1.5C ‘only just’ in reach: Business leaders and green economy react to Glasgow Climate Pact at COP26

After two weeks of tense negotiations, climate protests and sweeping climate announcements, COP26 has officially closed with the formation of the Glasgow Climate Pact, an agreement to raise climate ambitions that has seen green groups call for heightened policy and business interventions to keep 1.5C alive over the coming years.

1.5C ‘only just’ in reach: Business leaders and green economy react to Glasgow Climate Pact at COP26

Image: UNClimateChange flickr

Today (13 November), a final COP26 agreement has been reached within the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow – almost 24 hours after the summit was supposed to close.

At a glance, the Glasgow Climate Pact will mean that all nations should formulate and publish updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement for 2030 by the time COP27 begins in Egypt. They should strive to align targets and plans with a 1.5C temperature pathway. 

In a first for any COP, the final text mentions fossil fuels, stating that “unabated” coal power should be phased down as a priority and that “inefficient subsidies” for all fossil fuels should be removed.

— READ: Glasgow Climate Pact – Everything you need to know —

However, early reaction to the Pact has been that of despondence, all while recognizing that COP26 has delivered some major steps forwards in regards to ramping up climate finance, ambitions and transitioning to clean energy systems.

Whether COP26 has left 1.5C “alive” remains to be seen, but judging by the reaction from NGOs and green groups, the 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement is still in sight, but “just barely.

Here edie rounds up all the key comments from the green economy and activists sharing their views on the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Tanya Steele, Chief Executive at WWF:

“This summit has seen the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C become the North Star guiding us all but a clear pathway is far from certain and we still have a long way to go. We are encouraged by the recognition that nature must be an integral part of tackling the climate crisis and by commitments on curbing coal and fossil fuel subsidies. 

“Requesting countries to bring their climate pledges in line with the Paris Agreement by the end of next year is also a small but significant step. We now need to see delivery with rapid, deep and ongoing emissions cuts alongside support for vulnerable countries facing current and future climate impacts. Glasgow is the start line and not the finish. The UK presidency must continue to ensure that every climate promise is kept.”

Eliot Whittington, Director, UK and European Corporate Leaders Groups

“Glasgow has triggered a wave of new commitments and actions and we welcome not only what has been achieved but the energy that has been generated around the summit. COP26 hasn’t kept us on a path for warming levels below the vital 1.5C, but if the range of commitments from governments, business and investors to deliver real action is reflected in and inspires more ambitious new targets next year then we still have a chance of doing this – that is insufficient but undeniable and positive progress. 

 “The energy and activity that has been shown on the sides of the formal COP negotiations – from youth movements looking at how to change the system, to financiers working out how to move their money, to businesses committing to innovate and invest – has in many ways been the most positive part of the event and these discussions and plans for changes in the economy are what should be urgently picked up. We are entering the decade of delivery, perhaps the last decade when we can manage climate impacts rather than have them manage us and even as the global negotiations make slow progress, there’s a tangible increase in the appetite for change.

“Glasgow has demonstrated that the Paris Agreement is working as intended– but that our delivery is far too slow. We have to do more and that should start with implementing and accelerating what has been agreed here at COP26.”

Dr Nina Seega, Research Director, Sustainable Finance, CISL

“The introduction of direct fossil fuels phaseout language into the main text of the agreement must be seen as a turning point in COP negotiations; this, as well as the progress made on ending the financing of fossil fuels abroad, indicate that COP26 has cut a less uncertain path toward tackling climate change at the levels needed to prevent catastrophic impacts. The announcement of the collaboration between China and the US is important geopolitically as well as presenting an opportunity to accelerate coal phaseout, bring China into the discussion on methane and put a stop to illegal deforestation imports. 

“The commitment of 137 countries, covering 90% of global forests to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 is integral to the goal of creating a nature positive and a net zero future. However much remains to be done. The key to all these pledges would be setting short term targets and moving into immediate implementation.”

Lang Banks, Director, WWF Scotland

“We came into Glasgow expecting actions to keep 1.5 alive, and we leave with that ambition still within reach – but only just. Much more still needs to be done, but with agreement on several key issues, such as the critical role nature can play and on curbing the use of coal and fossil fuel subsidies, and with countries now required to return next year with improved plans, there is still hope.

“We’re in the middle of a climate emergency, but recent analysis of pledges by countries made to date mean we are still on track for warming above 2 degrees – a future that will be catastrophic for millions of people and for nature. So, it’s now time for world leaders to keep their climate promises. There’s no time to waste. We can no longer delay delivery on emissions cuts, only a rapid and sustained increase in real action by nations will do now.”

Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director, Oxfam International 

“Clearly some world leaders think they aren’t living on the same planet as the rest of us. It seems no amount of fires, rising sea levels or droughts will bring them to their senses to stop increasing emissions at the expense of humanity.

