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COP26 deal: Not the best climate pact

In the long term, all countries will be vulnerable
Last Updated : 18 November 2021, 22:49 IST

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The Glasgow Climate Pact, adopted by 196 parties at the CoP26 summit last Saturday, was a compromise among 196 countries with various needs, compulsions and even vested interests. It is not the best agreement that could have come out of the talks, which lasted for a fortnight but in fact has continued for years. It would be criticised as a lost opportunity as the summit was considered to be the last chance to reach an ideal climate agreement. But such an agreement was realistically not possible. While this is less than the best, there is even no certainty that what has been agreed upon would be implemented. Past agreements and decisions have not always been implemented in letter or spirit. The fact that there was a deal at all was perhaps an achievement. There was some forward movement in some respects, though, and that may have contributed to the overall agreement.

The agreement aims to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and will continue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees. It states the need to put an end to the use of coal and to end inefficient fuel subsidies. This is the first time that coal was mentioned in such an agreement. This was controversial and the conference may even have collapsed on the matter. India and China have been blamed for not agreeing to a phase-out of coal but only to its phase-down. Both countries would not have been in a position to phase out coal at this stage of their development.

The dilution of the promise on coal disappointed many countries, especially small countries. It is likely that there will be increased pressure on India, China and other similarly placed countries on coal in future. India should step up efforts for its early replacement with other sources of energy. India and China also benefited from another decision that allowed countries to carry forward the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon credits earned after 2012.

The major failure of the meet was in its inability to persuade the developed world to deliver on the promise of mobilising at least $100 billion per year from 2020 to help the developing world tackle the climate crisis. The deadline is now 2023. But there is no roadmap for the delivery of finance and compensation. There are other failures too, and the most vulnerable countries are the most unhappy about them. But in the long term, all countries will be equally vulnerable. If warming has to be limited to 1.5 degrees, emissions have to fall by 45 per cent in this decade. It is a difficult proposition. Now that Glasgow is over, there is another chance at CoP27 in Egypt next year to work for an acceptable and implementable plan.

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Published 18 November 2021, 19:14 IST

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