Insights and Commentaries
As COP 26 ends: Is the glass half-full?
16th November 2021
Expectations for COP 26 were high after a year’s delay, a period which saw hundreds of countries and thousands of companies commit to net-zero targets.
The first days of the conference in Glasgow reminded COP veterans of the Copenhagen Conference of 2009, which is widely regarded as a failure. The weather, whilst not as cold in Copenhagen, was certainly gloomy and logistical challenges and long-queues outside to get in did not bode well.
Despite this backdrop, the first week delivered some important agreements and announcements, including reducing methane emissions, ending deforestation and India’s net-zero by 2070 target. IEA released its recent analysis, which showed that fully achieving all net zero pledges to date and the Global Methane Pledge by those who signed it would limit global warming to 1.8 C, adding further optimism that the chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees could be kept alive.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) received favourable attention during the two weeks. Organisations such as the Global CCS Institute, CCSA, CATF, IEAGHG, Bellona, Oxford Net-Zero and International CCS Knowledge Centre showcased the suite of technologies in their side events, discussing how to accelerate deployment for net-zero. A new Europe-based CDR advocacy organisation “Carbon Gap” was launched. A new mission under Mission Innovation initiative, co-led by the USA, Saudi Arabia, and Canada, was announced to advance CDR technologies to enable a net reduction of 100 million metric tons of CO2 per year globally by 2030. Then rather unexpectedly, US and China -world’s top two greenhouse gas-emitting countries- announced a climate agreement, which included cooperation on “deployment and application of technology such as CCUS and direct air capture” amongst other measures.
The conference ended Saturday, just minutes before midnight, with the announcement of the “Glasgow Climate Pact” that included an agreement to revisit the Nationally Determined Contributions before COP 27 in Egypt, in order to revisit and strengthen their 2030 targets. Last minute haggling on wording had countries agree to ‘phase down’ -rather than phase out- unabated coal, end ‘inefficient’ fuel subsidies. Climate finance to developing world is still not where it needs to be, with the missed 2020 target of $100 billion a year now extended to 2025 and the aim of doubling adaptation funding to around $40 billion a year within the next five years. COP26 also completed the technical negotiations on the so-called Paris Agreement Rulebook, including the Article 6 mechanisms, which set out the functioning of international cooperation and carbon markets.
So was it a success? To quote a newspaper headline, “it achieved more than expected but less than hoped”. It does take us in the right direction, but it’s not quite ambitious or fast enough for the challenge at hand. Nevertheless, it was a good couple of weeks for climate, CCS and CDR. Now let’s all get back to work to make COP 27 an even bigger success.
This piece was written by Guloren Turan, General Manager of Advocacy and Communication with the Global CCS Institute