What do we learn from the World Climate Conference in Glasgow?

November 15, 2021
min reading time

COP26 has come to an end after twelve days of meetings, negotiations, announcements and emotions. What are the main points that emerged from this second part of the climate conference? A captivating spectrum on "what needs to be done" and "what has been done" topics, but there were few surprising, ambitious decisions. From our perspective, the bottom line is that the climate conference advanced important issues, but too little was decided on critical issues given the environmental emergency. The following is a summary of the highlights from COP26 Week 2.

Updating the cover resolution

The Cover Decision is a negotiated, overarching document with the goal of taking the momentum generated by the states joining the Methane Commitment and announcing the phase-out of coal and translating it into decisions.

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on Carbon Markets

Six years after they began, negotiations on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement were concluded. This is intended to secure the functioning and implementation of international carbon markets (i.e., the ability to trade CO2 reduction units) at the global level. This will provide certainty and predictability to both market and non-market approaches to supporting climate mitigation and adaptation actions. Negotiations were also concluded on the enhanced transparency framework, which provides agreed tables and formats for accountability and reporting on targets and emissions.

"I thank the Chair and all ministers for their tireless efforts throughout the conference and congratulate all parties on finalizing the rulebook. This is an outstanding achievement! It means that the Paris Agreement can now work fully for the benefit of all, now and in the future." said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Change Conference.

Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance

A group working to phase out fossil fuel production has officially launched at COP26. The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, led by Denmark and Costa Rica and formed earlier this year, announced new members including France, Sweden and Ireland, as well as associate members such as New Zealand. However, the world's five largest oil producers - the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada and China - are not among the group's members.

Surprising climate cooperation between the US and China

The conference was surprised Nov. 10 by the announcement that the world's two largest emitters, China and the U.S., will work together to combat climate change. Despite the obvious tensions between U.S. President Joe Biden and China's leader Xi Jinping, some of those differences appear to have been set aside in the final days of COP26. The countries pledge to work together to limit global warming to 1.5⁰C , in part by reducing greenhouse gas emissions this decade. They also promised closer cooperation to develop carbon-cutting technologies, reduce deforestation and promote green energy. However, countries have not provided specifics on this. Therefore, it remains to be seen how these promises will be translated into action.

Klimapakt Glasgow - Glasgow Climate Pact

The 196 countries participating in COP26 adopted on Saturday, November 13, an agreement to accelerate the fight against global warming. However, without guaranteeing compliance with the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit warming to less than 2°C or responding to requests for aid from poor countries. On the crucial issue of limiting temperatures, the text calls on member states to increase their reduction commitments more regularly from 2022 than the Paris Agreement provides, but with the possibility of adjustments for "special national circumstances." This point has led to criticism from NGOs about the text's actual ambitions.

The agreement merely offers the British presidency the opportunity to chalk up the Glasgow goal of "keeping the 1.5 percent alive" as a success. According to the New York Times, the success or failure of the new agreement will depend on the willingness of leaders to take new action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite the resolutions and commitments, the poignant speeches by representatives of areas already severely affected by climate change, such as the small island states, will be remembered, as will the strong criticism of the inaction of the major powers.

Countries at risk, solidarity, losses and damages

Vulnerable countries that contribute the least to climate change suffer the most from its consequences. This was stated by Simon Kofe, the foreign minister of the eight islands and 12,000 inhabitants of the Tuvalu archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. In a press conference symbolically held directly from the sea, he called for CO2 neutrality and a 1.5°C limit on global warming. It should be possible to comply with the limit. In fact, the archipelago is already feeling the effects of climate change, especially the rise in sea levels.

Travel to Glasgow is already impossible for many developing countries for financial reasons. But this year the pandemic added another layer of inequality. Travel regulations as well as visa applications have made travel from certain countries impossible. Thus, COP26 was criticized for its lack of inclusivity and also did not result in sufficient decisions to address the urgency and challenges of the countries most affected by the climate crisis.

COP26 was therefore unfortunately a disappointment for these most affected countries, despite the some announcements for the Adaptation Fund. They did not receive the expected funding for the damages and losses they have already suffered. Moreover, the promised $100 billion per year will not be reached before 2023 either. Finally, the funds they requested for climate change adaptation have not been approved. In fact, rich countries led by the U.S. have blocked $600 billion in additional funding for loss and damage. These funds would have been in response to the irreversible impacts of climate change in the most vulnerable countries. The blockage is said to be due in part to the U.S. fearing possible legal consequences.

