Within days of the dramatic closing of November’s COP26 climate summit, the Glasgow Climate Pact was already having an impact
15 December 2021
In the immediate aftermath of the conference, the price of carbon in the European Union’s carbon market hit a record high of €66 a tonne. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon came out against a new North Sea oil field, putting more pressure on the UK government to reconsider its approval. The European Commission set out a draft law to block imports of beef and other commodities if they are linked to deforestation.
Yet it will take a while for the Glasgow Climate Pact’s eye-catching promise to “phase-down” coal to be fully adopted. For example, in October, China’s coal output hit the highest level since March 2015.
It may take even longer for the effects of the pact’s pledge to phase out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” to be felt, judging by the G7’s slow progress on a past commitment to end them.
The achievements of the deal reached in Glasgow, UK, will play out over decades to come. Next year will be the first big test. By the end of 2022, countries are meant to deliver on COP26’s “request” – diplomatic language that amounts to a commitment – to issue better 2030 emissions reduction plans.
“It will take a while for the Glasgow Climate Pact’s promise to ‘phase-down’ coal to be fully adopted”
Those plans must be aligned with the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goals of holding global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and well below 2°C. Current plans by Australia, Brazil and Indonesia are among those rated “highly insufficient” and in line with a 4°C future by independent analysts. Countries that have already set a stretching target, such as the UK’s plan of a 68 per cent emissions cut by 2030, aren’t expected to upgrade their ambitions.
India announced new goals at COP26, including sourcing half of its electricity from renewables by 2030, and will be expected to submit them in a formal plan to the UN. Officially, it should have done that by the end of 2020.
One issue that lower-income countries will watch closely in 2022 is whether higher-income nations are on track to deliver the $100 billion a year of climate finance they had promised by 2020 and that they expressed “deep regret” at missing. The figure is now expected to be hit in 2023, though US climate envoy John Kerry said in Glasgow that he thinks it may be met earlier.
COP26 resolved outstanding rules of the Paris Agreement on transparency, time frames for emissions targets and a new global carbon market, which will now take years to be established. Eyes will also turn to the formation of a new independent group, announced by UN secretary general AntÓnio Guterres at the summit, to scrutinise net-zero pledges by the private sector.
2021 in review
This was a year of tackling great challenges, from the covid-19 pandemic to climate change. But 2021 was also rich in scientific discoveries and major advances.
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