Comment: close of COP26

Comments on the close of the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow

By George Smeeton

Information on this page correct as of:

Please see below comments on the close of COP26. If you have further questions, please do let us know. ECIU also hosting a post-COP event on Monday 15th November.

Sepi Golzari-Munro, Acting Directorat the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “The agreement reached in Glasgow is not perfect, but given the economic and political context around the world, it’s delivered more than many expected.

“These summits are a vital part of tackling climate change, but only a part. What was important was that the UK Presidency used its significant diplomatic skill to reach a conclusion that parties could agree upon and built momentum on tackling climate change that has kept the Paris Agreement goals within reach.

"While the fossil fuel language was watered down at the last minute by China, the US, the EU and India – it has survived. This is history in the making and sets a strong precedent for the future; the cause of the climate crisis has for the first time in over two decades been called out by the 198 signatories to the Paris agreement.

“It’s now clear that climate change is the decisive issue for leaders in politics and business around the world, and the UK has shown its leadership works."

Gareth Redmond-King, COP26 Lead, ECIU said: “This was always going to be a difficult and complex COP, for lots of reasons – one without a clear ‘success/failure’ line to cross. But we leave Glasgow with more momentum and urgency to deliver the Paris goals than we had going into COP26.

“Sector deals and, if they stay in the COP decision, commitments to coal and fossil fuel subsidy phase-out, send powerful market signals that will outpace the woeful climate progress of nations like Australia. New commitments have narrowed the gap to 1.5°C, strengthened support for people in nations most vulnerable to climate change, and accelerated the process so countries are expected to come back with net-zero targets and Paris-aligned plans before COP27.

“What is clear is that people around the world are ahead of politicians, and the pressure will be on leaders at home, after Glasgow, to match the commitments and urgency generated at COP26. Now is the time to seize the hope, set the ambition for the future, and pick up the pace to ensure we keep the Paris Agreement goals within reach, and 1.5 alive as we look towards COP27 in Egypt.”

Prof Emily Shuckburgh, Director of Cambridge Zero, said: “COP26 ends reaffirming the fact that the science of climate change is crystal clear – we are running out of time to keep global temperature rises to 1.5°C. Glasgow has been an important gateway to a 1.5°C world but we now need accelerated action to get there.

“Countries without adequate targets will be expected to come back with Paris-aligned targets before next year’s COP, and all parties commit to raising ambition the following year. People all over the world sent their leaders to this summit with high expectations that they would act with urgency. People in the most vulnerable countries around the world are depending on it. A cleaner, greener, more equitable world is possible and we all need to play a part in shaping it. An exciting future starts here.”

Michael Grubb, Professor of Energy and Climate Change, Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources, UCL said: “COP26 is revealing the paradox at the heart of the Paris Agreement. It established ambitious global goals based on science, but implementation based on sovereignty and a lack of specific, negotiated or binding national commitments. The resistance to unambiguous statements on phasing out coal or ending fossil fuel subsidies underlines some national political realities, and the offered Nationally Determined Contribution are clearly inconsistent with the global goals.

“The risk now is that pressure to come back next year with stronger offers may reduce the ‘ambition gap’ by increasing the gap between stated national ambition and implemented policy – particularly if the international financing falls short.”

Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at The Australia Institute said: “For the first time we have seen a line drawn in the sand on fossil fuels, with significant alliances against coal, gas and oil launched at a COP and language on phasing out of coal considered/agreed by Parties. We can now rid ourselves of the pretence that fossil fuels can be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

“Australia earnt the Colossal Fossil award for coming to Glasgow with as little ambition as possible. It was disappointing to see this wealthy, industrialised, energy superpower refuse to improve its 2030 target, especially when it brags that it will ‘meat and beat’ it with room to spare.

“Australia provided cover for other laggards in Glasgow, instead of joining with the COP host and its ally, to push for the best possible outcome.”

Richard Black, Senior Associate at ECIU, said: “For the poorest and most vulnerable nations it’s been a bittersweet summit. Their reality centres on the climate impacts they’re already feeling and which they did nothing to cause – and they’re waiting for the assistance that the West has long promised and largely failed to deliver.

“They’re pleased that richer nations will now increase the amount of funding to help them protect against climate impacts, and of course pleased that the agreement will accelerate progress on cutting emissions. They’re also pleased that the agreement recognises how the Covid pandemic has increased their debt burdens, and the extent to which this is slowing their clean energy transition.

“However, with studies showing climate change will cut the poorest nations’ economic growth by up to 60%, there’s palpable anger that prosperous nations are still failing to deliver what they’ve pledged in terms of support for the loss and damage that is now inevitable. Expect either significant progress on this or major arguments next year.”

Dame Andrea Leadsom, Member of Parliament for South Northamptonshire, said: “For many, COP26 will have looked very complex from a distance; but one very notable thing has been the focus on real-world action to tackle climate change.

“In the time since the Paris Agreement was reached, the way in which clean technologies have rapidly developed has been truly remarkable. There have been some fantastic announcements at COP26 and the engagement of the private sector at the summit demonstrates the degree to which business and investment get this agenda.

“But there is also a warning to world leaders that, if they are slow off the mark, they will be left behind by markets which are already racing ahead of them. The UK Presidency, which continues for the next year, must continue to play a leadership role, holding leaders to account and driving delivery of the initiatives they have led here in Glasgow. But also by continuing to deliver on our own net-zero strategy, to ensure that we are leading by example, as we go forward to COP27 in Egypt.”

Matt Williams, Climate and Land Programme Lead, ECIU said: "There has never been a UN climate summit like this before for nature, from its inclusion throughout the final decision text to a pledge to end deforestation once and for all. But many observers want to see more detail on how pledges on forests will be enacted and enforced, and whether the pipeline of billions of dollars flowing into forest destruction will be turned off.

"Experts remain concerned about new rules on carbon markets - the possibility of countries and companies double counting emissions cuts has been reduced, but there are still ways they could game the system. This could create a destructive gold rush for using land to absorb carbon instead of making real efforts to cut it.

"Farmers have been in the streets and the venue's corridors asking for a seat at the table. Food systems cause one third of global emissions and farmers can help unlock a huge piece of the puzzle by restoring their land to absorb more carbon. If they want to enable farmers to be part of the climate solution then governments will need to keep promises on changing farming incentives and will need to make farming central in national climate plans and at future COPs."

Hugh Montgomery, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine, University College London, said: "None of the past 25 COP negotiations have yielded any commitments to reduce GHG emissions, mechanisms to deliver this, sanctions for failure, or any dent in rising emissions. This COP is absolutely no different.

“The outcome is now clear: grave impacts will not be 'for future generations'. but will be felt by all of us. Indeed, they have begun. A senior colleague is not disheartened: transparency, political and corporate inaction will, he feels, ignite public action to demand and deliver, independent of the political process. The only good news from this COP-out would be that he is proven correct."