Written by Daisy Barham AEGN Environmental Philanthropy Manager.
The COP resulted in the Glasgow Climate Pact, signed by all participating countries.
Read on for ten things all funders should know about the outcomes from the important summit.
1. Commitments, if implemented, will result in 2.4 degrees of warming
Many countries updated their emissions reduction commitments (formally known as National Determined Contributions, or NDCs) before or during COP26. Climate Action Tracker calculated that the commitments, if fully implemented, will result in global temperatures rising by 2.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. 2.4 degrees is an unacceptable level of climate change – far exceeding the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to as close to 1.5 degrees as possible. At 2.4 degrees of warming the world would lose coral reefs, many low-lying Pacific Island nations would be inundated, and many more people will lose their lives.
2. This critical decade was front and centre
Unlike previous COPs where the focus has been on long-term commitments to net zero emissions, COP26 had a firm focus on this critical decade: now to 2030. This is significant because scientists warn that the most significant emissions reductions must occur by 2030 if we are to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as outlined in the Paris Agreement. The commitment to act this decade was reinforced by the US and China issuing an historic joint statement to boost their cooperation on climate action in the 2020’s.
3. Reduction commitments will be reviewed next year, not 2025
The final text of the Glasgow Climate Pact urges all countries to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 emissions reduction targets in advance of COP27 in Egypt next year. This is significant as under the Paris Agreement countries were only required to revise their targets every five years. Reviewing them annually allows more opportunity for the ratcheting up of action.
4. World leaders committed to “phase down” fossil fuels — for the first time
It may seem unfathomable given that burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) is the leading cause of climate change, however the Glasgow Climate Pact is the first-time world leaders have agreed to “phase down” fossil fuels. Previous agreements have been unable to directly mentioned fossil fuels due to protests from fossil fuel dependent countries – including Australia. An early draft of the Glasgow Pact had included a commitment to “phase out” fossil fuels, but this was rejected by several nations. In fact, Alok Sharma, the President of the COP negotiations, was reduced to tears while announcing that such a critical part of the Glasgow Climate Pact had been watered down.
5. India committed to net zero
Glasgow was the first time that India committed to reaching net zero emissions. Albeit by 2070 – far later than scientists recommend. India is home to 17 per cent of the world’s population, yet emits just five per cent of the earth’s emissions. However, it is the single third-largest emitter of carbon pollution globally. According to Climate Action Tracker, “India’s coal-fired power plant pipeline is the second largest in the world and is one of the few to have increased since 2015“. India was one of the countries who insisted on changing the Pact language from “phase out” to “phase down” of coal.
6. Australia remains a global laggard
Australia has drawn international condemnation for not stepping up our emissions reduction targets. Prime Minister Morrison’s announcement, just days before COP26, to reach net zero emissions by 2050 failed to convince world leaders Australia is taking climate change seriously enough. Australia faced pressure to increase our 2030 commitments from 26-28 per cent to something more akin to the 2030 targets of the United States, the United Kingdom and trading partners such as the European Union and Japan. However, Mr Morrison has so far resisted the pressure. Australia also refused to sign The Global Methane Pledge and Global Coal Pledge (more on these below).
7. Ending deforestation by 2030
Day two of the conference came with a bang. More than 140 countries agreed to the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, a global pledge to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030“. The agreement covers 90 per cent of the world’s forests. Australia joined the global chorus to end deforestation, which is the first time the Morrison Government has made such an explicit commitment. However, there are concerns that Australia may try to wriggle out of this commitment through creative accounting, rather than phasing out large scale land clearing and logging as the commitment requires.
8. 100 strong methane agreement
More than 100 countries, representing about 70 per cent of the world’s economies, signed the Global Methane Pledge. The Pledge aims to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. The Pledge makes the importance of acting on methane clear, stating that, “Roughly 30 per cent of global warming since the industrial revolution is due to methane emissions. Methane is causing 80 times more global warming than CO2.” Australia is not a signatory, despite significant methane emissions from livestock farming and gas production.
9. Coal was under the spotlight
Day three focused on coal – the world’s single largest driver of climate change. Over 190 countries and organisations signed on to the Global Coal to Clean Energy Transition Statement which aims to “To rapidly scale up technologies and policies in this decade to achieve a transition away from unabated coal power generation in the 2030s … for major economies.” The Australian Capital Territory was the only State or Territory in Australia to sign the statement.
10. Finance to support climate adaptation is sorely lacking
At the 2009 Copenhagen COP wealthy nations committed to spend a $100 billion each year from 2020 to support poorer nations to deal with the impacts of climate change. Since making the pledge nations have been slow to contribute, and COP26 was no different. Australia has contributed less than 20 per cent of our fair share of international climate finance.
However, in an example of innovative finance, the UK, EU and US committed $8.5 (US) billion to support South Africa to transition from away from coal power. South Africa is one of the world’s top 20 emitters and produces 80 per cent of its electricity from coal.
Momentum is with climate action: now we must increase ambition and urgency
This list shows both that COP26 was both insufficient to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, and that there were some genuinely positive breakthroughs. Here at the AEGN we want to give a huge shout out to all the organisations and individuals who worked hard to make the progress that we have seen here — and to all the AEGN members who have supported that work. What is clear is that there has never been a more important time for all of us around the world to increase our ambition and urgency of action on climate.
If you’re ready to turbo charge your climate funding, request a 1:1 discussion with our experienced climate team by emailing:
- Daisy Barham — Environmental Philanthropy Manager email@example.com