What Is The Glasgow Climate Pact?
by Catriona Flesher & Amy Wilson
The 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) concluded on 13 November 2021, in the form of an eight-page document known as the Glasgow Climate Pact (also known as Decision -/CP.26, which can be found here). This document was drafted numerous times prior to the final version, which was read out and signed by almost 200 countries on the final day of COP26.
The Glasgow Climate Pact came as a surprise to many onlookers, as it has not previously been convention to collate and publish decisions at a COP in a ‘pact’. As Paul Watkinson, the chief negotiator for France at COP21, described to Carbon Brief, ‘Madrid was the first time we had a decision that was purely a political overview….The COP26 decision [the Glasgow Climate Pact] takes that a lot further with a long list and a wide scope’ of commitments .
Between the first and final drafts of the Pact, there were many semantic changes, alongside the inclusion and removal of terms. The most well-known adjustment to the terms of the Pact was the change of a commitment to ‘phase-out’ coal to merely ‘phasedown’ the dirty fuel, under pressure from China and India . Not all last-minute adjustments were negative, however, commitments on adaptation finance were solidified in the final draft.
Structure of Glasgow Climate Pact
The eight pages, which includes 71 distinct points, can be broken down into just nine sections. The preamble of the Pact recognises the recent acceptance of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol (1/CMP.16), and an earlier draft of the decisions taken at COP26 (1/CMA.3) . It then goes on to recognise the intersection of climate change with sustainable development, the COVID-19 pandemic, human rights, and the interlinkage of ‘climate change’ with ‘biodiversity loss’ . Moreover, the first section notes ‘the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice”’, and the ‘important role’ of Indigenous Peoples, civil society groups, and young people in responding to the climate crisis . These themes are framed as introductory concepts underpinning the Pact; they do not, however, feature heavily thereafter – there is only one other mention of ‘human rights’ in the rest of the Glasgow Climate Pact . Civil society groups have rightly pointed out that the Glasgow Climate Pact is not sufficiently ambitious on climate justice: rather than being justice-led, the Pact treats climate justice as a tangential issue to its targets .
The pact is then divided into eight subject sections, namely:
- Science and urgency
- Adaptation finance
- Finance, technology transfer and capacity-building for mitigation and adaptation
- Loss and damage
Science and urgency
The Glasgow Climate Pact places science, particularly the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in the foreground of its commitments. Indeed, there was a notable recognition in the mitigation section of the Pact that the impacts of climate change will be ‘much lower’ at 1.5 °C than at 2 °C warming above pre-industrial levels . This is a change from COP24 in 2018, when Saudi Arabia and the United States prevented the inclusion of a statement ‘welcoming’ the findings of the IPCC in the final report . The Pact also employs stronger language than that used in previous climate pacts – recognising that ‘rapid, deep and sustained reductions’ in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are needed in this ‘critical decade’; in contrast, the Paris Agreement of 2015 only committed to ‘pursuing efforts’ to remain below 1.5 °C heating .
The final version of the Pact ‘urges’ developed nations to ‘at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation’ from 2019 levels by 2025, which would mean developed countries would be spending $40 billion in adaptation funding by 2025 . Indeed, this was an improvement upon earlier drafts of the Pact, which had provided no timeline for this to be achieved . Given climate finance has been consistently skewed towards mitigation rather than adaptation, the recognition of the urgent need for more financing for adaptation was a relative success of the Glasgow Pact. Yet the finance commitments at COP26 and in the Pact remain plainly insufficient for both present and future adaptation, given the UN Environmental Programme estimates that current adaptation needs stand at $70 billion: a figure which could quadruple by 2030 .
The mitigation section received perhaps the most attention following COP26, following the last-minute change to commit to a ‘phasedown’ rather than ‘phase-out’ coal, which resulted from pressure from China and India (which key Indian figures later denied) . Nonetheless, this was the first time in the UN climate process that the Parties had recognised the need to rapidly reduce coal use. As Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, described the commitment on coal: ‘It’s meek, it’s weak…but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters’ .
One of the landmark mitigation promises during COP26 was the Global Methane Pledge, agreed at the World Leaders’ Summit on 2nd November. The Pledge commits signatories to taking voluntary actions to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 compared with 2020 . The Glasgow Climate Pact refers to this development, by ‘Invit[ing] Parties to consider further actions’ to reduce non-carbon dioxide GHG emissions by 2030, but did not build further on the commitments from earlier in the conference .