From "phasing out" of coal to "phasing down" of coal: a momentous reformulation

At the last minute, things got dramatic: India, supported by China and other coal-dependent developing countries (Iran, Venezuela and Cuba), rejected a clause calling for the"phase-out" of coal-fired power generation. After an exchange of views among envoys from China, India, the United States, and the European Union, the clause was hastily amended to call on countries to "progressively reduce" their coal consumption, with a reference to "specific national circumstances." India's Environment and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav said the amendment reflected the "national circumstances of emerging economies" and said the pact "singled out" coal but concealed oil and natural gas.

Alok Sharma's voice sparked an outpouring of emotion after hearing from vulnerable nations expressing anger over the changes to the text, he said,"I want to apologize to all the delegates for the way this process has unfolded, and I am deeply sorry."

"We believe we were passed over in a non-transparent and non-inclusive process," claimed Mexico's envoy Camila Isabel Zepeda Lizama. "We all still have concerns, but we were told we could not reopen the text ... while others can still ask to relax their pledges."

However, progress on the coal phase-out should not be underestimated. Pressure to phase out coal by 2030, as well as international financing for fossil fuels, will come from other countries, the financial market, the judiciary and, above all, civil society. Funding and subsidies for oil and gas will also now come into sharp focus.

No guarantee of achieving the 1.5°C global warming target by the end of this century

By calling on nations to set tougher targets for reducing climate-changing emissions by next year, the agreement acknowledged that commitments are still insufficient. National pledges currently have the world headed for warming of about 2.4°C. Thus, the record is inadequate, and this is reflected in the text of the final COP decision. For the first time, fossil fuels are mentioned in this text, but the need to immediately halt all investment in new oil, gas, and coal projects is still not implemented, and no specific timetable is given.

We thus note a lack of responsibility on the part of the heads of state and government, especially when we see the paradoxes that emerge from this conference (economic conflicts of interest, private jets and exclusive negotiations). Thus, this COP26 leaves a bitter taste and gives the impression that "painful decisions are postponed", as the Swiss newspaper "Le Temps" describes it.


According to the Secretary General's statement at the conclusion of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, the goals were not met at the conference, although some building blocks for progress were achieved. He goes on to qualify the results as"welcome steps" before pointing out that they are, however, "not enough." In his conclusion, he continues:

*"Science tells us that the absolute priority must be rapid, deep, and sustained emissions reductions this decade. Specifically, a 45% reduction by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. But current nationally determined contributions will still increase emissions this decade, on a path that will take us well above the 2-degree mark relative to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. "*

It is therefore imperative to significantly raise the ambition for the next COP and to take radical decisions that will have a tangible impact. In addition, solidarity with vulnerable countries should be at the center of discussions, especially seeing that European countries like France have blocked financial aid initiatives for vulnerable countries. Finally, decisions for the future must be made now.

As the UN Secretary General said, "We still have many seeds to sow along the way."

For us as worldwatchers, it means that it becomes even more important to establish CO2 transparency holistically and innovation in the area of circular economy of products and industries are our only chance to tackle the climate crisis.

We can still make it! #COP26 #climateemergency #actnow #netzero #youthclimate #savetheplanet


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Eurotopics (2021, November 12) Cop26 comes to an end: where is the common denominator? Eurotopics

Evans, S. et al. (2021, November 15) The UN climate conference, COP26,finally took place in Glasgow, with expectations and tensions running highafter a year-long delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic. CarbonBrief - Clear onClimate

Germanwatch (2021, November 13) Press release - A turning point for coal - but 1.5 degrees not yet within reach

Goswami, U. (2021, November 8) Talks over 'cover decision' at COP26:Time for nations to walk the talk. The Economic Times

Reseau Action Climat (2021, November 13) Bilan de la COP26 : les pays du Sudabandonnés par les pays riches. Reseau Action Climat

Reuters (2021, Nov. 13) 'Deeply sorry': UK's Sharma offers apologyfor last-minute changes to climate deal. Reuters

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