What does the Glasgow Pact mean for climate action – and the public?

·3-min read
Protesters demonstrate during the Cop26 talks (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Protesters demonstrate during the Cop26 talks (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

The gavel has finally come down on the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow Here are some of the key questions about the summit answered.

– What has been agreed?

The deal requests countries revisit and strengthen their 2030 national climate action targets so they are in line with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming to “well below” 2C and pursuing efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5C, by the end of 2022.

It calls on countries to move to shift to clean energy and accelerate efforts to phase down unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

And it has measures on finance for poorer and more vulnerable countries to develop cleanly, cope with climate impacts and address the loss and damage they face from climate-related storms, floods, droughts and rising seas.

There is also action on setting up carbon markets, and transparency on how countries report on their climate action.

– Why do we need this?

When the Paris Agreement was negotiated in 2015, it was clear the national action plans, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs), that countries had submitted for emissions cuts up to 2030 left the world way off track to meet the temperature goals in the accord.

So the agreement built in a ratchet mechanism that would see countries return with updated plans up to 2030 by Cop26 – which was meant to take place in 2020, but was delayed by the pandemic.

But the latest set of plans countries submitted in the run-up to Glasgow still leave the world for off track for the 45% emissions cuts needed by 2030 to meet the 1.5C goal, instead heading for 2.4C of warming.

Therefore, countries were under pressure to come up with a deal in Glasgow to take steps to rapidly increase their ambition for emission cuts in the 2020s to stop the 1.5C goal slipping out of reach.

And with the impacts of 1.1C of warming already biting, there was also pressure to provide the finance for developing countries to cope with the crisis, and to address the loss and damage they are facing.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

– Will it succeed?

That remains to be seen. Action and pledges since the Paris climate summit have been bending the curve down towards less dangerous temperatures, but there is still a long way to go, and a very short time to do it.

There is hope from the agreement that countries will come back with stronger action in the next year, and a signal that coal in particular is facing a bleak future.

And a series of deals announced at Cop26 alongside the main negotiations – on cutting methane, switching to electric cars, protecting forests, driving finance towards green tech and actions and shifting from coal to clean energy – may drive momentum, if not deliver the scale of cuts needed on their own.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

– What does it mean for ordinary people in the UK?

Not a huge amount in the short term.

Lives are going to change because of climate action, but the UK already has targets to cut its emissions by 68% by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement, alongside its domestic legal carbon-cutting goals.

It is implementing plans to meet them, with measures such as the coal power phaseout, conventional car ban and efforts to switch home heating to clean alternatives to boilers planned or under way.

In the longer term, it keeps alive the possibility of limiting global warming to 1.5C, helping protect people from the worst impacts of climate change.

In the UK, that means avoiding the most damaging flooding and storms, coastal erosion, water shortages and heatwaves that rising temperatures will bring.

In the words of the EU’s Frans Timmermans, it’s about “avoiding a future for our children and grandchildren that is unliveable”.

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