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Monday, November 15, 2021

Glasgow Climate Pact outcomes: ambition, but too slow to prevent catastrophic climate impacts

There will be those who condemn the Glasgow COP a failure, and others that hail it a success. 

On a meeting level where 197 countries + Europe need to agree on outcomes based upon using a consensus process, it is somewhere in between.

The decision text incorporates the science and the urgency, but then fails to step up with the requisite actions to match the science.  

The science says we are still causing too much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, heading for around 2.4 degrees Celsius Global warming by the end of the century according to Climate Action Tracker assessment released 9 November: Glasgow’s 2030 credibility gap.  Many countries targets (such as Australia) are still far from sufficient.

And the science as provided in the IPCC 6th Assessment report has only got clearer that passing 1.5 degrees poses enormous risks to life and health, biodiversity, and passing tipping points in the climate system making reversing global heating more difficult. The UN Secretary General called it a Code Red for Humanity.

We are losing the race against time to bring emissions under control. The Paris climate target of 1.5C is almost out of our reach.

So what were the outcomes of the Glasgow Climate Pact?

Signal to countries to accelerate shift off fossil fuels, coal to renewable energy

The COP decision is still significant including decisions on coal exit and ratchett up measures in the next year. Two important take aways:

  • "requests Parties to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their nationally determined contributions as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022." This is clearly directed at Australia. 
  • For the first time coal and fossil fuels were recognised as needing to be reduced if not eliminated". 197 countries agreed to "accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, recognizing the need for support towards a just transition;"
What other things got decided:
  • Developed countries double collective adaptation finance from 2019 levels by 2025
  • New UN work programme to scale up GHG cuts, reporting at COP27 in 2022
  • Requests all countries to raise climate targets in line with 1.5-2C by and of 2022
  • Commissions annual UN assessment of climate plans from 2022
  • Notes "deep regret" of developed countries for missing $100bn target 
  • Urges countries' to 'fully deliver on the $100 billion goal 'urgently' through 2025
  • Welcomes the further operationalization of the Santiago network
  • Santiago network will be provided with funds to support technical assistance 
  • Urges countries to provide funds to the Santiago network

The Paris Rulebook finally concluded after 6 years

 With decisions on Article 6 (carbon markets), Transparency and Common Timelines:

Carbon markets - Article 6
  • The text closed some of the outrageous loopholes, but it is not tight enough to stop companies and countries from using carbon credits as an easy way to continue polluting. 
  • The levy on some of these transactions going to fund adapt in developing countries was removed. 
  • This was a negotiation compromise deal that doesn't fully pass the test of integrity.
  • More scrutiny on government climate pledges
  • Will ensure that by 2024 everyone can assess what other countries are doing. 
  • regular and more robust information on the state of GHG emissions
  • More easily assess progress towards implementing NDCs.
  • includes references to support for developing country Parties, 
  • maintains the deadline for the submission of the first biennial transparency reports under the Paris Agreement by 2024.
Common Timelines
  • Agreed rules mean all countries should deliver climate plans to the UN on 5-year cycles, 
  • 'encouraged' to use a common time frame for NDCs starting 2025 (with countries submitting 2035 NDCs in 2025, 2040 NDCs in 2030, etc). Note "encouraged" language is weaker than before.

On the side pledges at COP26.

Climate Action Tracker found that the side pledges of the Global methane Pledge, coal exit, end to deforestation and land degradation,  and transport deals contain additional  action which would close the emissions gap to a 1.5C path by 9% or 2.2 GtCO2e. Potential to increase this with more signatories.

This climate conference shifted attention to the problem: the need to phase out fossil fuels including among the Fossil Fueled 5, whether the coal exit pledge, the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, the very first mention in a COP decision of the need to phase down coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Fossil Fuel producer nations are now on notice, and that was agreed by all 198 signatories to the UNFCCC.

Can it provide a platform for greater action at COP27 meeting in North Africa in the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh?

So what are the implications for Australia?

This UN Climate Change conference  the world moved to take stronger action on climate change, and Australia is being left behind, with dire consequences for our climate, economy and jobs.  

Australia was one of the few countries not to bring a higher 2030 climate target to COP26 as highlighted in Scott Morrison's speech.

While the world was standing up on climate action, Australia is walking backwards, with Scott Morrison’s Government further entrenching fossil fuels. 

