24th November 2021
Saleque Sufi

The just concluded climate conference could not possibly achieve all what were expected, yet what has been achieved is not less encouraging. The “Glasgow Climate Pact 2021” was adopted despite a last minute intervention by India to water down language from “phasing out” coal to “phasing down”. After two weeks of intensive talks in Glasgow, diplomats from almost 200 countries have agreed to ramp up their carbon-cutting commitments, phase out some fossil fuels and increase aid to poor countries on the front lines of climate change.


The agreement will not put the world on track to avoid catastrophic warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). But experts observed that   the pact represents a significant step on a path to a safer future. The pledges on emissions cuts made at the two-week Cop26 in Glasgow fell well short of those required for limiting temperatures to 1.5C, according to scientific advice. Countries agreed to return to negotiation table in 2022 for another conference (COP27) in Egypt, and re-examine their national plans, with a view to increasing their ambition on emission reduction.


Countries have agreed a deal on the climate crisis that its backers said would keep within reach the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C, the key threshold of safety set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.


The Glasgow Climate Pact 2021 has definitely given renewed hopes to climate vulnerable nations and developed countries in going ahead with their planned NDC achievements.


Highlights of Glasgow Climate Pact


Emissions Cuts (known as Mitigation)

The current national plans on cutting emissions by 2030, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), are inadequate to limit temperature rises to 1.5C, and according to analysis published during the talks would lead to a disastrous 2.4C of heating.


Only one major emitter – India – produced a new NDC at the talks, so the work of getting NDCs in line with a 1.5C goal was always going to stretch beyond the end of the Glasgow summit.


However, under the 2015 Paris Agreement, nations are only required to return every five years to set new NDCs – and in 2025 are scheduled to discuss NDCs for beyond 2030. Sticking to that timetable would take the world well beyond 1.5C, so one of the crucial aims for the UK hosts was to draw up a roadmap for swifter revisions.


That was achieved – the question of revising NDCs will be on the agenda for next year’s COP27, to be held in Egypt, and for the one following in 2023.


Adaptation and Climate Finance

Rich countries agreed in 2009 that poor countries would receive at least $100bn (£75bn) a year from 2020, from public and private sources, to help them cut emissions and cope with the impacts of the climate crisis. But by 2019, the latest year for which data is available, only $80bn flowed.


Developing countries are angered by this, which was reflected at the talks, and have been promised that increases will follow in the next five years that will bring the finance for the next five years to $500bn. They also want more of the cash to be spent on adaptation, rather than emissions cuts.


This is important because most of the climate finance currently available goes to funding emissions-cutting projects, such as renewable energy schemes, in middle-income countries that could often be funded easily without help, because they turn a profit. But the poorest countries who need money to adapt to the impact of extreme weather struggle to obtain any funding at all.


In the end, the text agreed to double the proportion of climate finance going to adaptation. The UN and some countries were calling for a 50:50 split between funding for emissions cuts and funding for adaptation, so this has fallen short but is still an important step.


Loss and Damage

Loss and damage refers to the ravages of the climate crisis that are too destructive for countries to prevent or adapt to them – hurricanes and cyclones, for instance, or the inundation of low-lying areas by storm surges.


Countries have been talking about loss and damage for a decade but the discussions have made little progress. Developing countries say they are already spending large sums from their already stretched budgets to repair the damage caused by the climate crisis, but developed countries are wary of the way the discussion has sometimes been framed, as a call for compensation or reparations for climate damage, which they cannot accept as it would lay them open to endless legal liability.


At the last COP, discussions moved on far enough for the setting up of a database and communications and reporting system, called the Santiago Network. Many developing countries were hoping that COP26 could provide a further step towards some form of funding mechanism for loss and damage. That has not happened, and the issue will return to the talks next year.


Reaffirming the Paris Agreement

Some countries came to Glasgow opposed to stronger action and tried to suggest that focusing on 1.5C was “reopening the Paris Agreement”, the main goal of which is to hold temperature rises “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels while “pursuing efforts” to limit rises to 1.5C.


