After 13 days of arduous negotiating at COP-26, an agreement was decided on November 13th.
The agreement, at best, achieves incremental progress but ultimately falls short of the expectations from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), like Belize, who are already grappling with the effects of Climate Change.
One of the sections that saw fervent negotiations was “Adaptation Finance”. This subsection was given much attention as during The Copenhagen Summit, held in 2009, developed nations agreed that developing nations would receive at least $100 billion annually, to help cut emissions and cope with the impacts of the climate crisis. As of the most recent data, that commitment has not been lived up to.
The lack of adequate commitment manifested into frustration, and those frustrations were made known at the conference by representatives, including Belize’s Hon. John Briceño and Barbados’s prime minister, Mia Motley, in their opening presentations. The agreement henceforth, “Urges developed country Parties to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing country Parties from 2019 levels by 2025.”
The section dubbed “Mitigation” also saw much contention—particularly subsection 36 which, “Calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, including accelerating efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,”
This subsection is the first time that text formally called for countries to move on from coal was included in an agreement. However, there was a dramatic last-moment twist when India, China and others teamed up to insist on weakening that section by changing one critical phrase: “phase out.” This became “phase down”.
The conference president Alok Sharma couldn’t conceal his emotions, “I apologize for the way this process has unfolded and I’m deeply sorry. I also understand the deep disappointment, but I think as you have noted, it’s also vital that we protect this package.” Notably, despite it being watered down by the countries doing the most damage, this agreement reflects the urgency to act, to expresses clearly what’s at stake and, most importantly, to provide a path forward.
Some countries came to Glasgow opposed to stronger action and tried to suggest that focusing on 1.5oC was “reopening the Paris agreement”, the main goal of which is to hold temperature rises “well below” 2oC above pre-industrial levels while “pursuing efforts” to limit rises to 1.5oC.
The UK hosts and supporters such as John Kerry of the US constantly pointed out that “well below” 2oC could not mean 1.9oC or 1.7oC, as those were not “well below”, and that going below that got close to 1.5oC. There are also repeated references in the text to “the best available science”, which has moved on since the Paris agreement and to further highlight that 1.5oC is much safer than 2oC and that every fraction of a degree counts.
The ultimate take away from the conference is that the argument at Glasgow was won in favor of 1.5C – which is an achievement, albeit minuscule, for the planet.