he Cop26 climate talks have agreed to get countries to strengthen their emissions-cutting targets for 2030 by the end of next year in a bid to limit dangerous warming.
Ministers and negotiators at the UN summit in Glasgow have also sent a signal on the shift away from the world’s dirtiest fuel, with a deal calling for efforts to escalate the “phase down” of unabated coal, as well as the phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
The Glasgow Pact was watered down at the last minute – following a push by India and China – from escalating the “phase out” of unabated coal, to “phase down”, prompting angry responses from European and vulnerable countries.
But it is the first explicit mentions of fossil fuels in a UN climate agreement.
The deal aims to keep limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels “alive” or within reach, in the face of a huge gap between the action countries are taking and what is needed to meet the goal.
In the wake of the “Glasgow Pact” being gavelled through – more than 24 hours after the official finishing time of the conference, there were warnings that the 1.5C goal was “on life support”.
The EU’s climate representative at the summit, Frans Timmermans, called it a “historic, historic decision”.
United Nations secretary-general António Guterres called the outcome “a compromise, reflecting the interests, contradictions & state of political will in the world today.
“It’s an important step, but it’s not enough. It’s time to go into emergency mode. The climate battle is the fight of our lives and that fight must be won.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tweeted to thank the “leaders, negotiators and campaigners” involved in the Cop26 pact.
He said: “We asked nations to come together for our planet at @COP26, and they have answered that call. I want to thank the leaders, negotiators and campaigners who made this pact happen – and the people of Glasgow who welcomed them with open arms.
“I also want particularly to thank Cop President Alok Sharma who has worked incredibly hard to bring countries together.
“There is still a huge amount more to do in the coming years.
“But today’s agreement is a big step forward and, critically, we have the first ever international agreement to phase down coal and a road map to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
“I hope that we will look back on Cop26 in Glasgow as the beginning of the end of climate change, and I will continue to work tirelessly towards that goal.”
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The climate crisis is the biggest challenge facing our world and it is clear that we cannot afford further delay.
“While I welcome any progress, this agreement simply doesn’t meet the scale of the challenge.
“Countries on the front line of the climate crisis deserve to have the urgent issue of loss and damage addressed and there is much still to be done to keep the hope of 1.5C alive.
“So, as leaders return home from Cop26, it is vital those nations who have it in their power to help reverse our planet’s decline join those of us committed to doing so to give our world its best chance of survival.”
The pact requests countries revisit and strengthen their 2030 national climate action targets “as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022, taking into account different national circumstances”.
In the Paris Agreement in 2015, countries committed to limit temperature rises to “well below” 2C and try to limit them to 1.5C to avoid the most dangerous impacts of storms, droughts, crop failures, floods and disease.
Scientists have warned keeping temperature rises to 1.5C requires global emissions to be cut by 45% by 2030, and to zero overall by mid-century.
But despite countries being required to update their action plans, known as nationally determined contributions, for emissions cuts up to 2030 in the run-up to Glasgow, the latest pledges leave the world well off track to meet the goal.
So countries have been under pressure to come up with a deal in Glasgow that will see them rapidly increase their ambition for emission cuts in the 2020s to stop the 1.5C goal slipping out of reach, as well as provide the finance for developing countries to cope with the crisis.
The deal has measures on finance for poorer and more vulnerable countries to develop cleanly, cope with climate impacts and address the loss and damage they face from climate-related storms, floods, droughts and rising seas.
The final agreement urges developed countries to at least double their collective provision of climate finance to help developing nations adapt to climate change, from 2019 levels, by 2025.
There was also agreement on finalising key parts of the “Paris rulebook”, on areas such as establishing carbon markets which have been outstanding since the climate treaty was agreed in 2015.
Responding to the decisions, Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said: “It’s meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive, but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.”
Climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted: “The #COP26 is over. Here’s a brief summary: Blah, blah, blah.
“But the real work continues outside these halls. And we will never give up, ever.”
Amanda Mukwashi, chief executive of Christian Aid, said: “We were told that Cop26 was the last best chance to keep 1.5C alive, but it’s been placed on life support.
“Rich nations have kicked the can down the road and with it the promise of the urgent climate action people on the front line of this crisis need.”
But after the decisions were agreed, Cop26 President Alok Sharma told the climate summit “history has been made here in Glasgow”.
He said: “We can say with credibility that we have kept 1.5C within reach but its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises, if we translate commitments into rapid action and if we deliver on the expectations set out in this Glasgow Climate Pact to increase ambition to 2030 and beyond.”
He said the “vast gap that remains” must be closed and quoted remarks from the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, who earlier told the conference that for Barbados and other small island states a rise of 2C is a “death sentence”.