n a year marked by uncertainty and mistrust, CoP26, the conference of parties to the United Nations climate change held in Glasgow, Scotland, this month affirmed the importance of collective global action to address the climate crisis.
While we are not yet on track, the progress made over the last year and at the CoP26 summit offers a strong foundation to build upon. The real test now is whether countries accelerate their efforts and translate their commitments into action.
During the UN climate change conference, negotiators found common ground on key issues, including agreeing to further strengthen 2030 targets in order to keep the 1.5°C goal within reach, step up and accelerate financial support to developing countries, establish a dedicated space to finally address permanent losses and damages from climate impacts and finalise rules to implement the Paris Agreement.
However, a number of major emitters have weak 2030 plans and will need to put forward more aggressive targets to drive down emissions this decade.
Encouragingly, countries agreed to come back next year to submit stronger 2030 targets and to put forward long-term strategies that aim towards a just transition to net zero by around mid-century. If the world is going to beat back the climate crisis, no one can sit on the sidelines.
It is inexcusable that developed countries failed to meet their commitment to deliver $100 billion annually starting in 2020 even as they provide hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for fossil fuels each year.
It is significant that the final outcome at CoP26 puts developed countries on the hook to report on their progress towards the $100 billion goal. Countries also made headway toward developing a new financial goal that goes beyond 2025. Nations also agreed to at least double funding for adaptation by 2025, implying at least $40 billion, which is very important progress.
COP26 finally put the critical issue of loss and damage squarely on the main stage.
Climate change is already causing devastating losses of lives, land and livelihoods. Some damages are permanent, from islands disappearing beneath the waves to water resources that are drying up.
In Glasgow, Scotland, countries agreed to new technical assistance on loss and damage to help vulnerable countries and to establish a dialogue on loss and damage funding.
To meet the needs of vulnerable countries, it is essential that the dialogues established in Glasgow be more than talk and result in recommendations on the scale of funding necessary.
One of the more worrying outcomes from CoP26 is the rules for international carbon markets.
While negotiators agreed that double-counting the same emission reductions is unacceptable, it is unfortunate that countries agreed to allow the use of old emission credits to meet their new climate commitments.
At CoP27 in New Cairo, Egypt, it is crucial that negotiators put stringent guidelines in place to ensure these credits represent real reductions and minimize how many end up being used.
The big announcements outside the formal negotiations were encouraging. Collectively they signal a resolve for the world to deliver the systemic change needed in key sectors to put us on a more sustainable path.
Countries, companies and investors announced plans to accelerate the shift away from coal power, to drastically cut methane emissions and to halt and reverse forest loss.
The science-based targets initiative offered a new standard for companies to verify their net-zero commitments.
The value of nature was prominent in Glasgow, including the need to quickly scale up nature-based solutions and landscape restoration, make agriculture more sustainable and protect the ocean.
Much more needs to be done to quickly convert these promising initiatives into real world action and ensure they are just and inclusive.
The train is moving and all countries need to get on board.
As attention shifts beyond CoP26, it is critical for everyone to step up their efforts and turn commitments into real action in ways that benefit all people.”