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This guide will show you why the COP26 summit was a failure.
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This guide will show you why the COP26 summit was a failure.

Protest in Glasgow


The Glasgow climate change summit has ended after two weeks of hard work. All 197 participating countries adopted the so-called Glasgow Climate Pact, despite an 11th hour intervention by India in which the final agreement was watered down from “phasing out” coal to “phasing down”.

Alok Sharma, COP26 president, apologised for making this last-minute adjustment in an emotional speech. His apology goes to the heart of the goals of COP26 in Glasgow: the hope it would deliver outcomes matching the urgent “code red” action needed to achieve the Paris Agreement target.

At the summit’s outset, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged countries to “keep the goal of 1.5℃ alive”, to accelerate the decarbonisation of the global economy, and to phase out coal.

Was COP26 a failure? This can be evaluated using the original summits stated goalsIt was a failure. Two big ticket items weren’t realised: renewing targets for 2030 that align with limiting warming to 1.5℃, and an agreement on accelerating the phase-out of coal.
Despite the failures, there were some important decisions and bright spots. So let’s take a look at the summit’s defining issues.

Weak 2030 targets

The goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2℃ this century, and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5℃. Beyond this point, catastrophic impacts such as sea level rise or more frequent and intense natural disasters will occur.

But new projections from Climate Action Tracker show even if all COP26 pledges are met, the planet is on track to warm by 2.1℃ – or 2.4℃ if only 2030 targets are met.

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Despite the Australian government’s recent climate announcements, this nation’s 2030 target remains the sameAs in 2015. If all countries adopted such meagre near-term targets, global temperature rise would be on track for up to 3℃.

Technically, the 1.5℃ limit is still within reach because, under the Glasgow pact, countries are asked to update their 2030 targets in a year’s time. However, as Sharma said, “the pulse of 1.5 is weak”.

And as Australia’s experience shows, domestic politics rather than international pressure is often the force driving climate policy. There are no guarantees that Australia or other countries will achieve greater ambition in 2022.

Protest in Glasgow

Glasgow is the scene of thousands of protesters and activists demanding action from world leaders to address the climate crisis.

Not out, but down

India’s intervention to change the final wording to “phase down” coal rather than “phase out” dampens the urgency to shift away from coal.

India is the world’s third-largestAfter the United States and China, China is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. The country is dependent heavily on coal, and coal powered generation is expected. grow by 4.6%Every year until 2024. India was the most prominent objector to the “phase out” wording, but also had support from China.

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And US climate envoy John KerryIt was argued that carbon capture technology and storage technology could still be improved to trap emissions at their source and store them underground.

Climate action is not without controversy. Carbon capture and storage are controversial. It is not supported at scale. we don’t yet knowIf captured emissions are kept underground, they will eventually return to the atmosphere. All over the globe relatively fewLarge-scale underground storage locations are available.

And it’s hard to see this expensive technology ever being cost-competitive with cheap renewable energy.

COP26 also approved rules for global carbon trading. This is Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. It was a significant outcome. The rules do not allow the fossil fuel industry to continue operating under the rules. will be allowed to “offset” its carbon emissions and carry on polluting. Combined with the “phasing down” change, this will see fossil fuel emissions continue.

Alok Sharma gives a speech

COP26 president Alok Sharma apologised for the last-minute change in the wording of the pact, from ‘phasing out coal’ to ‘phasing down’.
AP Photo/Alastair Grant

It wasn’t all bad

Despite its flaws, COP26 resulted in a number of important positive outcomes.

The world has made a clear decision to abandon fossil fuel as an energy source. And the 1.5℃ global warming target has taken centre stage, with the recognition that reaching this target will require rapid, deep and sustained emissions reductions of 45% by 2030Compared to 2010 levels.

What’s more, Article 21 of the Glasgow Climate Pact nature and ecosystems, including protecting forests and biodiversity. This is in addition to a side agreement between Australia and 123 countries that promises to end deforestation by 2030.

The pact urges all countries to fulfill the outstanding promise of US$100 million per year for five consecutive years to vulnerable countries that could be affected by climate change. It also emphasisesThe importance of transparencyImplementing the pledges

Nation are also invited to review and strengthen the 2030 targets if necessary to align with the Paris Agreement climate goal by 2022. It was also supported by agreedTo host a ministerial roundtable meeting at the highest level each year that focuses on raising ambition to 2030.

The US and China climate agreementThere is reason to be cautiously optimistic.

Despite the world not being on track for the 1.5℃ goal, momentum is headed in the right direction. The fact that the final text addressed a reduction of coal use signals that change is possible. We will see if it is possible within the limited window of time we have left to stop climate catastrophe.


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