We asked experts from around the world for their reaction to the outcome of this year’s UN climate summit, COP26, including the Glasgow Climate Pact agreed by all 197 countries attending the talks. Here’s what they had to say about the deals that were made. (This page will continue to be updated as more reactions are received.
Deals and targets
It is a good starting point for future action.
The summit was pitched as the last chance to “keep 1.5°C alive” – holding temperatures to less than 1.5°C above their pre-industrial levels. 2020 was also supposed to be the year in which developed countries would provide at minimum US$100 million a year of financial assistance to help developing nations adapt to growing storms and droughts. Also, the transition to clean energies was supposed to begin.
Perhaps concerned that national targets collectively were nowhere near good enough to keep 1.5°C alive – we were heading for more like 2.4°C at best – the UK government used its presidency programme to supplement these targets with a series of press-friendly announcementsNon-binding commitments to reduce methane emissions, eliminate deforestation, and phase out of coal
These were further supplemented by the “race to zero” initiatives, a series of announcements by states, cities and businesses on a range of decarbonisation approaches.
These are genuine efforts at climate action. However, the success of these developments will depend on whether they can quickly be translated into increased national commitments within one year.
Piers Forster, Professor of Physical Climate Change & Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate University of Leeds
Greenhouse gas emissions
There has been some progress in reducing emissions but not enough.
The Glasgow Climate Pact is incremental improvement, but not the breakthrough moment necessary to reduce the worst effects of climate change. The UK government as host and therefore president of COP26 wanted to “keep 1.5°C alive”, the stronger goal of the Paris Agreement. But at best we can say the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is on life support – it has a pulse but it’s nearly dead.
The Paris Agreement says temperatures should be limited to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and countries should “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5°C. The world was before COP26. on track for 2.7°C of warmingBased on the commitments made by countries and the expectation of technological changes, Some of the key countries have reduced this through announcements at COP26. These included new pledges to reduce emissions for the decade. best estimate of 2.4°C.
More countries announced long-term net Zero goals. One of the most important was India’sTo achieve net zero emissions by 2070, pledge Critically, the country stated that it would quickly expand renewable energy to account for 50% of its total consumption in the next ten year, reducing its emissions by 1 billion tonnes in 2030 (from 2.5 billion at the moment).
A world warming by 2.4°C is still clearly very far from 1.5°C. What remains is a near-term emissions gap, as global emissions look likely to flatline this decade rather than showing the sharp cuts necessary to be on the 1.5°C trajectory the pact calls for. There is a gap between long-term net zero goals, and plans to deliver emissions reductions this decade.
Simon Lewis, Professor of Global Change Science, University College London and University of Leeds; Mark Maslin is Professor of Earth System Science University College London.
Five things you need to know about the Glasgow Climate Pact
Fossil fuel finance
There was some progress in ending subsidies, but the final deal was not successful.
The most important outcomes from COP26 will be directly related to two “F-words”: finance and fossil fuels. You should pay attention to any pledges for new funding for mitigation, adaptation, as well as loss and damage. But we must remember the other side of the equation — the urgent need to cut off funding for fossil fuel projects. As the International Energy Agency made clear earlier this year, there is no room in the 1.5℃ carbon budget for any new investments in fossil fuels.
The commitmentThis is one of the most significant achievements to come out Glasgow. It involved more than 25 countries closing off international finance for fossil-fuel projects by 2022. This could make the difference of more than US$24 billion a yearPublic funds to be diverted away from fossil fuels and put towards clean energy.
There was also short-lived hope that the COP decision would call on parties to “accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.” According to the United NationsGlobal carbon emissions would be reduced by 10% if all fossil fuel subsidies were eliminated. The text on coal was not included in the agreement. watered down, the phrase “phasing out” was replaced with “phasing down”, and the weasel word “inefficient” was inserted before “subsidies for fossil fuels.”
It speaks volumes about how disconnected the COP process from the realities of climate change. This is unlikely to change for as long as fossil fuel lobbyistsYou are allowed to attend.
Kyla Tienhaara, Canada Research Chair in Economy and Environment, Queen’s University, Ontario
COP26 leaves too many loopholes for the fossil fuel industry. Here are 5 of them
Cities and buildings
It is now on the agenda in national plans as well as global deals.
At the very least COP26 has put the built environment more firmly on the agenda with a full day devoted to it – it only rated half a day at Paris in 2015 and before that had little formal acknowledgement. Because buildings are responsible 40% of global carbon emissions many argue they should receive even more attention, with the World Green Building Council stating they should be “elevated to a critical climate solution”.
There are currently 136 countriesBuildings were included in their climate action plans (known collectively as NDCs), which is an increase of 88 at the last major conference. NDCs are the legal framework on which COP is based, so this matters.
The built environment is more closely managed by local governments than national governments. These are the places where planning and building regulations can be approved and development strategies developed. These plans dictate how we build houses, offices, and community facilities. Cities are created. over 70% of energy-related emissionsThis only increases their importance. As such, you can expect the local authorities to play a greater role in the future.
It is clear that “embodied carbon” and “Scope 3 emissions” will become everyday language for construction pretty quickly, so make sure you learn what they mean.
The debate between technology consumption and technology was the most contentious issue, aside from the formal agenda. Many industry groups were discussing decarbonising concrete production and concrete production with new, yet unproven technologies at COP26. It is necessary, but it is more important. we need to change the way we design buildingsThey use materials that are low in carbon, such as wood, and they also consume less.
The most important win is, without doubt, the reference to energy efficiency in a text adopted by the Glasgow Climate Pact. This is the first instance that energy efficiency has been explicitly referred to in the COP process. Buildings play a significant role in mitigating the effects of climate change.
Article 36 calls on governments to “accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination” of actions including “rapidly scaling up” energy efficiency measures. It is important to note the urgency of this language. All countries have a legal obligation to align their building regulations with a low-carbon future.
Ran Boydell, Visiting Lecturer in Sustainable Development, Heriot-Watt University
Embodied carbon: why truly net zero buildings could still be decades away
Huge pledges to increase electric vehicles
COP26 paid more attention to transportation than ever before, with mixed results due to national politics and global aspirations. Transport is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses in many countriesIt is the second most important strategy to reach net zero emissions, after renewable electricity.
More than 30 countries and six automobile manufacturers pledged to end sales of internal combustion vehiclesBy 2040. The list had some notable no-shows – including the US, Germany, Japan and China, and the two largest automotive companies, Volkswagen and Toyota – but was still impressive. The transition to electric vehicles was already clear. Electric vehicles (EVs), reached 20% of sales in Europe and ChinaBoth have been in the news recently. headed for full electrification of new carsBy 2035 or so
The transition to hydrogen and electric trucks is on a similar track. 15 countries have agreed to work together in the transition. all new trucks and buses to zero emissionsBy 2040. California already requires 70% of all truck sales to be in California. zero emissions by 2035. China is on a similar trajectory. These are not binding agreements. However, they are made simpler by the roughly 50% dropIn battery costs since the Paris agreement.
Aviation is more challenging because electrification is not currently possible for short flights or smaller planes. The US, UK and other countries agreed to promote sustainable aviation fuels. It’s a start.
Some lament the focus on EVsFurther, car-centric living is further locked in. To reduce greenhouse gases, vehicle electricty (including hydrogen) is the best option. most effective and economic approach to decarbonize transportation – by far.
Daniel Sperling is the Founding Director of Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California Davis
COP26: Seven reasons global transport is so hard to decarbonise