For many experts, this year’s Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 26) in Glasgow has been a failure. The event was highly awaited by observers with high expectations after the environment’s sharp warnings that came in a form of strong floods, forest fires, storm damage and heat waves that hit different parts of the world.
However, under the pressure of looming energy and economic crises, participants failed to renew targets for 2030 that align with limiting global warming temperatures to 1.5°C, and to reach an agreement on accelerating the phase-out of coal.
Some experts see that the only positive aspect of COP26 was to keep alive the Paris Agreement’s aim to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above preindustrial levels. However, hopes for reaching the goal still hinge on the ability of nations to return in 2022 with new and more ambitious targets to curb emissions.
After extending the COP26 negotiations an extra day, the 197 countries meeting in Glasgow adopted an outcome document that, according to the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, “reflects the interests, the contradictions, and the state of political will in the world today.”
Despite describing the outcome of COP26 as an important step, Guterres confesses that it is not enough. “We must accelerate climate action to keep alive the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees,” said Guterres in a video statement released at the close of the two-week meeting.
He added that it is time to go “into emergency mode”, by ending fossil fuel subsidies, phasing out coal, putting a price on carbon, protecting vulnerable communities, and delivering the $100 billion climate finance commitment.
The outcome document, known as the Glasgow Climate Pact, calls on 197 countries to report their progress towards more climate ambition next year, at COP27, set to take place in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Commenting on the outcomes of COP26, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg said: “It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place.”
While struggling to hold back his tears, COP26 President Alok Sharma announced a last-minute change to the pact, by China and India, softening language circulated in an earlier draft about “the phase-out of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”. That language was revised to “phase down” coal use for the disappointment of many participants.
Thunberg, meanwhile, addressed thousands of young people who gathered for protest, saying “immediate and drastic” cuts to emissions are needed.
Missing the bright side
However, some find it’s unjust to fail to see the bright side of COP26 where about 50,000 participants online and in-person shared innovative ideas, solutions, attend cultural events, and build partnerships and coalitions.
The event also witnessed many encouraging pledges, including a pledge by leaders from over 120 countries, representing about 90 percent of the world’s forests, to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. There was also a methane pledge, led by the US and the EU, by which more than 100 countries agreed to cut emissions of this greenhouse gas by 2030.
Meanwhile, major coal users such as Poland, Vietnam, and Chile agreed to shift away from coal, one of the biggest generators of CO2 emissions.
Nearly 500 global firms agree to align $130 trillion with the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, including limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
However, COP26 failed to provide answers to important questions related to finance and accountability that obviously were left to be decided in the coming session in 2022.
The COP26 outcomes emphasized the need to mobilize climate finance “from all sources to reach the level needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, including significantly increasing support for developing country parties, beyond $100 billion per year.”
Although the pact calls on rich nations to at least double finance for adaptation by 2025, this remains far below the projected costs.
One of the other unfinished tasks in COP26 is introducing transparency and accountability mechanisms. The Glasgow Climate Pact only included provisions to increase transparency to boost accountability, which remains a central challenge for global efforts to combat the climate crisis. The pact, however, urges nations to come back in 2022 with greater ambitions.
COP27 is seen also as a greater chance for African and developing nations to present their cause and needs that President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has summarized during his speech on Glasgow: “Although it is not responsible for the climate change crisis, the African continent faces the most negative repercussions and the subsequent economic, social, security and political consequences.”
El Sisi insisted that the continent is considered a model for serious climate action, as much as its capabilities and the support that it receives allow.
El Sisi also expressed Egypt’s concern about the gap between the available funding and the actual needs of developing countries as well as the obstacles that our countries face to have access to it. “Therefore, the developed countries must fulfill their pledges to provide 100 billion US dollars annually to fund climate in the developing countries,” El Sisi said.
The conference will also be a good chance for Egypt to showcase its story of success and the serious steps, it initiated, to apply a sustainable development model, at the heart of which lies climate change and adaptation to climate change. This model aims for government-funded green projects to reach 50% by 2025 and 100% by 2030.
According to data offered by Egypt during the COP26, sources of renewable energy represent today around 20% of the energy mix in Egypt. Egypt is even working on bringing it to 42% by 2035.
Transition to clean transportation is also a top priority for Egyptian governments that initiated several mega projects for expanding the metro, rail and electric vehicle networks, preparing the necessary infrastructure for that, and establishing smart and sustainable cities.