Waiting for the final agreement: this is what the climate summit brought us

In recent weeks, representatives of some 200 countries have discussed and negotiated the possibilities of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

End deforestation in 2030

The first deal that the Netherlands joined was already closed at the beginning of the first week. Hundreds of countries decided to end deforestation by 2030. The participating countries, including Brazil, Canada and Indonesia, are home to 85 percent of the world’s forests.

The question is how concrete the commitments are. “There are no national promises and no obligations,” Pieter Zuidema, professor of tropical forest ecology at Wageningen University, told RTL Nieuws earlier. And Indonesia said two days after signing that the agreement “does not refer at all to ending deforestation.”

The promise of the Netherlands to stop government support for fossil fuel projects in other countries from the end of 2022 seems a little harder.

Through so-called export credit insurance, the Dutch government helps companies that participate in (fossil) projects abroad. These government insurance policies exist because large projects in other countries can often not be insured through commercial companies. The government then steps in.

Government support for fossil fuel projects stopped

More than a quarter (26 percent) of all current obligations that the state has undertaken in this way bear the label ‘fossil’. That amounts to almost 5 billion euros. Ongoing projects remain unaffected, but they do make clear the extent of government support.

This decision is not an official decision of the climate summit, but a group of countries that are taking the lead, says climate and energy expert Dewi Zloch of Greenpeace. “The Netherlands must now really push through and, together with other countries, ensure that the final text of the COP26 actually states that we will stop government support for the fossil industry.”

Other deals made during the climate summit in Glasgow include closing coal-fired power stations (although large consumers such as Australia do not participate); reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of methane by 30 percent by 2030 (compared to 2020) and the initiative to run on clean energy for all new trucks and buses sold from 2040.

Encouraging statement from China and US

India, which until now has often hidden behind its status as a developing country, has pledged for the first time to be climate neutral by 2070. Scientists are cautiously optimistic about that promise.

China and the United States also issued a joint statement, in which the countries undertook, among other things, to take both steps in, for example, the transition to clean energy sources. Given the tensions between the two countries in other areas, such a statement at a climate summit is seen as encouraging.

But that is not yet a final statement. And it is precisely this final statement that is important: the text is a compromise, which all participating countries must agree to unanimously. The deals, agreements and commitments described above are a lot more non-binding.

It is enough?

The agreements about phasing out coal, reducing methane emissions, ending deforestation and the transition to electric transport yield only a small amount of climate gain, calculated the Climate Action Tracker.

The gap between what governments do between now and 2030 and what it takes to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees is expected to shrink by 9 percent.

Thumbs up for a happy ending

The draft final statement that is now available can count on derision from organizations such as Greenpeace and Oxfam Novib. “This is just an agreement that we all have our fingers crossed for a happy outcome,” said Jennifer Morgen, president of Greenpeace International.

“The goal of a maximum of 1.5 degrees warming is still far from sight,” says climate expert Hilde Stroot of Oxfam. “The crisis is not yet felt in the negotiating rooms of Glasgow.”

Developing countries already dealing with the impacts of climate change urgently need firm financial commitments in the final statement. The 100 billion euros that they should receive annually from the rich countries between 2020 and 2025 is already not being achieved.

Negotiating final statement

They want Western countries to take responsibility and take concrete steps against climate change. There would also be a loss and damage settlement, a financial settlement for climate damage already suffered.

The US and the EU don’t like that; they are afraid of being held liable and incurring high costs as a result. Traditional oil countries such as Saudi Arabia are firmly against phasing out fossil fuels; that the term is even mentioned in the draft closing statement is unique.

In short: everyone has different interests and wishes. The precise content of the final statement is therefore negotiated and discussed until the last moment.

night work

In fact, at previous climate summits, the negotiations regularly continued for a few days longer, as was the case last year in Madrid. But British minister Alok Sharma, who chairs COP26, was hopeful on Wednesday evening: “My intention is still to be able to conclude this summit by the end of Friday.”

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