What the COP26 agreement really means for the climate

As the mud settles from the COP26 climate summit, the outcomes have gotten extra clear. Regardless of its ensuing doc—the Glasgow Climate Pact—being the most formidable worldwide agreement to this point, scientists nonetheless warn we’re heading in the direction of 2.4℃ warming, far surpassing the 1.5℃ objective of the Paris Agreement (although contemplate that pre-Paris warming was anticipated to be nearer to 4.0℃). Whereas the commitments fell brief, each nation agreed to return to COP27 in Cairo with extra aggressive objectives, conserving the 1.5℃ objective alive—barely

For almost 200 nations to achieve a number of essential agreements, all the whereas harboring completely completely different objectives and requirements, is not any small feat. On this mild, the Glasgow pact is an effective step that may be improved going ahead.

[Source Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images]

Extra progress than reported

Whereas this COP didn’t produce the headline-grabbing commitments we’ve seen in the previous, the contributors made actual progress. For instance, 140 nations representing 90% of worldwide forestry agreed to finish and reverse deforestation by 2030, and over 100 nations agreed to a methane discount pledge of 30% by 2030. Even the U.S. and China put apart their presently frosty relationship to return collectively on climate points.

Methane is sort of 100 instances stronger than carbon dioxide in its world warming potential. U.S. Particular Envoy John Kerry put this agreement in context: “If we’ve reached the objective…that’s the equal of taking all the automobiles in the world, all of the vans in the world, all of the airplanes in the world, all ships in the world, right down to zero. That’s how large it’s.”

When responding to questions on the lack of onerous targets in the U.S.-China pact, Kerry framed it this manner: China’s willingness to cooperate, its present state of emissions, and its historical past of “outperforming its personal objectives” makes this agreement extra formidable than its critics understand.

This COP delivered in some ways what earlier climate summits didn’t; amazingly, it was the first to explicitly point out the “phasing out” of fossil gas subsidies and the contentious “phasing down” of coal. There was additionally clear progress in growing transparency and accountability in how nations measure their emission discount targets by introducing a yearly report summarizing nations’ annual commitments.

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[Source Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images]

A fragile win from a flawed course of

In response to COP26 President Alok Sharma, the climate summit was a “fragile win.” Throughout his closing speech, Sharma held again tears and apologized for the watered-down language in the pact. At the eleventh hour, India had demanded {that a} “section out” of coal-fired electrical energy be modified to “section down.” The emotional reveal of adjusting this one crucial phrase as the clock wound down is an illustration of the fragile and tough nature of those negotiations.

When all is alleged and carried out, COP26 was an incremental step when an enormous leap was needed. The climate science is obvious: warming over 2.0℃ condemns whole nations and the complete of the agreements reached at this assembly will rocket the world previous this mark.

Impatience with the gradual tempo was on show in the streets of Galsgow the place activists rallied round Greta Thunberg who framed the occasion as a lot “blah, blah, blah.” “It’s not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It ought to be apparent that we can not remedy the disaster with the identical strategies that acquired us into it in the first place,” Thunberg said.

The unanswered query stays, what’s the different? How can we deliver the fractious views of almost 200 nations into the formidable agreements wanted to resolve climate change?

Winston Churchill famously stated that “democracy is the worst type of authorities , besides for all the others which were tried.” After 26 conferences producing plodding, incremental progress, maybe this quote must also be utilized to the COP course of.

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[Source Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images]

Climate danger is monetary danger

Maybe the largest breakthrough of this assembly got here from the personal sector. Whether or not the coverage makers agree or not, it’s clear that the monetary group—represented by the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ)—will not be ready. This group of 450 of the world’s largest monetary establishments, overseeing $130 trillion of property (which is about 30% of all the property in the world) committed to align their portfolios to net zero by 2050.

Any time a 3rd of all the cash in the world traces up behind a single goal is information, however the GFANZ dedication to align on internet zero must be unpacked. The rationale behind this gorgeous announcement is that climate change now presents a danger to the world monetary system. The drumbeat of climate-related losses has change into deafening and, simply earlier than the COP assembly, the nonpartisan Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) declared climate change a threat to U.S. financial stability. In essence, these asset managers are performing in their very own self curiosity as a result of it’s clear now that turning again climate change protects their investments.

The pledges from the monetary sector added to a slew of commitments from coalitions of multinational firms, like the global climate pledge. All advised, the measurement and protection of those commitments are extra vital than the agreements between nation states. It is a clear signal that climate danger has change into monetary danger. The markets have acknowledged this fundamental reality and can proceed to behave on climate with or with out prodding from governments.

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[Source Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images]

Key Phrase: Accountability

Probably the most hopeful abstract of this COP is that non-public and public sectors at the moment are working collectively and mobilizing finance towards the widespread imaginative and prescient of a low carbon financial system. No matter how the commitments are framed, they’re all simply guarantees. The important thing side going ahead is accountability: will governments, monetary entities and corporations make good on their commitments and the way will we all know in the event that they do?

A brilliant spot in the COP assembly was the announcement of the new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB). This new entity will create a “world widespread language” for climate disclosure by consolidating and standardizing ESG reporting and integrating it with monetary disclosure.

The ISSB requirements, coupled with climate disclosure mandates—already in power in the UK, Japan and New Zealand—would require firms to report audited and warranted emissions, climate insurance policies and ahead trying statements built-in into their monetary statements. It is a game-changer since most carbon disclosure is voluntary now, which makes it inconsistent, unreliable and untethered to monetary implications.

These adjustments imply that firms should get critical about carbon accounting, treating it with the identical rigor as monetary reporting. It will require cutting-edge instruments equivalent to carbon administration and accounting platforms to make sure their carbon footprinting is correct, clear, and totally auditable.

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[Source Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images]

Higher late than by no means

President Biden flew to Glasgow with little greater than good intentions as a consequence of Congressional gridlock over his climate agenda. However now the bipartisan infrastructure invoice, which options many emission-reducing investments, has handed, and if a scaled down model of the “Construct Again Higher” invoice may make it by way of Congress, it’s going to deliver much more sources to again up the U.S. pledges on combating climate change.

Historical past is not going to keep in mind COP26 as a game-changer, however the assembly did deliver some new solutions to the desk—and moved the general trajectory in humanity’s favor.


Tim Mohin is the chief sustainability officer for Persefoni AI. Previously, Mohin served as chief government of the World Reporting Initiative; he additionally held sustainability management roles with Intel, Apple, and AMD and labored on environmental coverage inside the U.S. Senate and Environmental Safety Company. He’s the writer of Changing Business From the Inside Out: A Treehugger’s Guide to Working in Corporations.