After two weeks of wrangling, 197 countries adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact with advocates divided on whether the recently-concluded COP26 climate summit was a success, a failure, or simply somewhere in between.
The climate agreement brokered by the United Nations suffered stumbling blocks over urgent calls to extend financial help to developing countries for loss and damage from the climate crisis, and to phase out coal use and fossil fuel subsidies.
A proposed loss and damage fund “failed to materialize after being blocked by richer nations including the United States, Australia and the European Union,” according to Rachel Cleetus of the Climate and Energy Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The final COP26 decision is overwhelmingly compromised by countries that have contributed most greatly to the climate crisis and once again denies justice for climate vulnerable developing countries.”
As to coal use, the final agreement was watered down by India at the 11th-hour, insisting that the crucial language about coal must be changed from “phase out” to “phase down,” thereby implying its continued use – albeit at a lesser scale – amid findings by world scientists that coal is the “single biggest source of greenhouse gases.”
But despite the watered-down language, the climate deal is still seen as a success because it contained an unprecedented reference to the impact of fossil fuels on climate change. For years, COP (Conference of the Parties) gatherings have tried and failed to include an acknowledgement that the burning of coal has caused the climate crisis.
“It’s meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive, but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters,” Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said of the agreement.
Another aspect seen as success in the recent climate summit is language in the agreement calling on parties to go to COP27 next year in Egypt with updated plans on how to cut greenhouse emissions by 2030. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries were required to only update their goals by 2025.
Global scientists released a landmark report last August warning that “the window is rapidly closing to cut our reliance on fossil fuels and avoid catastrophic changes that would transform life as we know it.”
The report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change disclosed the world has rapidly warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, and is now inching towards 1.5 degrees, the critical threshold that global warming must remain below to avoid more catastrophic consequences.
Achieving the target of not exceeding the crucial 1.5 degrees would mean global emissions plunging to around 45-55 percent by 2030 from the 2010 levels. Also, net zero emissions – where the amount of greenhouse gas removed from the atmosphere is equal to what is emitted – must be reached by 2050.
Instead of seeing significant reductions, however, “existing pledges to cut emissions would see the planet’s average temperature rise 2.7C this century, which the UN says would supercharge the destruction that climate change is already causing by intensifying storms, exposing more people to deadly heat and floods, killing coral reefs and destroying natural habitats.”
In the Philippines, the various consequences of climate change are immense. These include “annual losses in GDP, changes in rainfall patterns and distribution, droughts, threats to biodiversity and food security, sea level rise, public health risks, and endangerment of vulnerable groups such as women and indigenous people.”
So much are at stake in every COP summit for our country which lies in the Pacific Ocean where most of the most deadliest and destructive typhoons originate. Achieving at COP26 some sort of success, or even something in between success and failure, is certainly better than dismal failure.
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