A new deal concerned with tackling climate change has been established at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first ever climate change agreement which explicitly endeavours to reduce coal, the most damaging fossil fuel for releasing greenhouse gases. The deal also pledges for more urgent emission reductions and more money invested into developing countries, to help them adapt to climate impacts. However, the pledges do not appear to expand far enough to achieve limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C.
A pledge to phase out coal, which had been encompassed in earlier negotiation drafts, met an abrupt end after Indian and Chinese opposition. India’s Climate Minister Bhupender Yadav challenged how developing countries could not promise to reduce coal and fossil subsidies when they must “still deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication”. In the end, countries compromised in agreeing to ‘phase down’ rather than ‘phase out’ coal, despite expressions of disappointment from other country representatives.
In reference to this, COP26 President Alok Sharma expressed he was ‘deeply sorry’ for how events had unfolded. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson shared that he hoped the world would “look back on COP26 in Glasgow as the beginning of the end of climate change”.
Developing upon this, he said the agreement is a big step forward in the climate discussion transnationally, expressing that, critically, it represented the “first ever international agreement to phase down coal and limit global warming to 1.5°C”. As part of the negotiation, countries will meet next year to pledge further major carbon cuts in pursuit of reaching this goal. Current pledges, if maintained, are only due to limit global warming to about 2.4°C.
If global temperatures exceed increasing by 1.5c, scientists claim the earth is likely to see severe impacts such as further, unbearable temperature rises. However, Lars Koch, a policy director for Charity ActionAid expressed his disappointment that only coal was mentioned. He pointed toward the blind eye being turned on the consequent impact of extracting oil and gas.
Additionally, poorer countries called throughout the meeting for additional funding through the principle of loss and damage – proposing richer countries should compensate poorer ones for climate change effects they are unable to adapt to. Shauna Aminath, Environment Minister for the low-lying Maldives, reinforced: “we have 98 months to halve global emissions. The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence for us”.