08. December 2021

COP26: Neither the last-chance saloon, nor a silver bullet



COP26 in Glasgow has been spun into one thing it may by no means be. Prince Charles referred to as it “the last chance saloon” for local weather motion, whereas Boris Johnson declared: “If Glasgow fails, the Paris Agreement fails.“

The UN Secretary-General, US President Joe Biden and a host of other world leaders sang from a similar hymn sheet.

Britain’s Boris Johnson said if Glasgow fails, the Paris Agreement fails. But he was wrong.

Britain’s Boris Johnson said if Glasgow fails, the Paris Agreement fails. But he was wrong.Credit:AP

Part of this hype is the UK, as host, pressing for success. But COP26 has undeniably added import as it marks the effective beginning of the Paris Agreement as the new framework for global climate action. It also occurs in the context of mounting evidence for urgent climate action this decade, and growing expectations worldwide for serious climate ambition.

As hard as Britain and others have tried to confect a new “deal” in the offing at COP26 that secures commitments from international locations to steer the world on a path to achieve the 1.5 diploma temperature objective that may guarantee we keep away from the worst impacts of local weather change, such an consequence was by no means actually in prospect. Blind Freddy may see that wishing and keen an finish to coal use by 2030 was not achievable, definitely not with out heroic diplomatic and monetary efforts.

The drawback with over-hyping is you set your self as much as fail. As leaders and ministers have departed, there’s a narrative of disappointment rising from Glasgow. Unfortunately, this undercuts what has been achieved and undermines the historic Paris Agreement, simply because it begins in earnest.

Boris Johnson said the decarbonisation pledge from India’s Narendra Modi, seen here with Johnson and Scott Morrison, is one of the most significant wins of COP26.

Boris Johnson mentioned the decarbonisation pledge from India’s Narendra Modi, seen right here with Johnson and Scott Morrison, is considered one of the most important wins of COP26. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The 2015 Paris deal compelled international locations to progressively ratchet up their local weather motion and ambition, with critiques each 5 years. To kick-start the settlement, in 2020 (pushed again to this yr due to COVID-19) events agreed to see whether or not they may put extra ambition on the desk than what they dedicated to in 2015. They didn’t agree to return again 5 years later with commitments at a scale that may have all the pieces carried out and dusted in yr considered one of the settlement. The significance of Paris is that motion will beget additional ambition over time as studying, co-operation and confidence grows.

In this context, the outcomes main as much as and at COP26 are outstanding and had been, frankly, unimaginable even three years in the past as I used to be main Paris Agreement negotiations for Australia. More than 120 international locations have now dedicated to web zero emissions by 2050 with many setting bold targets for 2030. The International Energy Agency has simply estimated the extra commitments for COP26 – together with the settlement on methane reductions by 2030 – put the world on observe for a 1.8 diploma temperature rise. While not 1.5 levels, the achievement must be celebrated.

Without COP26, it’s uncertain our Prime Minister would have dedicated to web zero by 2050. Notwithstanding the avalanche of, a lot affordable, criticism about not being bold sufficient for 2030 or having insurance policies to again the dedication, that is a pivotal determination for Australia.

With this threshold crossed, the Prime Minister – to his credit score – has ended the main home local weather wars and created the pathway for additional and earlier ambition and stronger insurance policies. I’m assured we’ll see extra conspicuous motion sooner – witness the new EV coverage – than many assume, and positively over this crucial decade.

Prince Charles called COP26 “the last chance saloon” for the planet.

Prince Charles referred to as COP26 “the last chance saloon” for the planet.Credit:Getty

Without COP26, it’s unbelievable that India would have dedicated to web zero by 2070 and for half its electrical energy – for 1.3 billion individuals and associated industries – to be renewable by 2030. Again, for a lot of, this isn’t sufficient, nevertheless it establishes a trajectory that, as soon as begun, makes coverage acceleration simpler. Witness China’s dedication to web zero earlier than 2060 and its announcement going into the COP that its emissions will peak earlier than 2030. That is the Paris Agreement in motion, not a silver bullet for anyone yr, however ongoing and escalating ambition.


Equally outstanding at this COP is the rising dedication by enterprise. The standout announcement is the dedication by greater than 220 asset managers – representing $130 trillion underneath administration – to align their investments with web zero by 2050. This world of alternative will drive local weather motion, which once more is one thing to have fun.

Furthermore, the $100 billion local weather finance dedication from developed international locations to creating international locations in help of their local weather motion and ambition will probably be fulfilled at Glasgow. This is a huge deal for creating international locations and can additional spur their dedication to the Paris Agreement.

Far from failing, Glasgow has given life to the Paris Agreement. Without shedding sight of the want to show phrases into deeds and to maintain striving for extra and sooner international motion given the urgency of the local weather problem, this could fill us with hope.

Patrick Suckling was Australia’s ambassador for the surroundings, is a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute and senior companion at Pollination, a specialist local weather advisory and funding agency.

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