CoP26 is over. It is high time we acted

24/11/2021

 

Mrs Khaoula Jaoui
Climate Department Coordinator

 

First, to fully understand the “Conference of the Parties” (CoP), we might need to put things in perspective. In 1992, the Rio Earth Summit led to the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which set the objectives of limiting global warming. In order to achieve these objectives, meetings brought together its signing parties to define short and long-term actions and commitments: these are the CoPs that are held each year in one of the countries of the five regional groups of the United Nations: Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America-Caribbean, Wider Western Europe (GEOA) and Africa.

Some CoPs have been more significant than others. This was the case for CoP3 in Kyoto (1997), CoP15 in Copenhagen (2009) and CoP21 in Paris (2015). The Paris Agreement was signed in CoP21, a universal treaty which takes over from the Kyoto Protocol and which lays the new foundations for climate negotiations.

Was CoP26 that outstanding?
After a one-year postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CoP26 comes in with the goal of completing the rules of the Paris Agreement (CoP21) and turning promises into action. Held on November 1 - 12, 2021 in Glasgow (United Kingdom), CoP26 brought together around 200 signing countries of the Paris Agreement. The Conference focused on adaptation and resilience to face global warming and on the energy transition.
At the end of the 26th Conference, a qualified judgment can be given. In the absence of an agreement and following negotiations and compromises, the Glasgow climate treaty, adopted on Saturday evening, November 13, 27 hours after the scheduled closure, brought positive points in terms of climate commitments. However, there is a certain reluctance relating to fossil energies and the financing granted to the South. 

Representatives of different civil society organizations, including young Ugandan activist Patience Nabukalu, criticized the wait-and-see attitude of leaders who need to take action to translate words into actions and recalled that developing countries are still waiting for the 100 billion dollars promised by rich states. Indeed, Africans stated they were outraged by the heavy consequences of global warming on the continent. As an example, we can take the statement of the representative of Kenya, who summed up the situation in his country very well by saying that « global warming is not a statistic, it is a matter of life and death ».

Currently, short-term commitments made by States should lead to a 2.4°C warming by the end of the century, according to estimates of the Climate Action Tracker. Even though progress has been made since the Paris Agreement, still it remains far from the CoP21 target of keeping warming way below 2°C and if possible at 1.5°C before the end of the 21st century. The scientific community said that keeping the temperature rise at 1.5°C remains physically possible by the end of the century. The spokesperson for Greenpeace France, Clément Sénéchal, took the floor to state that the outcomes of this CoP were very poor. However, he welcomed the fact that fossil energies were, for the first time, considered to be part of the problem. Moreover, an alliance of countries promised to give up financing international fossil projects from 2022. On the other hand, more than 80 countries, including members of the European Union as well as the United States committed to reducing by 30% their emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, by 2030 compared to 2020.

Thus, the adopted text called on States to reconsider their promises and to raise their ambitions starting from 2022, by submitting new National Determined Contributions (NDCs) before the next CoP. These countries’ climate action « roadmaps » include concrete commitments by States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the tools to have them achieved. This measure aims to act faster than expected in the Paris Agreement, which called for reviewing these NDCs every five years. To this end, the African Development Bank and partner institutions of the African Centre for NDCs Support have published a flagship report on the status of these contributions in Africa and the need for innovation in climate finance. Aid will be provided to African countries to facilitate NDCs reconsideration.