What can we expect from the climate summit in Glasgow?

Below we list how countries approach this and whether the summit can be a success.

First of all: why is this climate summit being organised? Don’t we already have the Paris Climate Agreement?

The Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015. The most important agreement in that agreement is that countries are committed to limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees – preferably a maximum of 1.5 degrees. To keep that goal in mind, the nearly 200 participating countries deliver concrete plans every five years that show that they can fulfill their part of the agreement.

The Netherlands does this under the umbrella of the European Union, in other words together with the other member states. If the plans do not deliver a sufficient reduction, they must be tightened up – although this cannot be enforced. It is now six years later, the summit in Glasgow has been postponed for a year due to corona. The question now is whether countries have actually done their homework.

In addition, negotiations on the ‘Paris Rulebook’ will take place in the coming days, says Heleen van Soest, researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL). “These are the technical rules and agreements that give substance to the Paris Agreement. There are also a number of other important items on the agenda, such as fulfilling the financing promise.”

In Paris, an agreement from 2009 was reconfirmed, made during the climate summit in Copenhagen. At that time, developed countries committed to pool 100 billion dollars (more than 85 billion euros) annually between 2020 and 2025 for developing countries. They can use the money to reduce their CO2 emissions and prepare for the consequences of climate change.

In the run-up to 2020 it was intended that the countries would already make a start with that climate fund, but that has not yet produced the desired result.

Okay, but have all countries turned in that homework? Are we going to get the goals from Paris?

“It doesn’t look like it,” says Marieke van de Zilver, political reporter at RTL Nieuws. Many countries have already submitted their plans, says Van Soest. “Most countries have set more ambitious goals, which lead to less greenhouse gas emissions. But overall it is still not enough. On the one hand you can say: the promises must be tightened, we must show more ambition for 2030. On the other hand, action is simply necessary to achieve those goals in the short term.”

This is also apparent from the recently published climate report of the IPCC, the United Nations organization that collects research into climate change. To reverse global warming, there is only one solution, the IPCC writes: “To stabilize the climate, greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically, quickly and permanently reduced.”

The EU has been able to work hard on climate measures in recent years, says Louise van Schaik, climate expert at the knowledge institute Clingendael. For example, the European Union – in third place worldwide in terms of CO2 emissions – legislated in 2021 that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 55 percent by 2030, instead of 40 percent.

Weaker climate agenda

Van Schaik: “At the EU you know: if something is passed in a law, it cannot just be reversed.” But then the Member States will also have to step in. Just to be honest: the Netherlands is still not on track to achieve our own climate goals – not to mention the stricter European requirements.

And by no means all countries lay down their climate policy in law. Just look at the United States, for example, which is the second largest emitter worldwide, says Van Schaik. “They have been struggling a bit lately. Their climate agenda has always been somewhat weaker, partly because, for example, energy policy is partly up to the states.”

This sounds a bit despondent. Will anything be achieved at all?

If it’s up to Boris Johnson, yes. As Prime Minister of host country the United Kingdom, he is determined to make the summit a success. “His plans can be summarized under ‘cash, coals, cars and trees’,” says reporter Van de Zilver.

“He wants to accelerate the phasing out of coal, just like the switch from petrol to electric cars. He also wants to invest heavily in the climate fund, which has never actually succeeded so far, but also in green energy. And he wants to tackle deforestation worldwide. Anyway, the question is of course how many countries he will get in these plans.”

“In 2009 it was also agreed that the developed countries will deposit billions of dollars in a special fund before 2020 to help poorer countries achieve their share of the climate goals,” says Van de Zilver. “That goal was just not achieved; in 2019 there was almost 80 billion in it.”

“The hope is that countries will go a long way in the right direction this year, so that the fund will be filled by 2023 at the latest.”

From Timmermans to Thunberg

In addition to government leaders, senior executives from, for example, the European Commission also sit down. For example, both President Ursula von der Leyen and European Commissioner Frans Timmermans are present. For Italy, co-organizer of the COP26, Prime Minister Mario Draghi takes a seat.

And then there is a trio of famous people who are not in politics, but who do care about the climate. Greta Thunberg, for example, Prince Charles, the Pope, actor Matt Damon and noted biologist David Attenborough. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has had to cancel due to her health.

The most favorable outcome would be that everyone does their homework and everyone stops with coal, says Van Schaik. “Johnson is trying to bet on that, it would be very special if he succeeds.”

‘It is certainly not hopeless’

But even if he doesn’t succeed, she sees added value in the COP26. “Market parties do look at governments: how seriously do they take climate policy? The Americans are taking it more seriously under Biden. Policy has already been made in the EU, we cannot go back. You see that there is a different dynamic than ten years ago and that is really originated after Paris.”

PBL researcher Van Soest agrees. “It is not all doom and gloom. A lot has happened since Paris, people feel the need. Yes, there is a gap between ambition and execution, but it is certainly not hopeless.”

Which government leaders actually come and which don’t (and does that matter for the top)?

According to Van Schaik, the fact that some government leaders do not come, such as Chinese President Xi Jinping, degrades the summit a bit. “Now their officials will come, it’s not as if a country is absent, but they can’t make new climate promises. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently indicated that Russia also wants to be climate neutral by 2060, but also defaults.”

The US, on the other hand, is bringing in no fewer than three heavyweights: President Joe Biden, his special climate envoy John Kerry and former President Barack Obama. “That can give the top an impulse”, says Van de Zilver, “but it does not ensure that the distrust of the smaller islands in particular is completely removed.”

They have so far not seen all the promises for climate finance fulfilled. A world power that is on board one moment, but just as easy to disembark the next. as President Donald Trump did, will not help.

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