Reflecting COP26 Outcomes: The UN Climate Change Conference Falls Short – Again

COP26 failed to live up to the expectations after two weeks of intensive negotiations.
Fazal Issa16 November 20213 min

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference that was held in Glasgow-UK came to a disappointing end on November 13, 2021, a day after it was scheduled to close. It was held a year later after being postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Prior to the Conference, a number of scientific reports were released throughout the year clearly indicating the need for ambitious and deliberate efforts to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions that cause climate change and for urgent actions to address its adverse impacts. 

The reports reflect the global reality as the world is already experiencing adverse impacts of climate change including extreme weather events such as increased temperatures and heatwaves, floods, wildfires, storms and cyclones. 

Africa remains a global climate change hotspot, suffering more from its impacts while contributing the least to its causes. Worse enough, this is in addition to the ongoing struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken a toll on her economy and crumbled livelihoods of her communities. 

Women and youth remain at the centre of such a struggle to both global challenges. The Conference, known as COP26, was therefore expected to address the climate crisis and act in such an urgent manner to deliver the most ambitious outcomes yet. 

Unmet expectations

Coming to the COP26, the universal call and expected goal were to develop a clear pathway to reducing GHGs and limit the global average to 1.5ºC; deliver the climate finance commitment of USD 100 billion; ensure the protection of communities and ecosystems from adverse impacts of climate change; and fully operationalise the Paris Agreement that was ceremoniously adopted in 2015. 

Unfortunately, the Conference did not live up to the expectations after two weeks of intensive negotiations. Global leaders’ statements, prior to and during the Conference, did not adequately translate into the required decisions and actions. While the outcomes were much of a compromise rather than ambitious and urgent. 

COP26 fell short in phasing-out coal, ending fossil fuel subsidies and aligning market mechanisms with environmental gains as part of mitigation efforts. Exclusion of loss and damage facility and subsequent funding, as an important agenda for vulnerable countries, was another notable miss by the Conference. 

Also, a clear delivery pathway was missing despite the climate finance pledges and definitions of climate finance will have to wait for another year. While limitation in accessing the negotiation rooms by the Non-State actors (observes) dented the spirit of inclusion and transparency. 

Some steps in the right direction

Nevertheless, these shortfalls do not water down the few steps in the right direction that were made in Glasgow. This includes the process of developing a global goal for adaptation, initiating dialogue on a new climate finance goal, setting a five-year timeframe for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and triggering for the new 1.5ºC aligned NDCs. 

Also, the world still awaits what will unfold from the encouraging Declaration on Forests and the US-China climate pact. Moving forward, countries will need to address the shortfalls and build on the momentum and positives that came out of this Conference.  

Developed countries shall take the lead, as obliged by the UN Climate Change Convention, in achieving a global net-zero by 2050 and maintaining the global average temperature at 1.5ºC through phasing-out coal, ending fossil fuel subsidies, increasing investment in renewables, and enhancing the protection of forests and oceans. 

Also, fulfil the USD 100 billion climate finance commitment by 2025 and develop a post-2025 new climate finance goal that is science-based and reflects the needs of the vulnerable countries. 

Climate finance should be predictable, accessible, in grant form, balanced between adaptation and mitigation, and support loss and damage that result from the adverse impacts of climate change. 

These should be done in an urgent and ambitious manner, reflecting the latest science, ensuring inclusiveness, being gender-responsive and respect to human rights. The time to act is now.

Fazal Issa is an environment, climate change and sustainable development expert based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He can be reached at fazalissa@gmail.com. These are the writer’s opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at editor@thechanzo.com for further inquiries.

Fazal Issa

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