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The Glasgow Climate Pact was the most crucial global commitment of COP26. The latter was the 26th meeting on climate change, which happened in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021. For example, it is the first pact in history that commits to “phasing down” fossil fuels such as coal. In other words, it is the first global agreement stating that the use of fossil fuels needs to decrease.

The Glasgow Climate Pact is considered both a success and a failure. Media, scientists and environmental activists have called it too vague. For instance, the pact states that countries will “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal. Many have said that the commitments are insufficient to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. Others, such as politicians who participated in the meetings, call the outcome an international success partly because they agreed to “phase down” fossil fuels (read more below).

The Glasgow Climate Pact

The Glasgow Climate Pact relates to the Paris Agreement from 2015. That is why one of the most common slogans during COP26 was to “keep 1.5 C alive” (the aim of the Paris Agreement). When signing the agreement from Paris, nations committed to yearly reports called the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). These are plans for national efforts to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In other words, reports on each nation’s plans to fight climate change. These reports get sent to the UNFCCC (the organ that arranges the global climate meetings).

Through the Paris Agreement, nations decided that the reports would get discussed every 5th year, which is why they got discussed at COP26. More so, another important outcome of COP26 was deciding that these reports will happen more frequently (every 2nd, instead of every 5th). This change is essential because it can push countries to do more, for example, by giving more financial support to nations that already struggle with climate change.

Picture of environmental activist holding a sign that says "eco not ego"

Details of the Glasgow Climate Pact

The Glasgow Climate Pact was the result of many days and nights of discussions between the nations in UNFCCC. Financial questions were dominant, and reaching an agreement was complex and challenging. As mentioned, the most important accomplishment was the agreement to reduce the use of fossil fuels. They decided to “phase down” “inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”. This decision means that nations will decrease (not stop) subsiding fossil fuels. In other words, to allow fewer government efforts that lower the cost of fossil fuel production or consumption.

As mentioned, the debate on coal dominated the discussions. Particularly China, India and the US made the agreement looser. “Phase out” was eventually changed to “phase down”, leaving many participants disappointed as coal is the most significant source of greenhouse gas emissions today. More so, scientists call for a complete stop to burning coal to mitigate climate change. However, some nations are widely dependent on coal for their energy use, making the changes difficult.

Notably (to continue on the above), these discussions are naturally complex. On one side, there is an urgent need for long-term thinking, for example, by highlighting the consequences of coal on climate change (and what climate change will mean for the world as we know it). On the other side, nations are concerned with their current economies and qualities of life, thinking more short-term.

Other outcomes

Another outcome of the pact was agreeing on a set of rules for a global “carbon market”. Establishing the rules will hopefully increase the funds for green projects worldwide. In short, a carbon market allows companies to release carbon if they invest in green development elsewhere. The mechanism is both critiqued and celebrated. Critics state that it will enable big polluters to keep polluting, while others see it positively since it contributes to green investments.

Deals from COP26 outside of the pact

Some significant commitments were left out of the Glasgow Climate Pact. One was to end deforestation by 2030, which over 100 nations agreed on. Another potential agreement was to reduce methane emissions by 30 % from 2020 levels by the end of this decade. These commitments are crucial to mitigate climate change. Yet, interests, such as economic ones, halted progress.

Sources: UKCOP26EarthUNFCCC, The Conversation


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