All titles, just like this one, squeeze many ideas into one sentence, but, in our humble opinion we believe that, if we look at the results, we have just witnessed the best of the 26 Climate Change Conferences (COPs) that have been held up until now.
We have closely followed all the COPs of the 21st century (21 of the 26 that have been held). At the beginning less intensely, and later participating actively and in person at the COP of Copenhagen in 2009, at the COP in Paris in 2015 and, for the whole two weeks in November 2021, at this one in Glasgow.
It has taken years to achieve, but finally and for the first time in history, the best and latest scientific knowledge, which has been published in the SR1.5 report that was prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018, has been included in the Glasgow Climate Pact, thus complying with what had been established at the Paris COP.
Specifically, article 22 of the Glasgow Climate Pact states:
22) Recognizes that limiting global warming to 1.50C requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around midcentury […].
And how do we explain that this COP26 has included the most important and above all the most ambitious objective ever included in one of the final decisions of a COP? Mainly because of another report presented by the Secretariat of the Climate Convention just a month before the start of the Glasgow COP. It shows that the Nationally Determined Commitments (the ‘famous’ NDCs) presented and currently registered before the Convention itself, would cause, from now until 2030, a growth in global emissions of 13.7% compared to 2010 (see article 25 of the final text approved in Glasgow as the Climate Pact).
The report has more than shown the discrepancy between what the science suggests we do and the current reality; a reality which is leading humanity toward the worst catastrophes and suffering that it has ever experienced in its history. Faced with the report’s terrible findings, no one could silence what for some time has been the most famous slogan in the fight against climate change: “keeping 1.5 alive.” Neither could they stop the Paris Agreement objective of maintaining global warming at 1.50C, from gaining more and more strength, and it ended up explicitly recognized in the aforementioned Article 22 of the Glasgow Climate Pact. At last, a goal that is based on the science of the IPCC and that must be reached globally in order to achieve the 1.50C objective, has been written into a COP decision.
This achievement, which, for the writers, is what makes this COP the best one in the history of COPs, has one serious problem: that it has already come too late! Taking into account the technologies that we have at our disposal, it is impossible to achieve the reduction of emissions to be carried out in the next 9 years. It is impossible to carry out the global energy transition necessary in such a short time. A transition that we doubt is possible under the existing premise of not changing the current capitalist economic system. To explain this in a practical way; to go from the current evolution towards an increase in emissions of 13.7%, to a 45% reduction in emissions would require immediately detaining, i.e. stopping physically and economically, the level and rhythm of life that people in all the developed countries of the world, and in some of its emerging economies, currently enjoy. We are already too late for that!
When we say that we have just experienced the best of the 26 COPs that have taken place, we are also referring to the fact that in Article 3 of the aforementioned Glasgow Climate Pact, the concept of the Carbon Budget appears for the first time in history. This is a key concept in the current science on global warming, and it finally appears in a COP decision, despite staunch opposition from Mr. Kerry until the last moments of the negotiations.
Specifically, it states:
3) Expresses alarm and utmost concern that human activities have caused around 1.10C of warming to date, that impacts are already being felt in every region, and that carbon budgets consistent with achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goal are now small and being rapidly depleted.
In reality, in order to not exceed 1.50C, the accumulated CO2 emissions that we can still send into the atmosphere is, according to the IPCC, 300 Gt CO2 (with an 83% probability). This is the carbon budget we have. The current rate of CO2 emissions is 40 Gt per year. Being very optimistic, if some countries respond to the enormous pressure that the climate problem is exerting on them, at the very best, this rate will remain stable. Assuming this, it is easy to calculate that within 7 years human activity will have used up all the carbon budget and caused around 1.50C of global warming. We have to insist again that, sadly, we are already too late.
The title of this article in which we ultimately evaluate COP26 as positive, mainly takes into account the contents of section IV. Mitigation of the Glasgow Climate Pact, which can currently be found on the UNFCCC website. This document is neither definitively edited yet nor, therefore, translated into all official UN languages.
In section IV. Mitigation, practically all the amendments presented in the final negotiations by the Like Minded Developing Countries Group (LMDCG) of the G77 were included. It contains, among others, articles 22, 23 and 25 of the Final Agreement that we have already partially cited and evaluated. They state:
22) Recognizes that limiting global warming to 1.50C requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around midcentury, as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gases.
23) Also recognizes that this requires accelerated action in this critical decade, on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge and equity, reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in the light of different national circumstances and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.
25) Notes with serious concern the findings of the synthesis report on nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, three according to which the aggregate greenhouse gas emission level, taking into account implementation of all submitted nationally determined contributions, is estimated to be 13.7 percent above the 2010 level in 2030.
