The COP26 summit ended last weekend with nearly 200 countries agreeing to the “Glasgow Climate Pact”, to keep 1.5C alive. The summit was the largest international event of its kind ever held in the United Kingdom, and more than 25,000 delegates convened in the Scottish capital to speed up the pace of climate action.
The deal was headed for unanimous agreement at the summit, when at the last-minute India and China raised objections to a universal commitment to end coal use and subsidies for fossil fuels. Ultimately, countries agreed to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal, amid expressions of disappointment by some. COP26 President Alok Sharma said he was “deeply sorry” for how events had unfolded.
The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first ever climate deal to explicitly plan to reduce coal, said BBC News. Coal is responsible for about 40% of annual CO2 emissions, making it vitally important to reduce its usage. The new deal means that the 196 signatory countries are expected to return next year with fresh plans on cutting emissions before 2030, to keep global warming “well below 2C”.
Before COP26, the world was on track for 2.7°C of warming. Announcements at COP26, including new pledges to cut emissions this decade, have reduced this to a best estimate of 2.4°C. Countries accounting for 90% of the world’s GDP have now pledged to go net zero by the middle of the century.
“We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe… it is time to go into emergency mode – or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero”, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.