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COP26: Lessons From The Failure Of Glasgow

The final deal at COP26 falls well short of what's needed to confront global warming. Still, the Glasgow summit has provided a new blueprint for how we measure progress — and shown how pressure can be applied to world leaders.

photo of a globe handing over a conference room

The hope of controlling global warming is further eroding

Lucie Robequain

-Analysis-

PARIS — Commit to making new promises… next year. This is pretty much what the world leaders agreed to do at the end of the COP26 conference on climate change. They are so terrified of the idea of enforcing any kind of restriction, even the smallest ones, or imposing any additional cost on their citizens — just look at soaring energy prices — that they are postponing the hard decisions.

Strong opposition came particularly from Beijing and New Delhi, which managed to remove the gradual ending of coal activities from the final agreement, and to replace it with a simple reduction.

World leaders were happy to commit to long-term carbon neutrality targets, which their successors will have to handle. Yet there are still too many heads of state who are refusing to initiate any painful action in the coming decade — the only one for which they will be truly accountable.

China, Russia, India and Australia have clearly failed.


But other countries also behaved ambiguously, including France, which wanted to maintain its support for oil projects abroad in the short term and only gave up last Friday after it was pressured to do so.

During the final day of the COP26

Christoph Soeder/dpa/ZUMA

Maintain the pressure

With the COP26, the hope of controlling global warming is further eroding. The commitments made will make it possible, at best, to stabilize carbon emissions by 2030. A mediocre prospect, since emissions would have to be halved to limit the rising temperatures to 1.5 degrees — the ideal threshold set by the Paris Agreement.

But this summit has taught us several things: it showed how essential it was to increase the pressure on the most stubborn, by multiplying the number of review clauses. A review of national targets every five years, as provided for by the Paris Agreement, is no longer enough to deal with the urgency of the situation. The pressure must be maintained every year — this is the meaning of the next meeting planned for the end of 2022.

A glimmer of hope

This summit also gave a glimmer of hope, by showing how ambitious the coalitions formed on the sidelines of the general negotiations could be. Strong progress has been made on the issues of oil, methane, deforestation, internal combustion vehicles and coal. The groups of signatories are obviously quite limited, but they hope to create momentum for the future.

This is the way to increase pressure for binding measures to be adopted at the next global summits. One thing is certain: the COP27 scheduled for next year in Egypt will have to produce far more concrete measures than this one in Glasgow to keep alive that magnificent idea of a community of nations fighting together for a solution to climate change.


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