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The Glasgow Climate Pact is a global commitment that was the most important result of COP26. The latter was the 26th global meeting on climate change, which happened in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021. Among things, 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 fossil fuels need to decrease.

The success of COP26 and the outcome being the Glasgow Climate Pact, is considered both a success and a failure. For example, media, scientists and environmental activists critique the pact for being too vague in its words (e.g. it states “phasing down” coal rather then “phasing out”). More so, that the commitments are not enough to truly fight global warming. In other words, keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. Others, such as politicians who participated at the meetings, call the outcome a global success. Partly, because they managed to agree to “phase down” fossil fuels (read more on this below).

The Glasgow Climate Pact

The Glasgow Climate Pact is connected 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 on national efforts to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In other words, reports on the plans that each nation have to fight climate change. These reports are sent to the UNFCCC (the organ that organises the global climate meetings).

Through the Paris Agreement, nations decided that the reports would be discussed every 5th year. Which is why they were 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 is important 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 difficult. As mentioned, the most important accomplishment was the agreement to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Among things, they decided to “phase down” “inefficent subsidies for fossil fuels”. Basically, this means that nations will decrease (not stop) subsiding fossil fuels. This means allowing less government efforts that lower the cost of fossil fuel productions. Or lowers the price paid for energy consumers so they can use e.g. petrol at a better price.

As mentioned, there was also a big debate on  coal, with particularly China, India and the US making the agreement looser. “Phase out” was eventually changed to “phase down”, leaving many participants disappointed. This is because coal is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions today. More so, scientists call for a complete stop of using coal to mitigate climate change. However, some nations, are widely dependent on the use of coal for their energy use. Which makes the changes difficult.

Notably (to continue on the above), these kind of discussions are complex by nature. At one side, there is an urgent need for long-term thinking. For example, by including the negative consequences that coal has 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

Other outcomes of the pact was agreeing on a set of rules for a global “carbon market”. These rules are believed to increase the funds for green projects in the world. In short, a carbon market allows companies to release carbon if they invest in green development somewhere else in the world. This mechanism is critiqued for allowing big polluters to keep polluting. Yet, it is also seen in a positive light as it contributes to green investments.

Deals from COP26 outside of the pact

During the COP26, there were some significant commitments that were not included in the Glasgow Climate pact. One was to end deforestation by 2030, which over 100 nations agreed on. Another was to reduce the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by 30 % from 2020 levels by the end of this decade. These questions are very important to mitigate climate change. Yet, interests, such as economic ones, halt the progress.

Sources: UKCOP26, EarthUNFCCC, The Conversation


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