“Punishing, extreme weather is already wrecking the lives of the most vulnerable. People are barely clinging on, having little resources to cope with the constant threat of losing all that they own. The world’s poorest have done the least to cause the climate emergency, yet are the ones left struggling to survive while also footing the bill.

“The request to strengthen 2030 reduction targets by next year is an important step. The work starts now. Big emitters, especially rich countries, must heed the call and align their targets to give us the best possible chance of keeping 1.5 degrees within reach. Despite years of talks, emissions continue to rise, and we are dangerously close to losing this race against time.

“For the first time, a goal for adaptation finance was agreed. The commitment to double is below what developing countries asked for and need, but if realised it will increase support to developing countries by billions. It’s painful that diplomatic efforts have once more failed to meet the scale of this crisis. But we should draw strength from the growing movement of people around the world challenging and holding our governments to account for everything we hold dear.  A better world is possible. With creativity, with bravery, we can and must hold onto that belief.”

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International

“It’s meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive, but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters. While the deal recognises the need for deep emissions cuts this decade, those commitments have been punted to next year. Young people who’ve come of age in the climate crisis won’t tolerate many more outcomes like this. Why should they when they’re fighting for their futures? 

“Glasgow was meant to deliver on firmly closing the gap to 1.5C and that didn’t happen, but in 2022 nations will now have to come back with stronger targets. The only reason we got what we did is because young people, Indigenous leaders, activists and countries on the climate frontline forced concessions that were grudgingly given. Without them, these climate talks would have flopped completely. Our once stable climate is now breaking down around us, you see it every day in wildfires, hurricanes, droughts and melting ice. Time’s up, we’ve run out of road, and as a matter of self-survival we need to urgently mobilise to create irrepressible pressure that finally ends the era of all fossil fuels.”

“The line on phasing out unabated coal and fossil fuel subsidies is weak and compromised but its very existence is nevertheless a breakthrough, and the focus on a just transition is essential. The call for emissions reductions of 45% by the end of this decade is in line with what we need to do to stay under 1.5C and brings the science firmly into this deal. But it needs to be implemented.”

Zoë Quiroz-Cullen, FFI Director, Climate & Nature Linkages:

The Glasgow Climate Pact is a step forward, but very far from where we need to be. Commitments from governments as they stand will not achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C this century.

“It’s also disappointing that Glasgow could not deliver on developing countries’ calls for a settlement on loss and damage and climate finance that is equal to the enormous task of adaptation and mitigation faced by those nations worst-affected by climate change. A call to double adaptation finance from 2019 levels by 2025 and the beginning of a ‘dialogue’ on funding for loss and damage are welcome, but lack the ambition many had hoped for.

“But by retaining a focus on the 1.5C temperature goal and requesting that parties strengthen their 2030 emissions targets by the end of next year, COP26 has kept the spirit of Paris alive – just. Retaining a call upon Parties to transition away from ‘inefficient fossil fuels subsidies’ towards clean power is a major positive. This is a vital line that could have substantial repercussions for the way in which governments and the private sector respond in the coming months.”

Mark Campanale Founder and Executive Chair, Carbon Tracker

“There is much that is good, some bad, some lacking and without a doubt lots still to do to build on in a deal which may yet prove to be a turning-point. That’s especially true if governments can return next year, and the next, with more ambitious emissions targets. 

“The prospect of an oil and gas phase-out gives me the most hope. However, it must be said that, on the current emissions pathway, we are accelerating towards a disorderly transition which will create misery for hundreds of millions — especially in the Global South. Dangerous climate change also threatens our financial stability, our livelihoods and the fabric of our societies.”

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London and C40 chair:

“The climate crisis is the biggest challenge facing our world and it is clear that we cannot afford further delay. While I welcome any progress, this agreement simply doesn’t meet the scale of the challenge. Countries on the frontline of the climate crisis deserve to have the urgent issue of loss and damage addressed and there is much still to be done to keep the hope of 1.5C alive. We need coal to be phased out – not phased down. So, as leaders return home from COP26, it is vital those nations who have it in their power to help reverse our planet’s decline join those of us committed to doing so to give our world its best chance of survival.

“I have put tackling the twin threats of the climate crisis and toxic air pollution at the heart of my mayoralty and as too many national governments continue to delay taking action, London and the almost 100 C40 cities across the globe will continue to lead the way in helping solve it. Cities are the doers – and now we need the delayers to join us.

“Cities are using every lever at our disposal to take meaningful climate action now by reducing pollution, minimising waste, planting trees, investing in green public transport and sustainable energy sources – but we simply cannot avert a catastrophe of this magnitude alone.”

More the follow…

Matt Mace

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