COP26: Working together for a better world

November 18, 2021

COP26’s outcome is a compromise. It represents the world’s current interests, inconsistencies, and lack of political will. “It’s a significant step forward, but it’s not enough,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres remarked at the conference’s conclusion. 

The Glasgow Climate Pact, which was adopted by over 200 countries after two weeks of rigorous discussions, will not significantly alter the global climate change scenario. It does, however, make significant advancements. 

It recognizes the global climate emergency, citing current IPCC conclusions as evidence. It expresses “alarm and utmost concern” that “human activities have caused around 1.1°C of global warming to date, with impacts already being felt in every region.” 

Parties also acknowledge that the impacts of climate change will be much less severe at 1.5°C than at 2°C, and have resolved to pursue efforts to keep to 1.5°C.

The Pact dramatically increases the call for more action and funding for adaptation. To ensure a balance between adaptation and mitigation, it calls on affluent nations to at least double their collective climate finance for adaptation in developing countries from 2019 levels by 2025. 

It urges multilateral development banks, other financial institutions, and the private sector to improve finance mobilization in order to provide the magnitude of resources required to meet climate goals.

The COP26 also reached an agreement on major aspects of the “Paris Agreement Rulebook,” which had been a source of contention for the previous six years. The agreement addresses market procedures as well as transparency.

Globalization of economics at work

Before the passage of the COP26 decision, hours of haggling were required to carefully address the perspectives and interests of close to 200 parties. Countries were concentrating their efforts on keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Developing countries were adamant about achieving firm climate financing commitments. There were also vulnerable countries that demanded compensation for citizens who had been harmed by climate change. 

It’s a give-and-take situation where an agreement in one area affects agreements in other areas.

Acceptance with uncertainty

The Glasgow Climate Pact was not adopted without difficulty. At India’s request, a contentious clause phasing out coal and ending fossil fuel subsidies was altered at the last minute. 

It proposed a novel approach to coal’s “phase-down.” Other parties accepted it, but only grudgingly. 

“This will not move us closer to 1.5, but it may make it more difficult to attain it,” Switzerland said of the new terminology. The Marshall Islands and others indicated they would accept the change “with the greatest reluctance.”

Many parties were dissatisfied with this issue, but it was not the only one, China stated. By no means perfect, New Zealand stated. Least-worst deal Bolivia stated, “we still have challenges and grave concerns.” 

“Text on the table makes us feel uneasy,” Grenada explained. The pact, India believed, was unfairly requiring developing countries to adopt acts that could jeopardize their development. 

While the solution was far from flawless, practically every country agreed that the alternative – walking away with no agreement – was far worse.

COP27 is officially underway

While COP26 did not give the entire range of ambition required to combat climate change, it did lay the groundwork for future action. “I’m confident we’ll make it,” the Secretary-General stated. “We’re fighting for our life.” Never surrender. Never, ever, ever retreat. Continue to make progress. 

I’ll be there for you every step of the way. The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) is about to begin.”

How will the outcomes of COP26 affect the Philippines?”

The meetings began with high aspirations for more aggressive efforts to combat the climate catastrophe, but they finished in the same manner they always do: fancy words, not enough pledges….

It is reasonable to acknowledge that progress has been made. But, after over three decades of traveling in circles, we have earned the right to be skeptical of these fresh promises. After all, it could be a matter of too little, too late once again.

We may be reading the identical headlines next year, with the exception that the number next to “COP” has changed. We shall, in some way, reach the proverbial tipping point. Will it be for the climate problem or for climate action, the question is?