The Climate Summit

The remaining challenges after the Climate Summit

Although more was expected from this climate summit, as Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General for Communication for the United Nations, has said, "...the climate summit was a success.there is still hope". 

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that, unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced immediately, rapidly and on a large scale, limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels as set out in the Paris Agreement six years ago, will be an unattainable goal. That is what this summit sought to achieve, and despite the lukewarmness or total lack of commitment on the part of some states, progress has been made. 

Agreements adopted at the Climate Summit

The Glasgow Climate Summit has brought with it some agreements that reflect a growing awareness of the urgent need to take a step forward to avoid environmental disaster.

These are some of the compromises that have been reached in the Climate Summit:

  • US-China bilateral agreement to help reduce CO2 and methane emissions and combat illegal deforestation.
  • More than 100 countries, including the US and the European Union, agree to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. China has refused to go along because it says it has its own plan.
  • Agreement between more than 20 countries, including the United States, Canada, Spain and Italy, to end public funding and subsidies for fossil fuels before the end of 2022. China, Japan and South Korea have not signed.
  • 110-country agreement to stop deforestation by 2030.
  • The International Sustainability Standards Boardwhich will enable companies to adopt harmonised and comprehensive environmental, social and governance reporting criteria.
  • Countries accounting for 90% of global GDP have committed to the carbon neutrality in 2050. China postpones the target to 2060 and India to 2070.
  • The Beyond Oil and Gas Partnership (BOGA), which proposes phasing out the production of both fuels, although it currently has only 12 members.

The issue of the price of emissions

However, this progress contrasts with the lack of concreteness on some key issues. This is particularly the case for so-called double counting in the carbon market. 

Today there are around 60 different initiatives to put a price on CO2. The problem is that they only cover about 20% of the world's total emissions and their average price is too low (about $3 per tonne). 

The International Monetary Fund recently estimated that the price should be around 75 dollars per tonne, that in the regulated European market it is around 60 euros and that the US government estimated the social cost of carbon at around 50 dollars per tonne.

Pricing of CO2 emissions is an efficient way forward in reducing emissions because it discourages CO2 intensive activities and encourages companies to move towards decarbonisation.

Some companies - just over 20% of the world's largest - have set internal carbon prices, allowing them to take carbon into account in assessing the suitability of their projects and the impact of emissions on their accounts. The problem is that companies generally also set an excessively low price per tonne, well behind their foreseeable evolution. This means that the information provided by the internal price is not sufficiently clear.

Although in the Conference of the Parties 26 (COP) has not been much talked about, a global price on carbon will eventually be imposed. In the meantime, Spanish companies should start asking themselves what would happen to their accounts and the profitability of their projects if they had to pay for carbon. Sooner rather than later they will end up doing so.

Along these lines, the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has announced that beyond the mechanisms established in the Paris Agreement, he will create a Group of Experts to propose clear standards for measuring and analysing net zero commitments for any organisation that is not a State.

China takes a step forward

One of the most important events to come out of this climate summit was undoubtedly the signing of the climate peace agreement between China and the United States. The heads of the delegations of both nations presented a joint declaration in which they commit themselves to work to accelerate during this decade the fight against climate change

Among the most important points of the pact reached by both powers is the commitment of the Asian country to present a comprehensive plan for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions within the next year a comprehensive plan for the reduction of its methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for about 25% of current warming.

The agreement is relevant because both countries account for about 40% of global emissions: China 27% and the US 11%. And their commitments for this decade are very different. The US, with the arrival of Joe Biden in the White House, has committed to practically halving its emissions by 2030. China, however, so far only maintains the commitment to reach its peak emissions by 2030 and thereafter to reduce them. 

Iran and Brazil look the other way

On the geopolitical front, the positioning - or lack thereof - of some countries is noteworthy.. This is the case of Brazil, whose president has decided not to stop deforestation in the Amazon and rejects climate change from a scientific point of view; Iran, which is the sixth largest emitter in the world and has not even ratified the Paris Agreement yet. Or Australia, Mexico and Turkey are also in a grey zone that would not belong to them. 

Climate Summit stocktaking 

In short, the Glasgow climate summit fell short in its ambitions to revitalise the fight against climate change. In any case, it is just as important to accelerate and intensify environmental policies as it is to respect the commitments already made by the various countries. 

Sir David Attenborough, in his speech to COP26 in Glasgow

According to the organisation's projections Climate Action Tracker, if each and every one of the announced targets (mandatory and voluntary, long-term and NDCs) is met, the temperature rise by the end of the century could be limited to 1.8°C, not far from the 1.5°C target set in the Paris Agreement. But that is surely too optimistic. The road ahead is long and difficult, and it remains to be seen whether the target will eventually be met.

We tell you more in our Stay Curious section!

Subscribe to our blog?

Leave a comment