16 November 2021
Governments Adopt Glasgow Climate Pact, Operationalize Paris Agreement
Video still credit: Project Everyone
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COP 26 was the first in-person meeting for a multilateral environmental agreement to take place since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Delegations speaking in the closing plenary “expressed disappointment, but also highlighted some element that, for them, represented progress”.

The Pact calls for “phasing down” unabated coal power and “phasing out” inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact, agreeing to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and phase down unabated coal power. The Glasgow Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 26) closed on the night of 13 November, one day later than planned. 

The Glasgow Climate Change Conference convened from 31 October to 13 November 2021. It was the first in-person meeting for a multilateral environmental agreement to take place since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The SDG Knowledge Hub has reported on the opening of the Conference, the COP 26 World Leaders Summit, the rest of the first week as negotiations picked up, and the start of the second week.

The final three days of COP 26 were spent weighing compromises on finance, adaptation, and loss and damage, among other difficult issues. On Wednesday, 10 November, the day began with an overview from the COP 26 presidency about the status of each track of negotiations. On finance, developed countries were seen as “shirking their obligations to provide finance.” 

On Thursday, 11 November, draft decision texts were issued on finance, loss and damage, and Article 6 – three issues that were left unresolved at COP 25, which took place in Madrid, Spain, in 2019. On Article 6, delegates worked to avoid “going backwards” in their governments’ level of ambition.

The final scheduled day of COP 26, Friday, 12 November, began by hearing the status of each outstanding issue. Countries’ statements indicated their views still diverged in many areas, meaning that final decisions would require more time. Disagreements related to the cover text, which had been introduced by the UK COP Presidency, included whether to reference phasing out “all” fossil fuel subsidies, “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies, or have no reference.

Deliberations continued Friday night and into Saturday morning. An informal stocktaking convened on Saturday afternoon, where COP 26 President Alok Sharma asked all delegations to accept the package of proposed texts. After a lengthy round of statements, including requests for changes, the Presidency held informal-informal negotiations with the US, China, India, and others. The closing plenary then resumed, and the meetings were closed just before midnight on Saturday, 13 November.

Parties adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact containing three overarching cover decisions that provide an overall political narrative of the Conference of the Parties (COP). For the first time in the UNFCCC process, there is a reference to “phasing down” unabated coal power and “phasing out” inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. The decisions also call for developed countries to double their adaptation finance from 2019 levels, by 2025; and for parties that have not yet communicated new or updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to do so before the next COP, scheduled to take place in Egypt in November 2022.

The Pact also establishes:

  • an annual high-level ministerial roundtable on pre-2030 ambition;
  • the Glasgow Dialogue between parties on loss and damage, to convene from 2022 to 2024;
  • a process to discuss a new collective quantified goal on climate finance; and
  • an annual dialogue to strengthen ocean-based action.

COP 26 also invited the UN Secretary-General to convene world leaders in 2023 to consider ambition to 2030.

Announcing the Glasgow Climate Pact, COP 26 President Alok Sharma said it “charts a course for the world to deliver on the promises made in Paris,” and parties “have kept 1.5°C alive.” However, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin explains that parties differ in their views as to what constitutes ambition, and whether COP 26 actually kept 1.5°C within reach.

Delegations speaking in the closing plenary “expressed disappointment, but also highlighted some element that, for them, represented progress.” Many developing countries lamented the outcome on loss and damage. They had called for a financial mechanism for loss and damage, but the outcomes on loss and damage only include a strengthened Santiago Network and its technical support functions, and a two-year dialogue.

Parties finalized the Paris Agreement Rulebook, which means the Agreement is now operational and implementable. Decisions were reached on Article 6 (cooperative approaches) and common time frames, operationalizing carbon credit trading, a carbon market, and a framework for non-market-based approaches. On common time frames, countries agreed to submit new NDCs in 2025 with an end date of 2035, in 2030 with an end date of 2040, and so on. 

The enhanced transparency framework was fully completed, with agreement reached on the tables, outlines and other formats for the reports. This decision will enable parties to submit their first biennial transparency reports under the Paris Agreement in 2024. Support for developing countries to undertake their obligations under the enhanced transparency framework was included in the finance decisions.

As a result of the pledges made during the World Leaders Summit, estimates were released indicating that, if all commitments are implemented, global temperature rise could be 1.8°C (according to the International Energy Agency) or 2.4°C (according to Climate Action Tracker) by 2100. These assessments represent an improvement compared with the 2.7°C of global warming predicted based on the NDCs registered before COP 26.

In a statement at the conclusion of COP 26, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the final texts “take important steps, but unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions.” He said the Conference did not achieve the goals of ending fossil fuel subsidies, phasing out coal, putting a price on carbon, building the resilience of vulnerable communities, or fulfilling the commitment of USD 100 billion in climate finance to support developing countries. But he identified building blocks for progress that emerged from Glasgow, including: commitments to end deforestation, drastically reduce methane emissions, and mobilize private finance around net-zero; reaffirmed resolve towards the 1.5-degree goal; boosting climate finance for adaptation; recognizing the need to strengthen support for vulnerable countries suffering from irreparable climate damage, and for the first time encouraging international financial institutions to consider climate vulnerabilities in concessional, financial and other forms of support, including Special Drawing Rights.

Guterres said he will convene a global stock-taking summit at the Heads of State level in 2023. In the meantime he plans to create a high-level expert group to establish clear standards to measure and analyze net-zero commitments from non-State actors. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of COP 26]

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