Glasgow climate pact mentions 1.5 degree goal but weak on equity and finance
The Glasgow Climate Pact was adopted by 196 parties at the Glasgow climate change conference (COP26) on Saturday evening. It aims to limit global average temperature to well below 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degree C above pre-industrial levels. The agreement, for the first time, also mentions the need to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies. But, the deal is very weak on several fronts including climate finance and loss and damage.
During the formal plenary for adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India and China both raised objections to the draft pact text and managed to get the changes inserted to reflect their national circumstances in the final pact.
India wanted a change in a paragraph related to phase out of coal and fossil fuels to reflect the imperatives of fossil fuel subsidies for the poor in India. The original text was: “Calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems,including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, including accelerating efforts towards the phase-out of unabated....”
India asked the text to be reworded: “Call upon parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, including accelerating efforts to phase down unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, while providing targeted support to the poorest and the most vulnerable, in line with national circumstances, and recognising the need for support towards a just transition.”
China said following consultations with like minded developing countries, including India, stakeholders also wanted the same change in wording with a view to have a successful, constructive program and that they have submitted the elements needed to be changed to the COP26 President.
Several developed countries said the change had watered down the Glasgow Pact but agreed to compromise. Switzerland on behalf of Environment Integrity Group expressed disappointment that “the para on coal was watered down through an intense parent process. We do not need to phase down but phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies,” Switzerland minister said.
Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president of the European Commission in-charge of the European Green Deal also expressed disappointment. “It is no secret EU would want to go even further in the initial cover text on coal. This is a result of our own painful experience with coal. European wealth was built on coal and if we don’t get rid of coal European death will also be built on coal. We know well that coal has no future. What was read out to us was a further disappointment,” he said, indirectly warning India and China that EU may not support their policies.
“The longer you take to get out of coal the more you put burden on the economy and natural environment. We are going to try bloody hard to get out of coal. EU will be strongly committed to phasing out coal not just in EU but outside with our partners. The model we found with US, Germany and France on South Africa is how we help co-producers help rid of this fossil.”
“Already seeing articles blaming India for #COP26 “phase down” instead of “out” coal language. REALLY important to see full context here. The problem is not India; the problem is the US & rich countries refusing to couch fossil fuel phase out in the context of global equity,” tweeted Brandon Wu, director policy and campaigns, Actionaid USA.
“All fossil fuels are bad for the environment. Singling out coal without talking about other fossil fuels like natural gas etc is not the best way forward. But India, in the spirit of compromise, helped evolve language that was acceptable to all. This language takes care of concerns of many developing countries including India. We have always maintained that it [India] doesnot favour sectoral targets. We have taken on economy wide target like reduction in emission intensity of GDP. This gives us countries more flexibility to meet mitigation targets in line with the national circumstances and developmental needs. One size fits all approach is not the best way to evolve consensus on global issues,” said a senior member of India delegation.
The Glasgow Climate Pact and Paris Rule book were both adopted which includes the rules for carbon markets.
“India will be affected by COP26 asking countries to phase out polluting coal power and withdraw inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. India will also have to join other countries to escalate emission reduction actions more frequently. This will not be easy for a lower-middle income country that is trying to lift millions of people out of poverty,” said Ulka Kelkar, Climate Programme Director, World Resources Institute, India.
“India’s battle against climate change will be led by scaling up renewable energy, which will be the foundation of our net zero future; by industry, who will fight to stay competitive in the global economy; and by states and cities, who will need to urbanise with respect for nature. Now that COP-26 has finalised the rules of carbon trading, India will be able to sell more than a million carbon credits from previous years, and can also create a domestic market for carbon trading,” she added.
What is the Glasgow climate pact?
The world will strive to meet the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global average temperature to well below 2 degree C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degree C above pre-industrial levels, the Glasgow Climate Pact text released on Saturday morning said.
Though the text reaffirms the Paris Agreement goal, it has struck a compromise on several fronts and is rather weak on climate finance, adaptation and loss and damage.
