Am 13. November 2021 endete in Glasgow die 26. UN-Klimakonferenz. Die „Conference of the Parties“ ringte um eine internationale Einigung über den Umgang mit dem Klimawandel. Neben Zehntausenden von Verhandlungsführenden, Regierungsvertretenden, Unternehmen und Bürger*innen waren auch führende Politiker*innen nach Schottland kommen, um zu verhandeln. Aus Glasgow berichten Studierende der TU München auf unserem Blog von Ihren Eindrücken, Hoffnungen und Wünschen für die Konferenz. Heute ein Beitrag von Conor O’Donnell, Veena und Melissa Jiménez Gómez Tagle.
It was never going to be enough, but it’s something
By Conor O’Donnell
Sitting in the “People’s Plenary” Friday morning with hundreds of activists from around the world, one might have thought that Glasgow was a catastrophic failure. Speaker after speaker called for the dismantling of capitalist systems that drive climate change and denounced the rich and powerful forces that be for ignoring the crisis and the plight of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable communities. The expectation seemed to be that every coal plant in the world would be switched off, yesterday. Sitting there, I wondered what outcome might have been considered “good enough”.
Unfortunately, international climate negotiations are slow and complicated. The 197 parties to the Paris Agreement were never going to come together in Glasgow and solve the climate crisis in two weeks. We were never going to come home and say “we did it, the crisis is over!” Instead, we have to try our best to be satisfied with what we got: an incremental step in the right direction. Early in the conference, 105 countries announced the Global Methane Pledge, which seeks to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, and 141 countries signed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forestry and Land Use, promising to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030. In the second week, we heard a surprise announcement that the US and China, the world’s two biggest emitters, had reached an agreement to cooperate bilaterally on climate. And in the end, the parties agreed to a watered-down pact that is far from ideal: instead of phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies (as was written in a previous draft), parties will phase down unabated coal and inefficient subsidies. Developing countries did not get the explicit commitments to Loss & Damages compensation that they were pushing for, but did succeed in pressuring developed countries to at least double their commitments to adaptation finance. We’re still far from being on track to 1.5°C, but we’re looking better than we were a year ago.
There is still a long way to go, and those who wanted radical increases in ambition will be disappointed. But progress has been made, trust is being built, and ambition is rising. It was never going to be enough, but it’s something.
- The full text of the Glasgow Climate Pact with helpful annotations: https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/interactive/2021/glasgow-climate-pact-full-text-cop26/
- More on US-China partnership: https://www.state.gov/u-s-china-joint-glasgow-declaration-on-enhancing-climate-action-in-the-2020s/
- More on Global Methane Pledge: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-59137828
- More on Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forestry and Land Use: https://ukcop26.org/glasgow-leaders-declaration-on-forests-and-land-use/
About the author
Conor O’Donnell was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA and is currently earning a M.Sc. in the Politics & Technology program at the Technical University of Munich. His studies are focused on international relations, especially in regards to climate politics. Upon completion of the Politics & Technology program, Conor is planning to move to Berlin and pursue a Ph.D in political science.
‘Is the glass half - full or half - empty’ dilemma
Some might say, Glasgow was a success because countries stepped up, and in a certain way, consensus was reached. Some others might argue that the phasing down decision of coal instead of a phasing out was the worst possible decision we could have had. In such situations, is no decision better than a bad decision? After two weeks of shadowing negotiations closely on different UNFCCC processes, lobbying for the inclusion of youth in the negotiations and parties and observing parties make decisions, the following are the small wins I want to highlight from Glasgow, especially from a youth perspective.
1. Glasgow work program: The decision text of the Glasgow work program includes the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) work program in it, reaffirming the importance of the 6 elements of ACE. It also recognizes and ensures the availability of and access to sufficient financial resources and technical support for adequately implementing Action for Climate Empowerment continues to be a challenge for all Parties, but particularly for developing country Parties.
2. Adaptation, Loss and Damage: The youth had a big win here – the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) agreed at COP26 at Glasgow that ‘Youth engagement’ will now be a key indicator for assessing Loss and Damage funds by countries. What this means is that – the countries now have the responsibility to engage with the young people to access these funds. Additionally, youth will also be given the opportunity to evaluate the applications that come in from nations to access the Adaptation Fund. Additionally, 232.7 million US dollars have been raised this year in a single event for Adaptation.
3. Technology negotiations and seat at the table: There was a history-making decision in the Technology negotiations – to give the youth a seat at the Climate Technology Center and Network (CTCN) Advisory Board, together with the two seats for the Women and Gender constituency and Indigenous Peoples constituency respectively. This is the first time where YOUNGO (Youth NGOs) joins a UNFCCC constituted body as a member and has a seat at the table.
