Glasgow COP26 Recap

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly COP26, was the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference and was held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom from 31 October to 13 November 2021. The President for COP26 was UK cabinet minister Alok Sharma.

Here’s a snapshot of the most important outcomes.

Coal Target

It was watered down at the last-minute to a pledge to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal power, but the inclusion is still significant as the first mention of coal in a COP text. It falls short of the goal of “consigning coal to history,” but it goes further than the G-20 has to date and sends a clear signal. 

China-U.S. Deal

The biggest surprise in Glasgow was an agreement by the two biggest emitters to work together. No big concrete action, but good news the pair are at least talking on climate amid the broader diplomatic standoff. China had been all but absent from the talks until then.

Carbon-Trading Rules

Hard-won and long-awaited. The rules on international carbon trading bring clarity to companies and standardization that should help reduce emissions, though some activists are worried they aren’t quite tight enough. The pressure to pin down rules was growing as the voluntary market for offsets is growing in an unregulated sprawl.

Scrutiny 

New rules were agreed that will allow for greater scrutiny on emissions reporting. At last, climate targets should be comparable, allowing for everyone to assess what everyone else is doing.

Cash for Damage

For the first time, there’s a recognition that countries struck by catastrophic climate events will get help. There’s an agreement to properly set up a mechanism — though the finer details and exact cash still need to be hashed out. That’s something for COP27, in Egypt next year.

Deforestation

Many of the side-deals agreed at COP disappointed, but a pact on deforestation could make a difference. Unlike some of the other deals, on this one the main players signed up. 

Banks

Former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney cajoled banks, investors and insurers representing $130 trillion in assets to decarbonize their businesses by mid-century. Finance is a powerful tool in the fight against climate change but the list doesn’t include the world’s three biggest banks, all of which are Chinese and major providers of coal finance.

The Magic Number

All this leaves us on course for warming of 1.8 degrees Celsius, if all the pledges come to pass, according to the IEA, and it’s a big if. That’s much better than where we were on the way into COP, but still way above what’s safe.

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