We are not expecting further big climate reduction commitments from countries this year at COP27. The leaders of China and Russia (the world’s first- and fifth-largest climate polluters) are not attending the event, nor are officials from many of the largest economies, including India and Australia. U.S. President Joseph Biden will make only a short
Prior to COP26, we published an article that identified several issues being discussed at COP26 that could be of critical importance to business.
|During COP26, we followed the developments of these issues in a special Viewpoints series.
And now that COP26 is concluded, people are asking: What impact did it have? Where does the world stand on these issues?
You probably read the mixed reviews with regard to success of this COP. The New York Times reported Nov. 13 within minutes of the banging of the final gavel: “Global negotiators in Glasgow agreed to do more to fight climate change and aid vulnerable nations, but left crucial questions unresolved.”
What was resolved? For those of us who have studied agreements coming out of the COPs, this agreement, called the Glasgow Climate Pact is notably weak. The parties could only agree to language that “notes” certain issues or “urges” certain actions, as opposed to strong language that “decides” any points or “commits” parties to any defined metric.
The Pact does “reaffirm” the Paris Agreement temperature goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 above pre-industrial levels but that will require all nations to slash their carbon dioxide emissions by nearly half this coming decade to hold warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
However, the Pact merely “emphasizes” the urgent need for parties (as opposed to “the parties agree to…”) to increase their efforts collectively to reduce emissions through accelerated action and implementation of domestic mitigation measures in accordance with Article 4, paragraph 2, of the Paris Agreement and merely “urges” parties that have not yet communicated new or updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to do so as soon as possible in advance of the next session of the Conference of the Parties (as opposed to “the Parties that have not yet communicated new or updated nationally determined contributions agree to submit by [insert date]”).
|It also “urges” wealthy nations (as opposed to “wealthy nations agree…”) to “at least double” funding by 2025 to protect the most vulnerable nations from the hazards of a hotter planet. And it explicitly mentions the need to curb fossil fuel usage, the first time a global climate agreement has done so.|
As with any multinational showcase meeting, delegates at each COP (and especially its host) want the meeting to be seen as a success. As the 26th COP approaches, it is in some ways salutary to look back at previous COPs and identify those outcomes which made them a hallmark meeting and the failures which made others less memorable. In recent years, COP15 in Copenhagen was regarded as a failure because despite high hopes and great hoopla it failed to gain agreement by the UNFCCC signatories on taking action to reduce carbon emissions and ended with the weak “agreement to agree” known as the Copenhagen Accord. The COP21 in Paris is regarded as a success in that 196 countries agreed to take action to slow and eventually reduce carbon emissions (“Paris Agreement”). Furthermore, the Paris Agreement aspired to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, adding to the 2 degree limit from 1970 temperatures. Of course, there was much else that was positive to come out of Paris, including a commitment by developed nations to deliver $100 billion a year for five years from 2020 to help poorer countries address climate change. There were a number of other significant agreements which we have considered previously.
However, as a delayed COP26 is about to start, the world in which the Paris Agreement was fashioned looks markedly different to the world today. In 2015 relations between the major industrial nations were more cordial (or at least not as fractious) as they are today. Heads of governments and business leaders were both present and committed. Climate change featured large on political and social agendas; the Pope issued his encyclical ‘Laudato si’, calling for human action to combat global warming; the host country generated over 90% of its electricity from zero carbon sources (including nuclear), and, whilst the issues were pressing, they still seemed solvable, provided countries delivered on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).…
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established at the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992. More than 200 countries are “party” to the UNFCCC, and these countries meet every year (with the exception of 2020, due to COVID-19) at the Conference of the Parties (COP). The meeting of the UNFCCC in…