The UK hosts and supporters such as John Kerry of the US repeatedly pointed out that “well below” 2C could not mean 1.9C or 1.8C, as those were not “well below”, and that going below that got close to 1.5C. There are also repeated references in the text to “the best available science”, which has moved on since the Paris Agreement to show even more clearly that 1.5C is much safer than 2C and that every fraction of a degree counts.


So the argument at Glasgow was firmly won in favor of 1.5C – in itself an achievement for the UK hosts, and much better for the planet.


What Leaders Said at Conclusion?

Alok Sharma, the UK cabinet minister who presided over the fortnight-long COP26 talks in Glasgow, acknowledged the scale of the task remaining: “We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5C alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”


UN Secretary General António Gutiérrez observed that further urgent work was needed to reaching the goal. He said, “Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread. We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. It is time to go into emergency mode – or our chance of reaching net zero [emissions] will itself be zero.”


Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International said, “It’s meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive, but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.”


Mary Robinson, former UN commissioner for human rights and chair of The Elders group of leaders and former states people said, “Cop26 has made some progress, but nowhere near enough to avoid climate disaster. While millions around the world are already in crisis, not enough leaders came to Glasgow with a crisis mindset. The world urgently needs them to step up more decisively next year.”


Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, representing the High Ambition Coalition of developed and developing countries said, “This package is not perfect. The coal change and a weak outcome on loss and damage are blows. But it is real progress and elements of [it] are a lifeline for my country. We must not discount the crucial wins covered in this package.”


Mohamed Adow, director of the Nairobi-based think tank Power Shift Africa, took a harsher view, “The needs of the world’s vulnerable people have been sacrificed on the altar of the rich world’s selfishness. The outcome here reflects a Cop held in the rich world and the outcome contains the priorities of the rich world.”


Making the concession, Lia Nicholson, lead negotiator for Antigua and Barbuda, which chairs the 37-strong Alliance of Small Island States said, “We are extremely disappointed and we will express our grievance in due course.”


The COP also resolved several outstanding technical issues that had prevented aspects of the 2015 Paris climate agreement from coming into operation. These issues, on carbon trading and the “transparency” with which countries monitor and report their emissions, have dogged the annual climate meetings for six years but compromises were finally reached, which earned applause for Sharma.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said, “After six years, this is a significant accomplishment.”


One of the most contentious clauses in the final decision was a vaguely worded resolution to phase down “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. Energy experts are clear that phasing out coal will be essential to stay within 1.5C of global heating, but the opposition to the inclusion of the reference to a phase out – particularly from major coal-using countries including China, India and South Africa – showed how hard it will be to gain a global end to the dirtiest fossil fuel in time to avoid a 1.5C rise.


Major Polluters Must Reduce Pollution Drastically

Major polluters caused major damage to the environment in achieving their economic development. It is their responsibilities now not only cutting emissions drastically but also compensate for the loss and damage caused to climate vulnerable countries. They must also commit to contribute generously to Green Climate Fund (GCF).


The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) released an analysis on the sidelines of COP26, which said China, the US, and the EU are likely to occupy more than 90% of the available 1.5 degree C carbon space by 2050. This would leave little room for developing nations including India, Bangladesh are others to grow their economies in the coming decades. Also, the three big emitters would consume 45% of the available carbon space by 2030. “India, for example on the other hand, would emit 59% less than China, 58% less than the US, and 49% less than the EU, from 1850 to 2100, on a cumulative basis, despite turning net zero two decades later than the US and the EU and a decade later than China,” the analysis said.


What Can Bangladesh Do?

Bangladesh has no mentionable carbon footprint and for that matter has no obligation for reducing emissions. Still as a climate vulnerable country it has committed to Net Zero Emission to 2050. Nothing prevents Bangladesh using latest technologies of fossil fuel based power generation ensuring least C02 emissions. It should also restrict GHG emissions through energy efficiency. Bangladesh must also explore all possible avenues of renewable energy development. It must seek for greener energy (Nuclear, Hybrid Solar, Green Hydrogen). Bangladesh would require accessing to GCF and generous technical support and technology transfer from the developed nations towards achieving Net Zero commitments. There is no necessity that Bangladesh takes hurried decisions in cancelling its fossil fuel based under implementation projects. But it must phase down coal projects and must be more aggressive in renewable energy development and energy efficiency.

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