6 Essential Numbers to Understand the Glasgow Climate Pact
It seems a nuanced distinction, but it could make a huge difference in the long run. “A five-year commitment period will make the Paris regime more dynamic,” says Li. “Put simply, it provides more room for diplomacy to play its role.”
The Glasgow decision opted for this more ambitious option of stricter deadlines. Li notes that the text only “encourages” rather than binds countries to do this, but argues countries would “really need to be outliers” not to follow it.
Discussions over how to set up the rules for an international carbon market, a regime that will allow countries and companies to trade emission-reduction credits between them, has been the thorn in the side of climate negotiations for four years now. Often referred to by the article number where they feature in the Paris Agreement—Article 6—the issue should have been wrapped up back in 2018 but has been stymied by fears that major loopholes could undermine the whole Paris regime.
For example, the rules for carbon markets had to avoid double counting, says Pedro Barata, senior climate director at the Environmental Defense Fund. “That is essentially, if I’m using a credit that I bought from you, then you cannot claim it for yourself. [Otherwise] you actually make what seem like very ambitious targets start coming down in terms of ambition.”
It sounds simple enough to avoid, but it wasn’t, and for this and several other reasons talks kept falling through. At COP26, though, the rules were finally settled in a robust enough way to avoid double counting. The downside is that the rules do allow some old carbon-market credits from the Kyoto Protocol era of the past 23 years to be used in the new system, and to continue claiming credits on these same projects up to 2025.
The rules also don’t include language on human rights that many indigenous groups and civil society were pushing for. “This article promotes carbon market mechanisms that would open up opportunities for land grabs by corporations and governments,” says Jade Begay, climate justice campaign director of NDN Collective, an indigenous-led activist and advocacy organization based in the US, in a statement.
On the first day of the Glasgow summit, India dropped a huge announcement. The world’s third biggest polluter set out plans to reach net zero emissions by 2070. Many details are still to come, including, crucially, whether this covers all greenhouse gases or just CO2. But along with China’s pledge to reach net zero by 2060 and the US aim to do it by 2050, this means the three largest emitters of greenhouse gases have now promised to wind down and ultimately end their emissions.
It remains to be seen exactly how countries will incorporate all these fresh commitments and big numbers into their national climate pledges—something else to watch out for in the 2022 updates. There were many disappointments in COP26, and it clearly did not go far enough, but the new commitments and completion of many of the trickiest parts of negotiations may have finally pushed the world into a new phase of climate action. Now it’s up to governments to return home and finally close the gap between the dangerous place they are headed and where they have promised to get to.