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The essentials of the Glasgow Pact (COP26) 2021



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    The 26th World Climate Conference of the Parties (COP26) ended with the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact1, which, after six years of hard negotiations, represents a consensus for the United Nations on key actions to address climate change. The outstanding issues that prevented full implementation of the Paris Agreement on carbon markets and transparency were finally agreed.

    The ultimate objective of all treaties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, within a time frame that allows ecosystems to adapt naturally and facilitates sustainable development.


    1. What are the main achievements of the Glasgow Pact?

      The most concrete achievement in Glasgow was that signatory countries agreed to revise and strengthen their 2030 targets to bring them in line with the temperature target of the Paris Agreement. By the end of next year and for those that have not yet done so, countries could at least formally submit a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) or ensure that their participation in the various sectoral coalitions announced at COP26 is reflected in their current NDCs.

      A second, more symbolic step forward is that the COP26 decision text explicitly mentions fossil fuels, without including gas and oil, and ends "subsidies deemed inefficient" for fossil fuels. Fossil fuels account for 75% of all greenhouse gases; the EU and the US did not want to extend the agreement to all fossil fuels, and only mentioned the ambition to "accelerate efforts" to reduce, not eliminate, coal use.

      A new declaration entitled "Learning for our Planet: Action for Climate" also commits countries to review progress against their commitments before COP27.

      Following the mitigation focus of COP26, COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh will aim to put more emphasis on financial solidarity, adaptation to climate change and the loss and damage that results from it.

      2. What initiatives have been announced to put the Glasgow Pact decisions into practice?

        Several coalitions and partnerships have been announced. More than 6000 companies were present at COP 26. Civil society organisations, business leaders and ministers met in a special session to put in place concrete, immediate and long-term actions and to discuss how all parts of society should be involved in the actions needed to tackle climate change, and they seemed determined to act.

        3. How was the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5° C addressed?

          Participating countries recognised the scientific evidence produced by the IPCC2 which (de)shows that more needs to be done to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 45% within this decade.

          Parties were, however, only "encouraged" to deepen their emissions reductions and align their national climate action commitments with the Paris Agreement. That said, 81 countries representing almost three quarters of global emissions have now committed to achieving the goal of zero emissions by mid-century.

          However, current efforts are insufficient: if all 'net zero' commitments and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are met in full and on time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that they will only succeed in limiting temperatures to 1.8°C by the end of the century; the gap is even wider if only short-term pledges (2.4°C) or current policies (2.7°C) are considered3.

          2 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis 

          4. Have the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement been adopted?

            Six years after it was signed, an agreement on the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement ("Paris Rulebook") relating in particular to the operation of the carbon markets has indeed been adopted. It includes a five-yearly update of the "Nationally Determined Contributions" of all parties, and governance rules on the transparency of actions undertaken. Rules overseeing international "carbon markets" are also adopted and a "monitoring body" will start in 2022 to develop methodologies and administrative requirements for the market.

            From 2024, countries will have to submit a biennial report including greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventories, information on progress under their NDCs and the implementation of the policies behind them. The decision guiding the operationalisation of the Paris Agreement's enhanced transparency framework nevertheless ensures that the flexibility that developing countries will take in their biannual reports is clearly reflected.

            5. What measures have been adopted specifically on adaptation to climate change?

              In addition to mitigation measures, the implementation guidelines clearly indicate how efforts to build national capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change are to be monitored.

              The Glasgow Pact also states that support for adaptation to the unavoidable consequences of climate change should be doubled by 2025 compared to 2019 levels and a process to define the new global financing target has been launched4. A work programme to define the global adaptation target will identify collective needs and solutions to the climate crisis already affecting many countries. The Santiago network was strengthened by developing its functions to support countries in addressing and managing loss and damage. A two-year Glasgow Dialogue is also being launched to discuss how to finance activities to avoid, minimise and address loss and damage.

              6. What were the measures adopted on "carbon markets"?

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                A global carbon market now complements the rules on greenhouse gas measurement, transparency of actions taken and harmonised methods for 'reporting' national results adopted in 2018 at COP24 and the 2018 Katowice Conference5.

