For the past fortnight, climate talks have turned Glasgow into an international hub of activity, but as the summit has come to a close and the 25,000 attendees have returned to their home countries, nearly 200 countries have now agreed to the ‘Glasgow Climate Pact.’ This text is the most important document to emerge from the COP26 climate summit, with the decisions having legal force in the context of the Paris Agreement. After two weeks of negotiations, talks and pledges, 196 countries have now committed to ‘phase down’ unabated coal. Previous versions of the draft text were calling for the ‘phase-out’ of coal, however, in the hour before the closing plenary session there was a frantic last-minute decision among ministers to change this to the ‘phase-down’ of coal. China and India, the two biggest producers, consumers and importers of coal were the ones calling for this change. Campaigners, politicians, activists and charities have warned that this language change weakens the international commitment to getting rid of coal.
COP26 president Alok Sharma offered his apologies for the late wording changes, he said: ‘May I just say to all delegates I apologise for the way this process has unfolded. I also understand the deep disappointment but I think, as you have noted, it’s also vital that we protect this package.’
Another crucial part of the pact outlines that countries must return to COP next year with more ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets in line with the 1.5C target agreed at the Paris Agreement.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson concluded: ‘We asked nations to come together for our planet at COP26, and they have answered that call. I want to thank the leaders, negotiators and campaigners who made this pact happen – and the people of Glasgow who welcomed them with open arms.
‘There is still a huge amount more to do in the coming years. But today’s agreement is a big step forward and, critically, we have the first-ever international agreement to phase down coal and a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.’
However, Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth has criticised the UK government, she said: ‘The road to 1.5 just got harder when these talks should have cleared the way to making it a whole lot easier. ‘The UK government cunningly curated announcements throughout this fortnight so that it seemed rapid progress was being made. Here we are though, and the Glasgow get-out clause means that leaders failed to phase out fossil fuels and the richest countries won’t pay historic climate debt. ‘With the COP moment over, countries should break away from the pack in their race for meaningful climate action and let history judge the laggards. The UK, as a country with huge historical responsibility for emissions, can end support for a mega gas project in Mozambique, pull the plug on the Cambo oil field, stop the new coal mine in Cumbria and drilling for oil in Surrey. After all the Prime Minister talked a big game at the beginning of the fortnight.’
Over 30 countries also agreed to make all new car sales zero-emission by 2040. This includes Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Ireland and the UK, who had already agreed to phase out new petrol and diesel car sales by 2030.
Ford, Mercedes, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz were among the carmakers to sign the accord. However, the US, China and Germany, global leaders in the car industry, all declined to sign.
Further action was taken to end deforestation, with 130 leaders, representing over 90% of the world’s forests pledging to end and reverse deforestation by 2030.
Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said: ‘We are encouraged by the recognition that nature must be an integral part of tackling the climate crisis and by commitments on curbing coal and fossil fuel subsidies. Requesting countries to bring their climate pledges in line with the Paris Agreement by the end of next year is also a small but significant step. We now need to see delivery with rapid, deep and ongoing emissions cuts alongside support for vulnerable countries facing current and future climate impacts.
‘Glasgow is the start line and not the finish. The UK presidency must continue to ensure that every climate promise is kept.’