A pragmatic climate deal

Late on Saturday night, almost 24 hours after the COP26 summit was to end, 196 parties adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact
Old faultlines were visible again at Glasgow, but not enough to prevent a well-intentioned, but watered down deal (REUTERS) PREMIUM
Old faultlines were visible again at Glasgow, but not enough to prevent a well-intentioned, but watered down deal (REUTERS)
Updated on Nov 14, 2021 07:07 PM IST
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ByHT Editorial

Late on Saturday night, almost 24 hours after the COP26 summit was to end, 196 parties adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact. Activists and environmentalists may bemoan the lost opportunity for radical change, but that was never going to happen, and, in the end, the fact that there was a deal at all, and one that actually moved forward on many aspects, was COP26’s greatest achievement. The pact aims to limit the global warming to below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5° Celsius. It also mentions the end of the road for coal and inefficient fuel subsidies. This is the first time that the coal phase-out has been mentioned in such an agreement. The closure of the Paris rules on carbon markets is a step forward, although some loopholes need to be closed. And that countries will have to return next year with more ambitious commitments is a significant win. Still, as United Nations secretary-general António Guterres said: “The approved texts are a compromise. They reflect the interests, the conditions, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today.”

Mr Guterres is right. These “interests” and “contradictions” are natural because different countries are at varying levels of development and must be allowed to design their own development pathways. On coal, however, this principle was challenged at COP26. The initial draft of the text called on countries to accelerate “efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. But India, China, and other developing countries objected to this provision. They demanded that phase-out be replaced by “phase down” because there is a need to recognise “national circumstances” and the requirement for support towards a “just transition” for affected communities. This is in line with India’s long-held position, reiterated by environment minister Bhupender Yadav: Developing countries have a right to their fair share of the global carbon budget and are entitled to the responsible use of fossil fuels within this scope.

The biggest letdown of COP26 is the failure of the developed world to deliver on the promise of mobilising at least $100 billion per year from 2020 to help the developing world deal with the impacts of the climate crisis and specify a structured process of delivery. The deadline is now 2023. Moreover, there is no road map on how finance and compensation will be delivered for loss and damage. Old faultlines were visible again at Glasgow, but not enough to prevent a well-intentioned, but watered down deal.

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Sunday, December 05, 2021