The failure of developed country Parties to meet the $100 billion annual climate finance target for 2020 was writ large in COP26’s finance negotiations. The Pact noted ‘with deep regret’ that this financial goal had not ‘yet’ been met. Carbon Brief described this language – particularly the use of the word ‘yet’, which implies the goal will be met soon – as misleading, given that the $100 billion was expected in 2020, and is not expected to be met this year . The COP26 Presidency has promised that developed country Parties will reach the goal by 2023 at the latest .
Loss and damage
Loss and damage was a top priority for developing country Parties at COP26, but the Glasgow Climate Pact delivered no concrete promises on these crucial policy areas. The conference itself saw extensive discussions over how the Santiago Network – a body created by COP25 in 2019 intended to facilitate programmes for ‘averting, minimiz[ing] and addressing’ loss and damage – should be operationalised with funding and staff . Furthermore, the eventual Glasgow Climate Pact ‘urges’ developed countries to provide the money to operationalise the Santiago Network, but made no firm commitments about how this would be achieved . Targeted finance for loss and damage was ultimately lacking in the Pact: remaining an unresolved issue which countries on the frontline of the climate crisis will no doubt champion at COP27.
Indeed, the omissions of the Pact are just as significant as its promises. Despite a day of discussions dedicated to Nature at COP26, the Pact says very little about the biodiversity crisis and need for sustainable agriculture. Merely ‘emphasis[ing] the importance of protecting, conserving and restoring nature and ecosystems’, the Pact offered no concrete commitments or deliverables for the protection of nature .
On the same day as the Pact was signed, the long-awaited rulebook for Article 6 was agreed by the Parties. The resolution of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement provides rules for an international carbon market, and represented a landmark moment at the climate conference. This resolution of Article 6 was not without its own caveats, as the new rulebook allows some old carbon-market credits from the Kyoto Protocol to be carried over. Moreover, the new Article 6 rules have been significantly criticised for failing to include human rights protections; Jade Begay, the climate justice campaign director of the Indigenous-led organisation NDN Collective, said that the article ‘promotes carbon mechanisms that would open up opportunities for land grabs by corporations and governments’ .
What does this mean for 1.5 °C
Though the Glasgow Climate Pact illustrates tentative progress in a few key areas of climate negotiations – explicitly recognising the need to reduce fossil fuel consumption, in a first for a COP final text – the scientific consensus currently remains that its commitments are insufficient to cap global heating at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels [8, 9]. At present, the most optimistic assessments project at least 1.8 °C global heating based on current commitments, and Climate Action Tracker suggests that humanity’s current trajectory will see 2.4 °C of heating by 2100 [1, 10].
Furthermore, despite the prolonged negotiations which led to the Glasgow Climate Pact, its commitments are not legally binding at an international level. It will be up to the individual countries and States to domestically implement the changes required to meet the aims of the Pact. Given the commitments at Glasgow are already – even if achieved on time, in their entirety – insufficient to keep global heating to below 1.5 °C, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ description that the attempt to keep global warming to 1.5 °C is ‘on life support’ .
For a quick recap of what happened during the two weeks at COP26 – see ClimaTalk’s week one and week two takeaway documents. Or, take a look at ClimaTalk’s Live Discussion Sessions, which feature the outcomes as they happened in 2021!
If you’d like to delve further into specific topics and associated outcomes, see ClimaTalk’s series of post-COP26 articles: gender, adaptation, finance, oceans, science and innovation, nature and youth and indigeneous communities inclusion.
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 M. Cursino & D. Faulkner, 2021, COP26: China and India must explain themselves, says Sharma, BBC, URL: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-59280241 [Accessed 10th December 2021]
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 Friends of the Earth, 2021, COP26: 3 ways the Glasgow Climate Pact fails us – and excludes justice, URL: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate/cop26-3-ways-glasgow-climate-pact-fails-us-and-excludes-justice [Accessed 16th January 2022].
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 K. Hjelmgaard, 2021, COP26 climate deal boosts global emissions pledges but falls short on 1.5 degrees Celsius target, USA Today, URL: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2021/11/13/cop-26-global-climate-deal-reached-not-enough-limit-1-5-degrees-celsius/6366997001/ [Accessed 10th December 2021]
 Climate Action Tracker, 2021, Glasgow’s one degree 2030 credibility gap: net zero’s lip service to climate, URL:https://climateactiontracker.org/press/Glasgows-one-degree-2030-credibility-gap-net-zeros-lip-service-to-climate-action/ [Accessed 10th December 2021]
 S. Borenstein & F. Jordan, 2021, 1.5C Climate Goal Is ‘On Life Support’ At COP26, Says United Nations Secretary-General, Time, URL: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/15-c2-b0c-climate-goal-is-on-life-support-at-cop26-says-united-nations-secretary-general/ar-AAQAoqh [Accessed 10th December 2021].