What the COP26 climate conference really accomplished

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  • The UN climate summit concluded with a call for governments to return with tough promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions next year.
  • The nations made new promises on methane gas pollution, deforestation, coal financing, as well as fulfilling long-awaited rules on carbon trade, and a remarkable US-China deal.
  • Climate scientists, legal experts and politicians argue that the incremental progress resulting from Glasgow’s final deal is insufficient to address the climate crisis.

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The United Nations global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, ended over the weekend with an agreement between nearly 200 countries to accelerate the fight against the climate crisis and tough climate pledges.

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The two-week conference ended with some significant achievements, including meeting long-awaited regulations on methane gas pollution, deforestation, financing of coal as well as carbon trade, and a notable US-China deal. The summit also closed with a call for governments to return in 2022 with strong pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make more available funding for nations most vulnerable to the changing climate.

But some climate scientists, legal experts and politicians have argued that the incremental progress is insufficient to address the severity of the climate crisis resulting from Glasgow’s final deal. Some climate activists and campaigners also sharply criticized COP26, which became a public relations exercise in the form of a fortnightly talk.

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Some experts suggest that the real measure of success after COP26 will be when countries keep their promises.

“In a year marked by uncertainty and mistrust, COP26 reaffirmed the importance of collective global action to address the climate crisis,” Ani Dasgupta, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, said in a statement.

“While we are not on track yet, the progress made over the past year and the COP26 summit offered bright spots,” Dasgupta said. “The real test now is whether countries accelerate their efforts and turn commitments into action.”

Here’s a look at some of the highlights of the 26th United Nations Climate Summit:

New resolutions on methane pollution

More than 100 countries have now joined a coalition led by the US and the European Union to cut methane gas emissions by 30% from 2030 levels by 2030, a move toward limiting one of the major culprits of climate change. is an important step.

The Global Methane Pledge covers countries that account for nearly half of global methane emissions and 70% of global GDP. methane is 84 times more powerful than carbon And doesn’t last that long before breaking up in the atmosphere. This makes it an important target to quickly tackle climate change, along with reducing other greenhouse gas emissions.

Barry Rabe, a University of Michigan professor and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said while the summit brought unprecedented attention to reducing methane emissions, the pledge is only a start.

“The Glasgow meetings are a reminder of how difficult it is to achieve transformative progress on climate change in just a few weeks, despite all the melodrama,” Rabe said. “said that, [there’s] There has been some real progress here on issues like the carbon market, the coal transition, methane and more. The emerging question is whether these areas of the agreement can be implemented.”

The pledge covers six of the world’s 10 biggest methane emitters – the US, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Mexico. But China, Russia and India, which together account for 35% of global methane emissions, did not join the alliance.

President Joe Biden said at the launch of the pledge, “It’s going to make a huge difference, not just when it comes to fighting climate change – it’s going to improve health, improve the food supply, and boost the economy.” “

Eleventh Hour Agreement on Coal

The summit ended on Saturday with a final deal between nearly 200 countries targeting fossil fuels as a major driver of climate change for the first time. However, the deal included a last-minute change in what some officials called a laxity in critical language regarding coal power.

India and China, some of the world’s biggest coal burns, pushed for a last-minute change in the language of fossil fuels in the agreement, changing the words from “phase out” to “phase down” of coal. Opposing countries resisted the request but eventually acceded.

Some experts disappointed by the change of language on coal power said the deal was still better than nothing and provided incremental progress on the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, wrote in a tweet about the deal, “It’s humbling, it’s weak and the 1.5C target is only alive, but a signal has been sent that the coal age is coming to an end. And It matters.”

US-China pledge to slow climate change

The US and China, the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, agreed to cooperate to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius this decade and ensure that progress results from the convention. The alliance between rivals surprised delegates during the summit.

The US-China agreement lacks specific details or a time frame, but emphasizes that Chinese and US leaders will work to promote clean energy, reduce deforestation and reduce methane emissions. The joint declaration said the countries would work together to help accelerate the transition to a zero global economy.

US Special Climate Envoy John F. “There is no shortage of differences between the United States and China,” Kerry said in announcing the agreement during the summit. “But on climate, cooperation is the only way to get this work done.”

Strengthening 2030 goals to reach 1.5°C target

Some experts have described the convention as humanity’s last and best chance to support the goal of not exceeding 1.5°C of global warming – the temperature target enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Countries finally agreed to present the tough 2030 target next year and pursue long-term strategies to help transition to net-zero emissions by nearly mid-century to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Draft final COP26 deal has not offered a rolling annual review of climate promises that some developing countries have urged. Nations currently need to rethink their pledges every five years. The agreement also left unresolved answers to how much and how fast each nation should cut its emissions.

The world would need nearly half of greenhouse gas emissions within the next decade to prevent global temperatures from crossing 1.5°C, reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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Scientists have warned that the world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius above industrial levels. Despite global pledges, the world is on track to see a 2.4 degree Celsius rise in global temperature by the end of the century.

James Salzman, professor of environmental law at UCLA Law School, said the summit represents a significant shift in global climate strategy toward a regional approach as it focuses on issues such as methane, coal and deforestation rather than on greenhouse gas mitigation. But different agreements are involved. ,

“Talking is cheap, of course, and it remains to be seen whether these amounts to anything more than aspirational rhetoric,” Salzman said. “But pivoting could be important in breaking down a major problem into a more bite-sized approach.”

— CNBC Sam Meredith contribution reporting

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