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Where Are We Headed After COP26?

Following the conclusion of the 26th edition of the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on November 14th, the world is headed towards new ways of development that embody the spirit of climate multilateralism, to pursue the collective goal of climate mitigation. As the nations pledged to lower carbon emissions, the real challenge lies in structuring a roadmap and a policy framework as well as implementing those strategies to reduce the carbon footprint. Glasgow summit marks the beginning of a new era of climate governance that promises innovation, aiming to prevent the planet from a climate disaster. By the end of the summit, about 151 countries submitted their plan, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for lowering their carbon footprint by 2030.  

As the world has already warmed 1.1°C (2°F) compared to pre-industrial levels, nearly 200 nations reached the COP26 agreement.

Key Outcomes of COP26

COP26 ended with the nations agreeing for:

  1. Setting an international goal of keeping the average global warming limit to 1.5°C (2.7°F) since pre-industrial times.
  2. Financial incentives from developed countries to climate-vulnerable countries to make the process of climate mitigation more inclusive.
  3. Asking big carbon emission nations to come back with bigger 2030 emission reductions targets in 2022 and align them with Paris Agreement’s goals as they meet at COP27 in Egypt.
  4. It asked the countries who have not yet submitted their long-term plan, to submit their plans for net-zero targets by 2050. 
  5. Countries agreed to avoid double counting carbon reductions where more than one country could claim the same reductions in carbon emissions. 
  6. India’s admittance to the word coal ‘phase down’ unabated coal instead of ‘phase out’ and set renewable energy targets for 2030.
  7. 109 countries signed up Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030, while China, Russia, and India did not join the coalition.
  8. Scale back the use of fossil fuels
  9. Encouraging the adaptation of clean technologies. 

Climate Governance and Inclusive Development: Mapping the Progress

While in 2009, the target to channel $100 billion a year by 2020 from rich countries to poor, did not translate into action, it was noted that the total climate finance reached $79.6 billion in 2019. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged during the summit that this goal was not achieved given certain blockages in the process. Glasgow summit stipulated that the developed countries were yet to report their progress on keeping their promise as committed earlier. 

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanded $1 trillion over the next decade from the developed world to support India for reaching the target of net-zero emissions and African nations asking for the establishment of ‘Glasgow Facility’ to fund the nations already affected by climate change, developed countries agreed to provide $40 billion for climate finance by 2025, which seems only a quarter of climate finance targets set during the last decade. COP26 also suggested that multilateral institutions may provide grants instead of loans to developing countries to deal with climate finance to reduce the burden of their increasing debt.

As the summit mobilized the climate scientists, legal experts, politicians, businesses, and philanthropists to dig deeper to plan and materialize the process of carbon emissions reductions, the future of the process of climate mitigation lies much on the side of implementation. The final draft of the pact did not underline a requirement for an annual review of the progress that some developing countries urged. Nations are required to review their targets after five years.  According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, keeping the world from surpassing 1.5°C would require cutting the greenhouse emissions to nearly half.

The Way Forward

At COP26, Aminath Shauna, Minister of Environment for the island nation of the Maldives stated, “We have 98 months to halve global emissions. The difference between 1.5°C and two degrees is a death sentence.” This suggests the fears of island nations that would be hard hit by climate change if urgent action is not taken for climate mitigation. Big emitters such as developed countries need to accelerate their actions. Nations need to take major policy initiatives to meet the climate target and make funds available to undergo the process of transition. COP26 laid the foundation for a transformative change. The way forward is adopting a multi-level governance approach that recognizes and engages different actors and institutions at various levels in the process of policymaking and implementation.