Climate negotiation experts are disappointed that after a very big build up to COP 26 and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) spelling out the urgency of climate crisis, the negotiations failed to capture certain important elements which are critical for implementation of climate change mitigation policies in developing countries.
The pact seems to have addressed one of the concerns that India had raised about being “prescriptive in approach” on revising the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2022, in annual ministerial roundtables and updating long-term strategies. The agreement once again cushions this by saying that it requests parties to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their NDCs as “necessary” to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022 “taking into account different national circumstances.”
One of the main asks for India has been a multilaterally agreed definition of climate finance, delivery of the promised USD 100 billion by developed countries (in 2009) and for a structured process that will deliver the new quantified goal for climate finance well before 2025. The agreement expresses “deep regret” that the goal of developed country parties to mobilise jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020 in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation has not yet been met. The agreement urges developed countries to fully deliver on the USD 100 billion goal urgently and through to 2025 and emphasises the importance of transparency in the implementation of their pledges. It only re-emphasises the need for scaled-up financial resources to take into account the needs of countries particularly vulnerable to climate change and welcomes the initiation of deliberations on a new collective quantified goal on climate finance.
Union Cabinet minister for environment, forest & climate change Bhupendra Yadav urged the developed world to “walk the talk” on climate change. “India, under PM Shri @narendramodi ji, is walking the talk on combating climate change. We demand the same from the developed world,” the minister tweeted on Sunday.
“There is nothing much in this. There is no real commitment on part of developed countries to move ahead with serious and urgent domestic action let alone in terms of global collaboration and truly significant climate finance for tackling climate change,” said Manjeev Singh Puri, former negotiator and ambassador.
On adaptation finance, there is a positive development. The agreement has urged developed countries to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation from 2019 levels by 2025, in the context of achieving a balance between mitigation and adaptation in the provision of scaled-up financial resources.
“Nothing appears significant. The language on mitigation is exactly the same as in Paris. It also clearly states that parties need to submit their long term strategies. So basically in the next 2-3 years, India will need to submit a detailed plan for the 2070 net zero target, with intermediate targets,” said Vaibhav Chaturvedi, fellow, Council on Energy, Environment and Water.
Loss and Damage
The new Pact instead of specifying how finance and compensation will be delivered for Loss and Damage (compensation for impacts of extreme climate change events and slow onset events like sea level rise) talks of setting up “dialogue between parties, relevant organisations, and stakeholders” to discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimise and address loss and damage. Delegates, activists from developing and vulnerable countries were fuming after reading the text. The G77+China had proposed for a Glasgow Facility on loss and damage. The draft only urges developed countries, the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism, United Nations entities and intergovernmental organisations and other bilateral and multilateral institutions, including non-governmental organisations and private sources, to provide enhanced and additional support for activities addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change. Some experts said this is the first-time mitigation is mentioned separately from adaptation in the decision which means parties have started paying attention to the issue. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has called on global leaders to “start to pay their debt” to vulnerable countries referring to loss and damage during the first week of COP26. The Scottish government pledged 2 million loss and damage while leading philanthropies pledged an initial 3 million US dollars in start-up assistance to support the objectives of the Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility.
There is progress on the rules for a global carbon market mechanism this time around, an element which has been stuck in negotiations for six years. The draft text addresses the issue of double counting (where two parties--buyer and seller, claim emission reduction) through a provision of corresponding adjustments. “Double counting is addressed through corresponding adjustments. Countries will have to approve and authorise emission reductions to be used for nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and need to be adjusted correspondingly,” said Chirag Gajjar, Head Subnational Climate Action, World Resources Institute, India.
But there are couple of open matters as well. The draft has made provisions for Kyoto era credits from 2013 onwards to be carried forward which are around 4 billion tonnes of carbon emissions (unrestricted).
“it still remains to be seen what rules, modalities and procedures will be established in future” Gajjar added. This is required to ensure environmental integrity through the new carbon market.