4. Youth Negotiator Program: Young people have been sidelined from negotiations although they are the ones who are going to be inheriting this planet with all the climate challenges that we are predicting for the future. At COP26, young people (I being one) also initiated a conversation with various bodies on a ‘Youth Negotiator Program’ to build the capacity of the youth to meaningfully contribute to negotiations and actively participate in the decision making rather than being present as a passive observer. The proposal is getting a lot of positive feedback and there should be developments on this front soon.
Having said that, was COP26 a success? I am not sure. It depends on what lens we are looking at it from. Of course, circling back, the big aims with which we went into COP26 were not met – funding, technology as well as phasing out coal. However, during the entire two weeks, we did not hear anyone speak about 2 degree Celsius. Everyone spoke about sticking to 1.5 degrees as our target and science was accepted – that is a big win. Human beings are the most complex organisms and we are talking about consensus here – every single country has to agree. And that does not come easy, as we know it already. Overall, Glasgow did not deliver, but we can add Glasgow to another start and hope that COP27 would deliver.
About the author
Hi! My name is Veena. As you can see from my experiences listed below – I currently wear many hats including but not limited to – pursuing my Masters in MSc. Sustainable Resource Management at TU Munich, Founder of Everwards India (Social / environmental start up), Working Student at Siemens AG and Co-Founder of The Green Team (A TUM Student Initiative).
The singular most important question that is a part of my belief system is – are my actions aligning with my purpose in life? It is this question that fundamentally drives me to lean into my purpose unapologetically and find my place in the community.
My brush with sustainable development began quite early – I remember even as a child, deeply caring about building an environmentally and socially conscious society. As the Founder of Everwards India – a social enterprise to make a sustainable lifestyle accessible and attainable, I design solutions to serious environmental hazards through product development, waste management, and sustainable consumption advocacy. It also focuses on package-free ideas, giving back to society, and circular economy. I then took this practice to large-scale events, beginning with making my wedding a zero-waste ceremony. With over 18 million views on that wedding video, I have encouraged countless others to make their weddings a sustainable one, and continue to do so till date.
My ultimate aim is to take sustainable development to the larger community and seamlessly design interventions for societal transformation.
“The Frankenstein agreement”
By Melissa Jiménez Gómez Tagle
After two weeks of sitting, discussing, negotiating and being sleep deprived, parties concluded that an agreement, made from past agreements, could be the “last solution”. Let’s just think about the last years: We can’t solve a crisis using the same old mechanisms that have driven us to this problem. However, most people from other sectors had suggested that no agreement was better than a bad agreement. Given the pressure that sir Alok Sharma had during this summit, trying to finalize the Paris Rule Book, article 6-section 4 was completed, with irregularities. The National Determined Contributions and the carbon markets rules were slightly misinterpreted by nations who pretended to put in first place the most vulnerable countries to climate change. The Glasgow Climate Pact shows some improvements, not so ambitious as expected, and that’s the reason why observers and civil society had criticized it. The document does not contain exact dates, nor quantities, nor benefits for the most affected countries. The text contains “patches” that will try to run the whole Paris Agreement. It’s also considered to have short term goals and not so optimistic results. In order to meet the goal of 1.5 degrees, it would be necessary that carbon dioxide emissions go down 45% in 2030, in reference to 2010 levels. This declaration recognizes the “great concern” that NDCs presented now will just reduce emissions by 13.7%, according to some reports. So… the goal might not be reached, and they know it.
Special envoy of the United States, John Kerry, and his homologue from China, Xie Zhenhua, along with vice president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, were the main centre of the conversations, jumping from one group to another, discussing the final draft, after hours editing. The outcome was not great for India. During the negotiations, this delegation was defending its “right to use fossil fuels”. Countries like China, India and Brazil, have short term plans, not being aligned to the goal of reducing 45% of emissions by 2030.
This pact only assures that global warming will go up 2.4 degrees, making the whole Paris Agreement a failure, compared to the original goal. Moreover, it was an interesting event to see how human reactions could switch a whole context and the whole perspective. Just a couple of hours before delivering the final pact, India and China decided to change the wording from “elimination” into a “gradual reduction” of the use of fossil fuels as their main source of energy.
“Keep 1.5 alive” could be just a tricky quote.
About the author
Planetary health scientist and climate activist. Melissa Jiménez Gómez Tagle has been involved in environmental topics since she was 8 years old. She studied her bachelor’s degree at the Faculty of Medicine of Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí and she’s currently a master student in sustainable resource management at Technische Universität München. Starter of the cell of Extinction Rebellion in her hometown, in Mexico, and she currently collaborates with XR Scientists Europe. She is planning to pursue her doctoral degree at the Max Planck Institute, in Magdeburg.