140 countries including China and India lifted their ambition. Australia was among the only developed nations NOT to bring an increased 2030 target; the pressure is on to do so before next year’s COP. 
The last rights were given to coal in the COP platform and in the COP final decision, and the Morrison government has left Australia ill-prepared for the global zero emissions transformation that’s well underway.

The largest public funders of overseas coal plants - China, Korea and Japan - agreed to end public funding for overseas coal next year. A growing number of the world’s banks also agreed to stop funding new coal plants.

Our coal workers and coal communities have not been told the truth and have been not invited to participate in regional transition plans. 

Everyday Australians and business will pay a high price for us being out of step with the rest of the world. 

Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms, or border tariffs, will be applied to Australian manufactured and agricultural export goods because we are seen as not having taken the steps to decarbonise our economy. This will have dire economic consequences due to federal government  prioritising fossil fuels over climate action.

Customers and financers are already abandoning coal because they know it will collapse over the next decade. Instead of helping coal communities diversify, the Australian Government is doubling down on a losing bet by expanding coal and gas with over 70 new coal mines and 44 gas projects in the development pipeline.

Australia is becoming globally isolated and is one of a handful of countries like Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia that are seen as part of the problem, not the solution. 

Australia’s net zero target is incompatible with any new coal or gas. 

All new fossil fuel expansion must stop, and we need to phase out their use as quickly as possible.

The pressure on the Morrison government to step up, not cop out, remains and needs to grow stronger. (Countries told to bring updated 2030 targets before the next COP, in line with 45% global cuts by 2030, and front end net zero plans)

The Morrison government is sitting back and freeriding on the efforts of state and local governments, businesses and households that are getting on with the job by ramping up renewable energy and investing in low carbon technologies. This is why Federal Government is saying emissions reduction is projected to be 35 percent by 2030, because of the actions of states, businesses and the broader community. Imagine if they were actually pro-active on climate policy and setting a regulatory environment and incentives.

There is no substitute for federal policies and action. The Australian government is risking trillions of investment dollars that will secure the jobs of the future. 

While criticism of the Federal Government needs to be made, the Labor Opposition needs to similarly step up and set an ambituous 2030 target, no new coal or gas projects, and develop just transition plans for coal, oil and gas sector to reduce fossil fuel production, along with ramping up renewables and energy storage.

Response to the outcomes

A few reactions from various prominent people can be read at the Guardian: Cop26 reactions: ‘Rich nations have kicked the can down the road’

Climate Council

The Climate Council issued a media release highlighting that For the first time in 26 years of COP summits, there is a specific call to move beyond coal power and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

Climate Council Head of Research Dr Simon Bradshaw said 140 countries lifted their game on climate action at COP26, while Australia cemented its reputation as a laggard and blocker. 

“The federal government showed up empty-handed to a pivotal moment in the fight for our future. They’ve let down our Pacific neighbours, as well as Australians who do not deserve to endure more frequent and severe bushfires, floods, droughts and heatwaves,” Dr Bradshaw said. 

“As our allies and trading partners rise to the climate challenge, we’re stuck in a polluting past with a handful of countries including Russia and Saudi Arabia. The Government’s own Net Zero modelling, released two days ago, predicts Australia will still be a major coal and gas exporter in 2050. 

“The Glasgow Climate Pact has made it very clear that our government must come back to the table next year with a stronger 2030 target. It’s time to slash carbon pollution this decade, as if our futures depended on it – because they do.”
Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie talked about the diminishing of Australia's reputation at Glasgow in failing to put forward a meaningful 2030 emissions reduction target. 

Updating a new NDC with new targets at this 5 year interval was a key plank of the Paris Agreement, the ratchet mechanism, which the Turnbull government signed on to. Australia broke its promise to the international community.

“All Australians will pay the price. We’re the sunniest country in the world but we’re missing opportunities in the clean energy race. We are feeling the worsening consequences of climate change.

“Australians all over the country are doing their best and will rightly be disappointed. They are rolling up their sleeves to do more on climate, but the Morrison government is all talk no action. It’s downright reckless." said Amanda McKenzie.

Australia Institute

The Australia Institute Director of Energy and Climate Richie Merzian who attended COP26 also commented on the conference outcomes:

“If COP26 is judged on its ability to advance emissions reductions, then Glasgow has already moved the dial forward,” 

“Attempts to name and shame fossil fuels have been blocked for major fossil fuel producers in the UN, but finally a line has been drawn in the sand.

