What Happened at COP26? The Glasgow Climate Pact and Other Key Developments

18 November 2021
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Key takeaways: 

  • Friday 12 November 2021 marked the end of COP26 in Glasgow, a two-week summit that gathered world leaders, civil society, international organizations and businesses, around their role and actions to tackle climate change.
  • Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have stressed the need to limit global warming to 1.5°C, and to reduce global greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions to net-zero by 2050, in order to avert the worst effects of climate change. With the historic 2015 Paris Agreement, the COP21 Parties had pledged to take measures to limit global warming to “well below” 2°C, and preferably 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. States had also committed to establish “Nationally Determined Contributions” (“NDCs”) setting out their plans to reduce emissions. However, the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change Revised Synthesis Report, released in October 2021, anticipates an increase of about 16% in GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 2010, which could lead to a temperature rise of about 2.7°C by the end of the century, even if existing NDCs are implemented in full. Against this backdrop, the agenda for COP26 was both urgent and far-reaching. It included mobilizing public and private finance, accelerating the global transition to clean energy, promoting the protection of nature and sustainable land use, and adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change.
  • On Saturday 13 November 2021, the Parties to COP26 agreed the Glasgow Climate Pact.  The Pact urges the Parties to take a number of steps to reduce their GHG emissions and to reach net-zero by 2050.  The Pact, for example, calls upon the Parties to accelerate “the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, while providing targeted support to the poorest and most vulnerable in line with national circumstances and recognizing the need for support towards a just transition”.  During the two-week negotiation, a series of side-deals were also agreed, most notably on finance, forests, methane emissions, coal power and fossil fuels.
  • The International Energy Agency has assessed that if all of the pledges made during COP26 are fulfilled, the world will experience global temperature rise this century of 1.8°C.