What Was Accomplished at COP26?

What Was Accomplished at COP26?

​​Between an eleventh-hour ambush by India and China to weaken the language on coal -- after a largely successful effort by the developed world to block the two nations from stripping out the key section on mitigation -- and the hot-take post-mortems by activists and government officials alike, making sense of the final resolution to come out of Glasgow (agreed to by 197 nations) is worth the extra time and effort for anyone concerned about the climate crisis.

Bloomberg Quicktake: COP26 President Alok Sharma Apologizes For Watering Down of Glasgow Climate Pact, November 13, 2021.

So, what's in this agreement and why does it matter?

First, and maybe most importantly, the new agreement in Glasgow asks countries to come back by the end of next year with even stronger pledges to cut emissions by 2030.

A little context: Glasgow was largely seen as an effort to increase ambition for every nation on top of what was agreed to six years ago in Paris. This year at COP26, enough new government commitments were made that the IEA (as we've reported) found that if kept, temperature rise would be held to 1.8 degrees Celsius. It demonstrated what a positive, forcing mechanism Glasgow had been.

By setting the expectation that countries would come back in one year with even more ambitious commitments means that, instead of waiting another five years for action, we could be knocking at the door of 1.5 degrees temperature rise by next year's COP27 in Cairo. At the very least, everyone will be on their toes to demonstrate their progress and pledges met in 2022.

Second, and significantly, for the first time ever, the COP went on record calling for an end to nonsensical fossil fuel subsidies, and to the phase-down of coal use. That's never happened before. Imagine the market signal that sends when 197 countries go on record, explicitly supporting the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era. Would the US have liked this language to be stronger? Absolutely. But it's a milestone nonetheless. If this was an easy feat, it would've already happened somewhere been COPs 1-25.

Third, the communique calls out wealthy, industrialized countries for failing to meet the $100 billion goal to help poorer and most-threatened developing countries deal with climate change's damaging effects, and sets the high mark of achieving "at least double" in finance for adaptation by 2025. It also sets up a process for figuring out a collective goal for long-term finance.

Pile all of that on top of announcements before the final COP26 resolution:

1. The Global Methane Pledge, where 105 nations representing 70% of the global economy committed to significantly reduce emissions of methane (a GHG up to 80x more potent than carbon dioxide) by 2030.

2. The US and China agreement to work together on reducing methane, coal, and raising climate ambition during this decade.

3. 85% of global forests are now committed to anti-deforestation efforts by 2030.

4. A First Movers Coalition of business leaders and 34 companies -- including Amazon, Apple, and United Airlines, representing $8 trillion in supply chains -- placing orders for zero-carbon ships, green steel, and 85% cleaner jet fuel.

What's it all add up to? Progress, by any measure. It means that instead of hiding behind COVID-19 or global supply chain disruptions, the world stepped up in Glasgow.

The climate crisis is far from over and while commitments, from countries to companies and entire sectors have been made that can and must go a long way towards righting the ship, pledges have to be implemented to become more than words. What we know: we will be watching closely in 2022 and in the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, "COP27 starts now."

UN: Secretary-General's statement on the conclusion of the UN Climate Conference (COP26), November 13, 2021.


What went down each day at COP26:

Dispacth #11 - November 14

Dispatch #10 - November 11

Dispatch #9 - November 10

Dispatch #8 - November 9

Dispatch #7 - November 8

Dispatch #5 & #6 - November 7

Dispatch #4 - November 4

Dispatch #3 - November 3

Dispatch #2 - November 2

Dispatch #1 - November 1