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COP26: Understanding the new Glasgow Climate Pact

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COP26: Understanding the new Glasgow Climate Pact

Although the recently concluded COP26 left most people with mixed feelings, the summit will go down in history as the first COP to witness a flurry of promising climate statements within a short space of time.

In a grand climax, the COP26 climate summit ended as all 197 countries attending the talks struck a new climate deal in order to prevent catastrophic events should the global temperature exceed 1.5C.

While the COp26 negotiations and outcomes may have inadvertently deepened the gap between rich countries that are climate resilient and developing countries that are most vulnerable to climate change, the newly launched Glasgow Climate Pact for the first time plans to take on coal which has long been the driver of greenhouse gases.

It goes without saying that COP26 was a highly publicized event that dominated world news. Even at its close, the media is still awash with news and highlights of the event, albeit from different angles.

Given this level of awareness, people need to know how the outcome of the climate summit affects them and their personal choices. This is even more important considering that people are becoming increasingly aware of the precarious situation of the earth and how it affects all humans.

This piece will explore four questions about the Glasgow Climate Pact. Questions such as: what’s the most significant thing about the pact? What are the highs and lows of the pact? How have experts reacted to it? What does this mean for developing countries?

Noteworthy details about the Glasgow Climate Pact

The Glasgow Climate Pact has been described as an “incremental” progress rather than a breakthrough moment needed to halt the worst impacts of climate change.

Be that as it may, the Pact is most significant for putting forth a clear path to limit global warming to 1.5°C, instead of “well below 2°C” as set out in the Paris Agreement.

To put it lightly, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is on its last legs. Though clinging to life with a weak pulse, it’s nearly dead.

For one, the Glasgow Pact has paved the way for future emission cuts. Going forward, new climate plans will have to be developed every year. This may require that countries update their Nationally Determined Contributions come 2022 in order to work within the 1.5C limit.

Another significant development is the decision calling for efforts towards the phase-down of coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, a touchy topic that has been largely ignored until now.

The highs and lows of the Pact
Climate finance

Having failed to mobilize climate mitigation and adaptation funds for developing countries, the Glasgow Climate Pact commits developed nations to double funding to help developing nations adapt to climate change by 2025.

This means that in less than four years from now, rich countries are expected to provide $500 billion dollars to climate-vulnerable countries.

If payment for loss and damage caused by extreme weather were approved by all the parties- especially rich countries, this would have led to the creation of a Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility. It would have served as a channel to financially support people who are directly impacted by climate change.

But it was not to be. Wealthy nations- the EU and US- refused to create such a fund on the grounds that any commitments could expose them to legal liability and open the door to massive claims for compensation.

Fossil fuels

The inclusion of a commitment to limit the use of coal was seen as a step in the right direction even though some nations found it unsatisfying that the pact is calling for the phased down of unabated coal power and fossil fuel subsidies rather than phasing it out.

Reactions to COP26 outcome

Unsurprisngly, negotiators, leaders and activists across developing nations have voiced their dissatisfaction on the outcome of COP26.

Vanessa Nakate, an activist from Uganda, said:

“Even if leaders stuck to the promises they have made here in Glasgow, it would not prevent the destruction of communities like mine. Right now, at 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming, drought and flooding are killing people in Uganda.”

According to Nakate, only immediate, drastic emissions cuts will give Africans hope of safety. Yet, world leaders have failed to rise to the moment.

Mohamed Adow, Director of the Kenya-based think tank, Power Shift Africa, said:

“On loss and damage, it feels bad that we have nothing to show for the hard work the vulnerables put in, but loss and damage are now up the political agenda in a way it was never before and the only way out is for it to be eventually delivered.”

Though Africa’s negotiators left the COP empty-handed, Adow believes that they are nonetheless morally stronger. He is hopeful that in the coming year there will be stronger momentum to deliver meaningful support which will allow the most vulnerable communities to deal with the irreversible impacts of climate change created by the polluting world who are failing to take responsibility.

Any way you look at it, developing countries are the hero of COP26. Despite being the most affected, they have agreed to the pact knowing that the progress made in Glasgow is not on the same level with the urgency and scale required.

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