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What is included in the Glasgow Climate Pact?

Nearly 200 nations agreed to adopt the Glasgow Climate Pact on Saturday after more than two weeks of intense negotiations.

Delegates discuss the negotiating text of the agreement released earlier in the morning. Source - UNclimatechange / Kiara Worth (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Delegates discuss the negotiating text of the agreement released earlier in the morning. Source - UNclimatechange / Kiara Worth (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Nearly 200 nations agreed to adopt the Glasgow Climate Pact on Saturday after more than two weeks of intense negotiations, keeping alive hopes of averting the worst impacts of global warming.

Scientists warn that failure to set, and meet, tougher emissions-cutting goals would have huge consequences. Going beyond a rise of 1.5C would unleash extreme sea-level rise and catastrophes including crippling droughts, monstrous storms, and wildfires far worse than those already being experienced around the globe

The Glasgow agreement acknowledges that commitments made by countries so far to cut emissions of planet-heating greenhouse gases are nowhere near enough to prevent planetary warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures, according to Politico.

These current national plans are known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). India – a major emitter – produced a new NDC at the talks, so this created additional discussion.

It was finally decided that governments would be asked to strengthen those targets by the end of next year, rather than every five years, as previously required.

This one move by the climate summit adds additional leverage to laggard countries, forcing them to step up while setting a roadmap for revisions next year, rather than several years away.

Delegates discuss in “huddles” as the outcomes of the Glasgow Climate conference are finalized. Source – COP26/Kiara Worth

Targeting fossil fuels comes down to two words

The Glasgow Climate Pact includes – for the very first time – language that asks countries to reduce their reliance on coal and roll back fossil fuel subsidies. But getting the wording just right was contentious, though.

The discussion on this particular addition to the pact came down to two words – “phase-out,” – meaning phasing out the use of coal by all countries. India, which still uses a great deal of coal, insisted on using the phrase, “phase down,” despite pleas from other developing countries, according to The Guardian.

What is interesting about this issue is that while fossil fuels are central to the climate crisis, since the Kyoto protocol was signed in 1997 no COP decision has made a direct reference to phasing out fossil fuels. 

This has been due to the fierce opposition of oil-producing and coal-producing countries, and from those heavily dependent on consuming fossil fuels. So even the watered-down commitment was welcomed as a major step forward.

Australia's coal country looks to a less sooty future
Australia’s conservative government has boasted it will sell coal for as long as anyone is buying – Copyright AFP Saeed KHAN

Adaptation and climate finance

The deal made some headway on the demands of poor and vulnerable countries that wealthy countries responsible for most emissions pay up.

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

Basically, the new deal, “urges developed country to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing country Parties from 2019 levels by 2025.”

This means that there will be a 50-50 split between funding for emissions cuts and funding for adaptation, so this has fallen short but is still an important step.

Tuvalu is an island country in the Polynesian subregion of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean. It is the fourth-smallest country in the world. The island nation is also at risk from rising sea levels. Source – Davidarfonjones, CC SA 3.0.

Reaffirming the Paris agreement

Several countries came to Glasgow opposed to stronger action and tried to suggest that focusing on 1.5C was “reopening the Paris agreement.” That agreement’s main goal was to hold temperature rises “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels while “pursuing efforts” to limit rises to 1.5C.

However, UK hosts and supporters such as U.S. Climate Ambassador John Kerry repeatedly pointed out that “well below” 2C could not mean 1.9C or 1.8C, as those were not “well below.” Additionally, there have been numerous scientific studies that show even more clearly that 1.5C is much safer, especially when discussing fractions of a degree.

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.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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