A Heated Debate: COP26 publishes first draft deal

November 21, 2021

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3 min read

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What's going on here?

Following negotiations, a draft agreement that called to cut global carbon targets was published at the COP26 Glasgow Summit.

What does this mean?

Countries are being told to strengthen carbon-cutting targets and have been called to submit sustainable long-term strategies for reaching net-zero by the end of 2022. Scientists have been urging countries to pledge to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5ºc, and to reach 0ºc by mid-century, as any temperature changes are warned to lead to impacts of extreme weather with irreversible conditions. The draft has included clauses to mitigate these issues. One example is the unprecedented mention to accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuel. Beyond this, the draft has also spotlighted the cause of loss and damage in vulnerable nations, as created by extreme weather. This particularly applies to developing countries, with the deal calling for stronger support to help them cope with the impacts of global warming.

What's the big picture effect?

 Whilst the draft is a step forward in promoting measures to cut emissions, critics state that more can be done. Numerous clauses have been raised for contention amongst countries. Firstly, many have expressed concern towards the language on bringing forward national targets (known as “nationally determined contributions”, or “NDCs”) in that the draft deal is only “urging” countries, rather than strictly mandating them to do so. Another caveat is that the draft deal follows the timescale of the Paris Agreement, which only requires countries to revise their NDCs every 5 years. Critics have expressed that this is not enough to stay within COP’s main goal of staying within the 1.5ºc temperature growth limit. According to Climate Action Tracker (an independent scientific analysis organisation), under this framework of NDCs, this would result in heating of almost 2.4ºc until 2030. Furthermore, the draft also raises questions of self-interest amongst countries. Whilst the draft will accelerate the phasing out of coal, there was no mention of other fossil fuels – oil and natural gas. The world’s biggest oil-producing countries (such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Australia) have ensured that the mention of other fossil fuels has been kept out of the discussion. Many nations have questioned the fairness of this clause, demonstrating that some countries have been exempt from their supposed responsibility to decrease emissions. Despite denying all allegations, Saudi Arabia has been further accused of blocking measures that would crack down on fossil fuels.   

Developing countries are also dissatisfied with the lack of clarity regarding financing from developed countries. In 2009, it was promised that $100bn would be pledged for this purpose each year. However, whilst this was supposed to be fulfilled in 2020, countries are still $20bn short of this goal. Additionally, the Loss and Damage Clause (caused by extreme weather conditions) in the draft deal has sparked debate amongst countries. Developing countries believe that they should be compensated because of it, but it is expected that developed countries will not agree to any tangentially related terms. Fundamentally lacking in a funding mechanism for the loss and damage inflicted on “the world’s poor by a problem that they did the least to cause,” writes Fiona Harvey, an environmental correspondent from The Guardian. This shows that there is no explicit plan or deadline for developed countries to give private finance to help their developing counterparts; this potentially leaves developing countries disoriented, as climate change has impacted them with such intensity that they find it difficult to adapt and need financial support to rebuild – something which they continue to lack.

Report written by Larrissa Leung

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