                The concrete decisions adopted in Katowice on measuring greenhouse gas emissions

                In concrete terms, the Katowice negotiations resulted in a complex package, containing operational guidelines on the following areas4
                • Information on national mitigation actions and other climate targets and activities that governments will provide in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs);
                • How to communicate efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change;
                • The rules for the Transparency Framework, which will show the world what countries are doing to tackle climate change;
                • The creation of a committee to facilitate the implementation of the Paris Agreement and promote compliance with the obligations under the Agreement;
                • How to take global stock of overall progress towards the Paris Agreement's goals;
                • How to assess progress in technology development and transfer;
                • How to provide advance information on financial assistance to developing countries and the process for setting new financing targets from 2025 onwards.

                The conditions for trading allowances between States will be governed by binding standards and monitoring will be established in order to avoid double counting by the emitting country and the selling country of the same tonne emitted.

                The UN Secretary General also suggested that an independent panel of experts be established to provide advice and assessment to governments on climate policies and to propose clear standards for measuring and analysing "net zero emissions" commitments. This is in addition to existing initiatives such as Science-Based Targets, the Assessing Low-Carbon Transition (ACT) Initiative, and the Climate Change Action Plan.

                4  Climate finance delivery plan meeting the US$100 billion goal

                7. What will be the international financing of climate plans?

                  The obligation to deliver on the promise of a USD 100 billion budget, which has never been reached so far, was reaffirmed. A central element of the decisions adopted at COP26 is the affirmation of solidarity with the vulnerable states most exposed to the impacts of climate change. A joint statement at cop26 by the multilateral development banks6 welcome the growing ambition reflected in the new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and will continue to support the delivery of these plans in developing countries, building on our track records of supporting low-carbon, climate-resilient, and nature-based solutions for sustainable development.

                  For the first time, a COP truly recognises and values the role of indigenous peoples and local communities even though they were not included in the negotiations. Several governments and foundations have committed to invest 1.7 billion dollars to support the efforts of these indigenous and local populations in the fight against climate change and the protection of biodiversity.


                  8. What progress has the Glasgow Pact made on biodiversity and deforestation?

                    In Glasgow, countries representing more than 90% of the world's forests also made a multinational commitment to halt deforestation by 20307, with $12 billion in public funds committed to protect and restore forests8. A total of 142 countries have committed to halting and reversing global deforestation by 2025 through adaptation measures and targets for CO2 sequestration by the world's forests, an agenda that is essential to the success of global warming mitigation efforts9.

                    In addition, global biodiversity funding needs are estimated at between US$ 78 and 91 billion per year, while at the same time governments are spending around US$ 500 billion per year on support measures that may harm biodiversity10. The Glasgow Declaration includes a Global Forest Finance Pledge11 in which 11 countries and the European Union have committed to provide €10 billion in financing to "help benefit forests and sustainable land use". The heads of more than 30 financial institutions, such as Aviva and Axa, will also commit to stop investing in deforestation-related activities.

                    The decisions of the Glasgow Pact have also taken into account the contribution of ecosystems as sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases and the importance of protecting them in order to achieve the objective of a maximum temperature increase of 1.5°C.

                    Just before COP26, at the COP15 on biodiversity12, around 100 countries adopted the Kunming Declaration, a non-binding text on biodiversity that partly reflects the objectives of the text currently being negotiated by the 196 members of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

                    Some countries have also pledged more money to fund biodiversity and the heads of state and government of the Great Green Wall in Africa and reaffirmed their support for the initiative launched at the One Planet Summit in January 2021. Almost half of the $19 billion pledged for its construction has been committed.

                    But the fact that in the absence of concrete action, deforestation will continue or even increase has been expressed by many, especially as two days after the announcement of the pact declaration, Indonesia, one of the most densely forested countries in the world, claimed that zero deforestation was not part of the Glasgow agreement and already appeared to be reneging on its commitment.

                    8 World Leaders Kick Start Accelerated Climate Action at COP26 UNFCCC. 
                    9 It should also be noted that the Global Forest Resources Assessment Report of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) found that the world has lost about 420 million hectares of forest to deforestation. But preliminary figures from the new Global Carbon Project report suggest that carbon emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes have decreased by 35%, whereas researchers had previously estimated that associated carbon emissions had increased by about 35% since 2000 

                    9. What was decided about the oceans?

                      The oceans are mentioned in the preamble of the Glasgow Pact, which stresses "the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including forests, the ocean and the cryosphere. This follows the Ocean for Climate Declaration13 supported by over 100 civil society organisations - NGOs, scientists, businesses, international organisations.

