The Glasgow Climate Pact, which was adopted at the COP26 UN climate conference in November 2021, sees signatory countries increase climate ambition and action from the Paris Agreement in 2015, and sets out new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions including phasing down coal and a global carbon market. 

It’s been over five years since the signing of the Paris Agreement, the world’s first comprehensive climate deal adopted in 2015, where 189 countries reached a global consensus to limit global warming to below 1.5C or ‘well below 2C’ above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. 

The Paris Agreement also required all parties to report on emissions and efforts towards climate change mitigation, and have their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) updated every five years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the review was pushed back to November 2021 as part of the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, UK. 

Following two-weeks of climate negotiations and talks, nearly 200 countries and nations have agreed to adopt the Glasgow Climate Pact on November 13, saying the deal would keep the 1.5C goal alive and hopes of averting a climate catastrophe. A number of countries had hoped for much more ambitious climate goals in the outcome of COP26, including the UK, the summit’s host nation, who aimed to “consign coal to history”, but many simply settled on successfully making some progress from the Paris Pact with an imperfect deal. 

But what is in the Glasgow Climate Pact?

Coal and Fossil Fuels

The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first global agreement to explicitly include parties pledging to reduce the use of fossil fuels, specifically “accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. Unbated coal power refers to power plants that do not use technology for carbon capturing, though the phrase “inefficient” fossil fuels subsidies was not clearly defined in the final text. 

The vague and relatively ambiguous wording can be attributed to pressure coming from China and India to water down the language on their commitment to eliminating coal, with the US playing a role in accepting that weaker position. The two countries pushed to “phase down” coal instead of “phasing out”, a stance which all 197 countries eventually agreed upon, albeit with some disappointment. 

Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel and is the biggest source of greenhouse gases emissions today where the world generated 14.36 billion tons of emissions in 2019 from coal alone. Scientists agree that the world must quit coal completely in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. 

The Glasgow pact however, provides no specific timeline in phasing down coal nor inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. 

Updating Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)

Under the Glasgow Climate Pact, countries have agreed to improve, “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 national climate targets by the end 2022, shortening the review to two years instead of another five years as originally set out in the Paris Agreement. Current updated climate pledges now put the world on track for between a 2.5C and 2.7C of global warming, which still far exceeds the goal of capping global temperature increase to at least under 2C. 

Climate Debt and Finance

The pact points out that rich countries have missed their 2020 target in providing USD$100bn a year to help developing countries adapt to climate change and transition towards net-zero, and “urges developed country Parties to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing country Parties from 2019 levels by 2025.”  This would mean that climate finance could reach up to around $40bn annually. 

Providing “loss and damage” funds, meaning compensation for the climate damages in developing countries caused by historical emitters and rich countries, was also mentioned for the first time. But under the Glasgow Pact, countries have only agreed to start a “dialogue” about funding a new organisation, providing “technical assistance” to help avoid and address the consequences of climate change. 

Carbon Markets 

One of the more successful outcomes from the Glasgow Climate Pact is the fact parties managed to set down rules of a global carbon market. Countries can trade carbon offset credits representing emission cuts by others under the so-called Article 6. A robust carbon market could potentially generate trillions of dollars that will hopefully go towards funding projects to protect forests and renewable energy projects. 

Article 6 sets down measures to ensure credits are not twice-counted under national emissions targets, but “bilateral trades between countries would not be taxed to help fund climate adaptation”, a measure that developing countries originally demanded. Instead, the agreement included a voluntary commitment for countries to contribute to this adaptation fund.  

Countries have also agreed to place a cut-off date of carbon credits issued before 2013 to prevent huge amounts of old credits from flooding the market and encourage purchases instead of new emissions cuts.

Deals Outside of the Glasgow Pact

During COP26, a number of multilateral pledges made were not covered in the Glasgow Climate Pact. This includes more than 100 countries committing to end deforestation by 2030, over 100 nations including the US and the EU promising to collectively reduce methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by the end of the decade, as well as the US and China unveiling a joint declaration to work together to tackle ‘existential’ climate crisis.

Featured image by: Tim Dennell/Flickr