The two-week long UN climate talks concluded with countries agreeing to the Glasgow Climate Pact, strengthening their commitments to lower greenhouse gas emissions but failed to eliminate global coal reliance. 

What is Happening? 

The COP26 climate summit concluded on Saturday, November 13 after two weeks of negotiations and talks, with nearly 200 countries agreeing to new rules on limiting greenhouse gas emissions to combat the climate crisis, but last-minute objections from India and China saw the pact committing to “phase down” coal consumption and production instead to cutting coal reliance entirely. 

The UK as host nation of the conference had set the goal of “keeping 1.5C alive”, and aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the 45% by 2030 that scientists say is needed to limit global temperature increase at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Though the Glasgow Climate Pact was a first where world leaders have agreed to reduce the use of  the dirty fossil fuel, many nations and delegations of the talks had hoped for much stronger commitments. 

Following dramatic last-minute revisions and objections from India and China asking to water down the language from “phase out” to “phase down” their coal commitment and fossil fuel subsidies, all 197 signatories of the Paris Agreement have endorsed the final text of the Glasgow Climate Pact. 

The deal also successfully set out rules for carbon markets, which will aid countries in their goal to meet their climate goals by buying offset credits representing emission cuts by others, as well as funding projects to protect forests and renewable energy projects. 

The pact will see countries strengthen their 2030 emissions reductions targets by the end of 2022, and seeks rich nations to at least double their climate finance commitments for developing countries to increase their resilience against climate change and transition towards a low-carbon future. 

However, the pact most notably lacks any concrete deadline to phase down the use of coal, and the absence of any enforcement mechanisms for countries to meet their climate targets. Furthermore, the final text offered little to no confidence in rich countries’ ability to deliver on their promise to provide climate financing. China and India’s push to weaken the deal’s stance was also a blow to nations that have been hit hardest by climate change. 

“We are on the way to consigning coal to history. This is an agreement we can build on. But in the case of China and India, they will have to explain to climate-vulnerable countries why they did what they did,” COP26 president Alok Sharma said to the Guardian

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson similarly shared that his “delight at this progress is tinged with disappointment”, and the current level of ambition especially from big emitters is frustrating “those for whom climate change is already a matter of life and death” from vulnerable island nations.

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