                      More specifically, Article 60 of the Pact calls on the various work programmes and bodies established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to integrate and strengthen ocean-based actions in their mandates and roadmaps and to report on these activities through existing reporting processes. More than forty experts took part in discussions on the deployment of these ocean-based solutions at the Ocean Action Day14, co-organised in early November 2021 by the Ocean & Climate Platform and Climate Champions in the framework of the Marrakech Partnership.

                      Article 61 of the Glasgow Pact provides for the organisation of an annual "Ocean-Climate" dialogue from June 2022 under the aegis of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, known as the SBSTA15.

                      However, according to the climate report presented to the UN, rising seas could force up to 300 million people living on the coasts to move or even "migrate".


                      10. What decisions have been taken regarding the use of fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) as energy sources?

                        A COP26 decision explicitly mentions fossil fuels, which account for 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This is the first time ever that a COP has included a component involving the global energy transition through accelerating the phase-out of coal and reducing fossil fuel subsidies. Some 20 countries including the UK, US, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and France joined an agreement to end foreign financing of fossil fuel projects by the end of 202216. The final text, which initially included a "coal phase-out", was changed from an "exit" to a "phase-down" under pressure from China-backed India. Instead, a dozen countries joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance17 to accelerate the phase-out of oil and gas.

                        A Declaration was also made on accelerating the transition to 100% zero emission cars and trucks. 33 governments commit to ending non-electric car sales after 2035 (2040 in developing countries). A new International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition18 was launched on 10 November during the Transport Day, with the signing of a Climate Ambition Declaration. But will the systemic constraints linked to the irreducible complexity of energy transitions be sufficiently taken into account...?

                        16 Global subsidies for fossil fuel extraction and consumption still amount to $550-590 billion.

                        11. What was decided on methane emissions?

                          Almost 100 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge, the initiative to reduce methane emissions (25 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas) by at least 30% by 2030 compared to 2020. Canada and the United States committed to a 75% reduction in the oil and gas sector.

                          12. What was the role of young people about climate issues at COP26?

                            COP 26 follows a large number of youth events and conferences around the world, including the Youth4Climate summit in Milan in September and the 16th UN Youth Conference (COY 16) in Glasgow.

                            Youth Climate Leaders, meeting at COP26 with negotiators, officials and ministers from around the world, brought together young experts from communities with the ambition to highlight urgent climate priorities. They presented the COY16 declaration to the Global Youth Position, which represents the views of over 40,000 young climate leaders from around the world.

                            In partnership with UNESCO, Youth4Climate and Mock COP, the UK and Italy coordinated a new global action to equip future generations with the knowledge and skills to create a zero-emissions world. Education ministers from around the world also pledged to do the same, with nations such as South Korea, Albania and Sierra Leone pledging to put climate change at the heart of their school curricula. More than 23 countries submitted national commitments to climate education, ranging from decarbonising the school sector to developing school resources.

                            13. What are some of the views expressed on the Glasgow Pact at the end of COP26?

                              For the UNFCCC, delegates forged agreements that strengthen ambition in all three pillars of collective climate action. One of the main outcomes is the conclusion of the so-called Paris settlement. Adaptation received particular attention during the deliberations. Financing was widely discussed throughout the session and there was consensus on the need to continue to increase support for developing countries.

                              According to the UN report19, the international agreement represented by the Glasgow Pact marks more ambition in the fight to limit global warming, more speed in the energy transition and more solidarity with the countries most affected by climate change. This is despite last-minute revisions by India and China on fossil fuel issues. That said, one limitation is that the way the COPs work requires unanimous agreements from participating states, which leads to agreement on the least ambitious common denominators.

                              For the Climate Coalition, far from being perfect, this final decision, the signing of the Glasgow Pact, nonetheless gives a boost to the fight against the climate crisis and must above all be translated into ambitious and united measures. One victory concerns the agreement reached on shorter-term commitments for climate action, in parallel with the reminder of the urgency of halving emissions by 2030, in line with the objective of keeping warming to 1.5°C. It is therefore time for action, not rhetoric: it is essential that the ambition of the contributions.

                              For Oxfam20, if some essential progress has been made and if, for the first time, the texts mention fossil fuels, there is still a long way to go and solidarity with the most vulnerable populations must urgently be put back on the table. According to Oxfam, if each country implemented the reduction plan it has so far announced, we would still be on a trajectory of +2.7°C average temperature increase.



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