Four key points of COP26: emissions cut, adaptation, loss and damage and coal

By Asitha Jayawardena

Four key points of COP26 in Glasgow, UK in November 2021

The UN Climate Summit, or COP26, is over now and the next one will be COP27 in Egypt in 2022.

Many key points are there in this summit of two weeks in Glasgow but here we consider four key points of COP26:

  • Emissions cut or mitigation
  • Climate finance and adaptation
  • Loss and damage
  • Coal “phasing down”, not “phasing out”

Emissions cut or mitigation

At COP26, according to the national plans on cutting emissions by 2030, or called as NDCs (nationally determined contributions), the global temperature would be 2.4C in 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels. Before COP26, the global temperature would be 2.7C. So, an improvement of 0.3C is there but it is nowhere to 1.5C.

In line with the Paris Agreement in 2015, 1.5C is the global temperature that is preferable when compared to pre-industrial levels.

From 2.4C to 1.5C, it is 0.9C. So, the next year, the countries are requested to cutting down emissions even further and submit the NDCs in November 2022 in COP27 in Cairo, Egypt.

In the Paris Agreement or COP21, the NDCs should be reviewed only in 2025. But the COP26 decided that the NDCs review should be in 2022 and 2023 at respective COPs to draw down to a manageable level of 0.9C.

In COP26, 2.4C warming is undesirable but the countries are rallying together to cut emissions in 2022 rather than 2025. It is a huge achievement.

Climate finance and adaptation

In 2009, the rich countries promised to transfer annually $100bn to the poor countries who are at a decisive state of climate change although they do not emit much greenhouse gases. In 2019, the year that is statistics are available, only $80 bn moved. The poor countries are not happy about that and thus shown in the discussion at COP26. However, in the next 5 years, the rich countries promised to increase the amount to $500bn.

The emissions cut at COP26 is suffered as it predicted 2.4C as the global temperatures in 2100, hence the solution of mitigation is not ideal but improving, probably the next year. So, the other answer, the solution of adaptation, has come into play and the funding for which is doubled.

In the UN Climate Change website, adaptation refers ‘to adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. It refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change.’

So, adaptation in that sense includes building flood defences, setting up early warning systems for cyclones, switching to drought-resistant crops, and redesigning communication systems, business operations and government policies. 

Loss and damage

Developing countries, particularly vulnerable nations, expected a funding mechanism for loss and damage in COP26 but this time as well it was not even mentioned in the final text of the Glasgow Climate Pact. COP27 is the next one they would like to bring this problem to.

With the resistance from the United States, the European Union and some other rich nations, the Glasgow Climate Pact failed to provide funding for vulnerable nations, such as the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu and Antigua and Barbuda. However, the developed countries have now recognized the loss and damage as an issue.

Such developing countries should be funded soon because climate change has enormous impacts day by day and COP27 would be too late in a way. With the temperatures rising, it will pose a social, economic and environmental threat to the developing countries.

Instead of funding loss and damage, the Glasgow Climate Pact agreed to fund the Santiago Network, a body that aims to build technical expertise on dealing with loss and damage.

Countries like the United States and Australia, in particular, think that the countries with historical carbon emissions might compensate the other countries in the developing world if a fund for loss and damage is initiated.

Several ideas have been proposed to fund the loss and damage costs and one way is to tax fossil fuel sales or aviation

Coal “phasing down”, not “phasing out”

On the additional day of COP26, coal is measured as “phasing down”, not “phasing out”, hence weakening the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact. This result has caused the worry of many developed countries as well as small island nations.

The weakening came from China and India, the countries that are producing the most coal. In China, coal per person is relatively high but in India, coal per person is contextually low.

For the time being, India has to go on with the technology that they have and that is coal. Changing from coal to greener technology would mean huge investments. As time passes, India has to turn into renewables by 50% and it should achieve net-zero by 2070.

COP27 in Egypt is the next…

COP26 is over now and the next, COP27, will be in Egypt in November 2022.

Out of the four areas, the emissions cut is significant to all but the second and the third – namely, climate finance and adaptation and loss and damage – will affect developing countries. The fourth one, phasing down coal, is impacted by both developed countries and developing countries, especially small island nations.

In less than a year, nearly 200 nations will get together and discuss the proposals, NDCs in particular. In this year, let’s hope that the impacts of climate change are a minimum so that we can lower emissions to the 1.5C of heating. At least we hope so.

More…

COP26 KEEPS 1.5C ALIVE AND FINALISES PARIS AGREEMENT

What are the key points of the Glasgow climate pact? https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/14/what-are-the-key-points-of-the-glasgow-climate-pact-cop26

What do adaptation to climate change and climate resilience mean? https://unfccc.int/topics/adaptation-and-resilience/the-big-picture/what-do-adaptation-to-climate-change-and-climate-resilience-mean#eq-3

Climate ‘loss and damage’ earns recognition but little action in COP26 deal https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/climate-loss-damage-earns-recognition-little-action-cop26-deal-2021-11-13/

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