5 minute read 4 Nov 2022
Explorer inside the cave

What was achieved in COP26 and the changing tides needed for COP27

By Stephen Prendiville

EY Ireland Head of Sustainability

Senior Infrastructure and Sustainability Leader dedicated to disruption, resilience and network system thinking for public and private sector clients alike.

5 minute read 4 Nov 2022
Related topics COP Sustainability

Stephen Prendiville reflects on COP26, what has been achieved and looks forward towards COP27, capitalising on the Glasgow Climate Pact, leading nation commitments and turning plans into reality.

In brief
  • COP26 saw the US and China commit to achieving the Paris Agreement goals. The Glasgow Climate Pact created a diplomatic effort on fossil fuel links with rising global temperatures.
  • £130 trillion of private capital unveiled by GFANZ to be directed to decarbonisation efforts by 2030.
  • COP27 must advance on the commitments made in Glasgow, with a focus on addressing the concept of Loss and Damage. 

Last year we were preparing for COP26 in Glasgow and the common refrain was “keep one point five [degrees] alive”. The Glasgow Climate Pact, the official output of the conference, goes some way to keeping this global emission target within reach, if not wholly secured. As we reflect on COP26 and prepare for COP27 in Egypt, it helps to consider all that was achieved in Glasgow both officially and unofficially.

The Glasgow Climate Pact

The significant success of COP26 from a diplomatic mission perspective was the inclusion in the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact that stated, “including accelerating efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. This was the first time in a COP agreement that fossil fuels, explicitly coal had been linked to climate change and the requirements to reduce CO2 emissions. While the final language was watered down, from “phase out” to “phase down” and “unabated”, COP26 captured the necessary trajectory for new momentum to build in this regard.

It was less than twenty words in all, but the diplomatic effort to have the inclusion of this language, for 200 member nations to sign, was of significant importance. We move into COP27 in a situation where the entire world community has acknowledged and agreed with the science of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and how this links with fossil fuel use, rising emissions and rising global temperatures.

COP26 is marked out as a watershed because of the degree of private sector activity, as well as the degree of unofficial activity that was undertaken by leading nations, all in furtherance of the COP goals.

US and China Commitment

Perhaps the most important development at COP26 was the announced bilateral agreement between the US and China to boost climate co-operation over the next decade. Two of the world’s largest emitters, economies and trade rivals came together to announce a shared commitment to achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

Where these two lead, others are sure to follow and for many observers the announcement of this agreement may well have been the momentum shift that secured the Glasgow Climate Pact itself.

The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ)

Mark Carney unveiled the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) and with £130 trillion of private capital to be directed to decarbonisation efforts by 2030. This was an extraordinary announcement as it indicated that business and the capital markets are no longer willing to wait for government action when it comes to tackling the climate crisis.

Finance is and will remain one of the most important tools in our collective toolbox for driving decarbonisation and the climate change response. But it is the availability of adaption finance that will continue to be a focus point at COP27 and ensuring the poorest and most impacted nations get access to necessary capital

The Methane Reduction Pledge

The global community also learned a lot about Methane at COP26. The emergence of the Methane Reduction Pledge generated a lot of attention. The Pledge committed takers to a voluntarily contribute of a 30% reduction in global methane emission levels. However, this generated a degree of misinterpretation and confusion for many.

The Methane Pledge had one goal, to create a global focus for innovation, research and solutions, that would reduce methane emissions globally. 30% is the global goal and Ireland signing up to the Pledge puts us in the stream of investment, already $60 million, for R&D and allows us to play a potentially leading role in solving this challenge.

Reserving Forest Loss and Carbon Trading

In a similar vein, more than 100 governments representing 85% of the world’s forests committed to “working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation”. It followed that there was confusion among some signatories about what exactly was meant by “halting”, perhaps spurred by significant protest back at home.

Progress was made on Article 6, covering carbon trading/pricing. This was the first announcement of national contribution targets and goals by Russia, India and Brazil, as well as commitments made by Canada and others on capping oil and gas emissions.

Looking Ahead to COP27

There is plenty to be advanced at COP27, including revisiting the commitment on climate finance for adaption (where wealthy nations continue to lag commitments on the $100 billion per year signed up to in the Paris Agreement), as well as deeply addressing the concept of Loss and Damage and associated support implications.

The frame for COP27 is very different than Glasgow. As a global community we have now had two further IPCC reports that confirm the urgency of necessary actions for the global community. We have all experienced significant climate change related events, with floods, droughts and serious storms offering constant reminders of climate change impacts on all continents. The horn of Africa may be only weeks away from declaring famine, the war in Ukraine and post pandemic supply issues have all triggered a trilemma of energy, inflation, and supply security. All cutting to the heart of food systems and the ability for people to keep warm this winter. COP27 must chart a path to new agreements and reaffirmations in this tense geopolitical environment – which will be no easy feat.

Summary

Overall, COP26 showed us a lot of progress can be achieved in a two-week period with the right people in the room. COP27 must build on that progress and turn some of those pledges and commitments into solid reality in the very near term.

About this article

By Stephen Prendiville

EY Ireland Head of Sustainability

Senior Infrastructure and Sustainability Leader dedicated to disruption, resilience and network system thinking for public and private sector clients alike.

Related topics COP Sustainability