“After 15 years in the process, it’s heartening to see fossil fuels directly targeted, with significant alliances against coal, oil and gas launched on the margins of COP, language on phasing down traditional coal power agreed, including by Australia.

“Post-Glasgow, we can rid ourselves of the pretence that fossil fuels can be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

“Australia earned the Colossal Fossil award for coming to COP26 with as little ambition as possible. It was disappointing to see an advanced economy refuse to increase its 2030 ambition, especially when Prime Minister Morrison traveled all the way to Glasgow to brag that Australia would significantly ‘meet and beat’ its modest target with no additional policies.

“While the emissions gap to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees remains, it has at least narrowed and countries like Australia have been requested to return next year with a better target and to join a new Ministerial roundtable on 2030 ambition.

“Credit should be given to the United Kingdom and the United States for throwing everything they had at COP26, including bringing Australia to the table to support a phase-out of unabated coal and to consider improving its 2030 target next year.

“However, the final package falls short of the ambitions of the Pacific. As has been said by many: if we save the Pacific, we save the world. While progress has been made and hope remains, the process must pick up the pace next year in Egypt if we as a planet are to avoid dangerous climate change.”

Comment by Marshall Islands at the COP26 Closing Plenary:

See: Final COP26 stocktake and Closing Plenary

"On behalf of the Marshall Islands I wish to read into the record our profound disappointment with the change in the language on coal from phase out to phase down. I ask that this be reflected in the report of this meeting. This commitment on coal had been a bright spot in this package. It was one of the things we were hoping to carry out of here, back home with pride, and it hurts deeply to see that bright spot dim. We accept this change with the greatest reluctance. We do so only, and I really want to stress only, because there are critical elements of this package that people in my country need, as a lifeline for their future. Thankyou."

In a tweet thread Tina Stege, the Envoy for the Republic of the Marshall Islands articulated what was won:

"This Package is not perfect. The coal change and a weak outcome on loss and damage are blows."

"But it is real progress and elements of the Glasgow Package are a lifeline for my country. We must not discount the crucial wins covered in this package:

  • Within the @HACoalition  we campaigned hard from dawn to dusk to secure a doubling of adaptation financing. When the HAC launched this call we didn’t know if it would be possible. It was a very hard-fought win. 
  • This package includes a plan to accelerate NDCs (national climate targets) to meet the demands we must meet this decade - also called for by the @HACoalition , and a priority that didn't always seem possible.
  • On #Article6, we need to remain vigilant against greenwashing, protect environmental integrity, & protect human rights & the rights of indigenous peoples.
  • But a plan is only as good as its implementation. All Parties must now go home and get to work to deliver on their Glasgow and Paris commitments. #COP26 #1pt5tostayalive "

Australian Conservation Foundation
“Australia has once again been part of the problem, not the solution,” ACF Climate Program Manager

Gavan McFadzean from the Australian Conservation Foundation who attended COP26 in Glasgow highlighted that Australia was once again part of the problem not the solution, along with countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia. 

“The gap between Australia and some of its closest allies and trading partners – like the US, UK and the EU – has widened and it will result in dire consequences for our climate, economy and jobs.

“Australia is one of the sunniest and windiest places on earth, we are missing a golden opportunity to become a global renewables superpower. We should be leading from the front, not lagging from the very back,” he said.

He highlighted that there were breakthroughs at Glasgow, even though they were not enough to close the emissions gap to the 1.5C Paris Agreement temperature target
  • 140 countries lifted 2030 pollution reduction targets, but not Australia
  • 103 countries agreed to slash methane pollution, but not Australia
  • 190 countries and organisations agreed to phase out coal power and end public funding, but not Australia
“The pressure is now on our elected representatives in Canberra to update its climate policy to bring us up to speed with key trading partners,” Mr McFadzean said. 

“A majority of world leaders, and importantly a majority of Australians, want to see emissions halved at the very least by 2030. This can be done easily through electrifying industry and bolstering renewable power.

A YouGov poll, conducted for the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) in all 151 Federal electorates and released in August 2021, found not one electorate where there was majority support for the government’s plans for new gas and coal-fired power. Across Australia, most voters want more renewable energy. Similarly, the Climate of the Nation survey released in October 2021 found majority support for substantial climate action.

“This conference is the nail in the coffin for coal. The world is moving on – Australia should too."

“Momentum is building, our eyes now turn to both of the major parties in the lead up to the Federal election to introduce the action needed to safeguard our climate and nature.” concluded McFadzean.


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