We would also like to mention Article 27 of the same section, since we value it very positively.
27) Decides to establish a work program to urgently scale up mitigation ambition and implementation in this critical decade, and requests the Subsidiary Body for Implementation and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice to recommend a draft decision on this matter for consideration and adoption by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement at its fourth session, in a manner that complements the global stocktake.
This article establishes a mandate, a course of action, which enables us to answer the question; and now what?
We can come to the conclusion, if we are being lenient with the leaders (including in this case those of the G20) and with the leadership (the ineffable UK COP26 president Mr. Alok Sharma), that it appears that, for once, they have been consistent with their own statements and that a real pathway for radical future action on climate change mitigation has opened up in the form of a well-drawn mandate within the Glasgow Climate Pact.
This new opening will encourage many, ourselves included, to stay positive and work with all our might throughout 2022, both at the intersessional conference next spring in Bonn, and also with our sights set on the COP27 in Egypt. Our objective is to get the COP27 to commission the immediate realization and implementation in 2023 of some extraordinary and mandatory NDCs for the period 2023-2030, that will result in an urgent reduction of emissions consistent with keeping global warming to 1.50C in an equitable, fair and ambitious way, in accordance with the provisions of the IPCC.
It is for this reason that we are keeping the platform Call for Mother Earth alive and open (although in a state of reconstruction until February 2022), and we continue to invite you to support it and to continue signing it. You can read more about it in our article Call for mother earth.
The title of this article, and our analysis and comments so far, give the reader one viewpoint of what before, during and after Glasgow really meant, in this case looking at things positively as we have said. However, this vision does not quite fit in with the harsh reality.
Therefore, we will end this article with a kind of quick overview of the whole document of the Glasgow Climate Pact of the CMA3 which, we believe, gives a more truthful vision of how the fight against climate change is no longer not only just a lost battle, but moreover of how there is a new and not exactly happy future world being shaped; a world in which there will emerge a new division between countries that will be able to adapt, and those that will only be able to ask for help for their ‘losses and damage'.
The document in question is titled Glasgow Climate Pact and after the usual preamble it has the following sections:
I. Science and urgency (5 articles from 1 to 5).
II. Adaptation (8 articles from 6 to 13).
III. Financing of Adaptation (6 articles from 14 to 19).
IV. Mitigation (20 articles from 20 to 39).
V. Financing, transfer of technology and capacity-building for mitigation and adaptation (21 articles 40 to 60).
VI. Loss and damage (14 articles from 61 to 74).
VII. Implementation (11 articles 75 to 85).
VIII. Collaboration (12 articles from 86 to 97).
Although it remains to be seen what happens at COP 27, we have already commented on and positively valued section I, (at last the results of a COP begin where they should begin and the past reluctance to mention the IPCC seems to have been finally overcome) and section IV.
Also for the first time, two sections dedicated to ‘adaptation’ move up to the higher positions of the document before ‘mitigation’. The means (financing, transfer of technology and capacity-building) appear to be primarily for mitigation and adaptation. ‘Losses and damages’ has its own section and seems to be gaining protagonism in the story of what is coming our way, but all this hasn’t sufficiently satisfied those who are already suffering and are going to suffer even more losses and damages due to climate change.
Everything indicates that the majority of countries still believe that they will be able to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This has led to the launching of a two-year Work Program on the global objective of adaptation. This, perhaps, implies that we intend to adapt globally to climate change by balancing out the financial contributions that pass from the developed to the developing countries. We fear that these resources, in addition to being ridiculous, will never arrive.
Regarding actions to adapt to and/or mitigate climate change, our position has not changed since long before Glasgow: if we do not stop climate change with mitigation, then everything we do to adapt to its effects will never be sufficient because: a) increasing global warming will require more and more resources for adaptation; b) in a negative feedback loop more efforts, actions, investments, etc. to help adaptation will always need more energy, which, at least in the short and medium term, will imply more GHG emissions linked to the use of energy resources that will still be mostly fossil fuels.
In addition, we fully understand that those developing countries that are already seriously suffering from climate change, and those that see what is coming their way very soon, can only believe and ask for one thing. That the developed countries less affected by the effects of climate change, plus what remains of global collaborative multilateralism, take responsibility for the losses and damages that will only start increasing. It's a bit sad to finish up like this, but at least the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (COP19) and the Santiago network for averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage (COP25), seem to come out of Glasgow somewhat reinforced. We hope that these mechanisms will be able to provide the methods and tools to anticipate and, if possible, later heal the increasingly unpredictable and disastrous effects of climate change.
(Article co-authored with Olga Alcaraz Sendra, Doctor in Physics and professor in the Physics department of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia)