, and the Glasgow text makes no mention of it.

Loss and Damage: Though, adaptation and loss and damage have received much more attention than before, the demands for setting up of a standalone facility to coordinate loss and damage activities were not met. As a result, little progress made in the climate pact is unlikely to translate into a meaningful flow of funds any time soon.

Voluntary targets with no compliance mechanism: The new targets are voluntary with no mechanism for enforcement or penalties for non-compliance, and many are also conditional on availability of adequate financial support.

Lack of specificity on Net Zero measures: Many countries are yet to provide details on specific actions to be taken which would determine the actual trajectory to net zero. Since it’s the shape of the trajectory that determines the total emissions for each country, this introduces some uncertainty about what will be achieved.

Must Read: The coal controversy at the Glasgow summit
What is the way forward?

Developing countries should actively push the financing agenda at CoP-27 next year in Egypt to ensure enough finance is made available.

India, should also have a clear idea on how it’ll move away from fuel taxes and fossil fuel subsidies to a carbon tax that eases the domestic economy’s green transition. It should be able to present clear systems for phasing down its coal capacity in return for financial commitments, as several nations in Southeast Asia and Africa did this year.

But it must also keep up pressure on the developed world regarding deeper emission cuts and the sharing of technology and finance.

COP26 has shifted some additional pressure on to COP27, to be held next year in Cairo. Before then, substantial moves will have to be made in both India and in the developed world if COP27 is to succeed.

Conclusion

With the UN terming it as a ‘global compromise’, there is more ambition in the pact, but little to show in terms of concrete actions. What provides hope is the incredible and passionate advocacy of urgent action by young people across the world. This is putting enormous pressure on governments and leaders and, if sustained, may become irresistible.

As for how much COP26 finally delivers, it completely depends on how different governments finally finesse their pledges.

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