After two weeks of intense negotiations at the UN COP 26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, delegates from nearly 200 countries finally agreed upon the Glasgow Climate Pact. The Pact builds upon targets set out in the Paris Agreement, an international legally binding treaty that aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
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Governments made pledges in the areas of deforestation, adaptation finance, fossil fuel financing, along with commitments to cut global methane emissions and to transition to zero-emission vehicles.
The U.S. and China announced a joint declaration where they agreed to cooperate on reducing their methane emissions while promoting clean energy policies and projects. And, while progress was made, several nations and climate activists were disappointed with the Pact’s final text due to a last-minute intervention by India and China to water down language on “phasing out” to the “phasing down” of coal.
Small Island Developing States were also frustrated by the lack of commitment by rich countries to pay for the losses and damages suffered by island nations due to the impacts of climate change.
Here are six key takeaways from the COP 26 Climate Summit.
#1. Global Methane Pledge
Methane is one of the six GHGs responsible for climate change and has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years that it reaches the atmosphere. On November 2nd the U.S. and the EU launched the Global Methane Pledge with the goal to cut methane emissions by 30% by the year 2030.
Over 100 countries contributing to nearly half of all methane emissions signed onto the pledge. The U.S. will work to curtail its methane emissions by introducing new regulations for the oil and gas industry by promoting climate-friendly agriculture practices, and by introducing stronger pollution standards for landfills.
Philanthropic organizations inspired by the Global Methane Pledge committed $325 million to support actions to reduce methane emissions around the world.
#2. U.S.-China Joint Agreement to Tackle Climate Change
On November 10th the U.S. and China announced their joint agreement to “enhance climate action in the 2020s.” The United States and China are the world’s top GHG emitting countries and together, account for 40% of the world’s annual carbon output.
The two countries plan to collaborate on reducing methane emissions, introducing new policies to promote clean energy, and to cooperate on joint research projects aimed at supporting decarbonization programs.
#3. Global Deforestation Pledge
More than 100 countries, including Brazil, Russia, Canada, and the Republic of Congo, announced the “Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use,” pledging to end deforestation by 2030. According to the non-profit organization World Resources Institute (WRI), forests absorb approximately 30% of carbon emissions.
Countries reaffirmed their commitment to sustainable land use, the conservation, and restoration of forests, and to support indigenous peoples and local communities whose livelihoods are dependent upon forest lands. As part of the pledge, twelve countries committed to $12 billion to halt deforestation.
In addition, a group of government and private companies pledged $1.7 billion to indigenous peoples’ organizations and communities.
#4. Zero Emissions Vehicles Pledge
30 countries and automakers pledged to make zero-emission vehicles accessible globally by 2040, and by no later than 2035 in leading markets. The pledge is accompanied by the development of a Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council which brings together government leaders to strengthen cooperation to support the transition to zero-emissions vehicles.
Car manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, Volvo, and Mercedes Benz signed onto the pledge, agreeing to only sell zero-emissions cars by 2040.
In a separate pledge, 15 countries agreed to work towards 100% zero-emission sales of new trucks and buses by 2040.
#5. Coal Pledge
More than 40 countries pledged to phase out coal power, which is the single biggest contributor to climate change, responsible for 46% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Signatories agreed to cease the issuance of new permits for coal power projects, they will end their support for the construction of coal power generation projects, and they will cease support for unabated international coal-fired power generation.
While the U.S. was absent from the pledge, it joined 19 other countries, such as Costa Rica, Denmark, and Italy, in a separate pledge to stop the financing of overseas fossil fuel projects. The pledge excluded China, Japan, and South Korea, who are the biggest backers of foreign fossil fuel projects.
#6. Adaptation Finance
Developing countries will need significant financial resources to adapt and build their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Government leaders in Glasgow agreed to mobilize $450 million for locally-led adaptation initiatives in developing countries while the Adaptation Fund raised $356 million in new pledges, including first-time contributions from the United States and Canada.
Twelve governments pledged $413 million for the Least Developed Countries Fund which provides climate resilience finance for the 46 least developed countries in the Global South.