COP26, the impact on the world

COP26, the impact on the world
COP26, the impact on the world

On one point, COP26 has kept its promises: the Glasgow summit will have an enormous impact on the decade, on the mitigation of global warming, adaptation to climate change, finance, geopolitics, ecology. The two weeks of work changed the shape of the world.

1. How is climate action changing?

Never before in these climate negotiations has the key theme of each negotiation been finance, the most cited topic at the tables: developing countries need funds to grow and at the same time make the energy transition, vulnerable ones ask for more resources for adaptation and damage already present. They want funds and not loans, they ask for more transparency, speed in disbursement, easier access, they claim it as a right and not as a charity. “To manage present and future flows, it is clear that a reform of the global architecture of the financial system is needed”, explains Luca Bergamaschi of the ECCO think tank. One of the lessons of COP26 is that the world needs new institutions capable of dealing with the scale of the problem: we need to rethink how resources are disbursed, how they are managed operationally, the entire debt structure and the role of private, summoned by the Italian Prime Minister Draghi to turn billions into trillions. COP26 taught that without new finance there is no fight against climate change.

2. What is the future of fossil energy sources?

“For the first time in Glasgow we have seen the global community agree on the reading of the situation. The differences are now on the pace to keep towards a sustainable life ». This was stated by Johan Rockström, one of the leading experts on climate resilience. Rhythm is mostly about what to do with coal, oil and gas. The duel over the mention of coal and fossil subsidies in the final text showed how stubborn the resistance of those who defend the status quo will be. However, important signals came out of the negotiation process. Denmark and Costa Rica have launched the BOGA pact, Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, a small project with great potential: for now there are France, New Zealand, Sweden, Ireland, Portugal and Italy (the latter as an observer). Twenty-three countries have announced a timing to exit coal, including major economies such as Poland, Indonesia, Vietnam. Without China it will be useless, but the signal from Beijing had arrived before COP26: the stop to the construction of new plants abroad. And finally, one of the main success stories of this COP: the wave of European countries that have put an end to subsidies to international oil and gas projects: first the United Kingdom and Italy, then Germany, Holland, Spain and France.

3. What will happen to the Paris Agreement?

The international climate treaty signed in 2015 remains the architecture that moves the mechanism of climate action. The country most opposed to a renegotiation is China. The bottom-up mechanism, built from below and without impositions, suits Xi Jinping perfectly. In Glasgow, that deal showed its limitations and resilience. Although the language on the goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 ° C has been strengthened, 2 ° C remains as an insurmountable threshold. There was a discrepancy on the projections: according to the International Energy Agency we are on the trajectory of an (excellent) 1.8 ° C, according to Climate Action Tracker with the current commitments we expect a darker 2.4 ° C. One of the results of COP26 is that it has definitively shifted the horizon from the long to the medium term: the nine years that will take us from now to the end of 2030. Net zero plans now count less than those for a substantial reduction in emissions over the decade.

4. What was the role of natural ecosystems?

It was written in the informal lineup prepared by Boris Johnson: “This COP will deal with cars, coal, money and trees.” On the latter there was one of the most substantial results: the commitment to eliminate deforestation by 2030. It is not the first agreement with this goal, but it is the one with the broadest front (there are Brazil, Congo, China and – with some reservations after the signature – Indonesia) and the one with the best financial endowment to get closer to the goal, 19 billion dollars mobilized between public and private finance, with the strategy of making forests more profitable when alive than death. The intention of the G20 to plant a trillion trees, now scientifically discredited as a tool for the climate, has been ignored. Among the novelties of this COP is the role of indigenous peoples as the best custodians of ecosystems: official reports have been saying this for decades (last FAO of 2021), politics has begun the long process of bringing them back to the center of climate protection and biodiversity.

5. How does global geopolitics change in light of what was discussed and achieved in Glasgow?

The surprise of the joint declaration between the US and China spared the latter the role of the villain of COP26, as it seemed after the broadsides launched during the leaders’ summit at the beginning of the summit. Special envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua ushered in the era of climate détente, in the wake of nuclear non-proliferation. In the previous ten days, China had kept a low profile, working to hedge its carbon accounting interests and to tip the balance between the G77, the vast group of countries spanning Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and G20 members. The US has regained the central role that they have tried to have since Biden is president above all thanks to this detente: they will build the 21st century. Europe’s action was weak, virtuous in its mitigation plans but lacking in aid and finance: COP26 was its opportunity to recover a position, instead it saw it definitively slip into the background of the issues that matter.

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