Besides, the Pact also promised to deliver greater amounts of finance to developing countries by deciding to double it up for adaptation by 2025 and take steps to help vulnerable countries deal with losses and damages from climate impacts. The decision on ‘loss and damage’, however, lacked a clear plan for funding facility, much to the disappointment of climate vulnerable countries. Work on having a definite plan to compensate disaster-hit countries will now be shifted to COP27 in Egypt next year.
The overall pact was finally adopted by the countries when the COP26 presidency accommodated India’s concerns where the country objected to phase-out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies. The change from ‘phase-out’ to ‘phase-down’ with respect to coal power use in the final text was agreed during the last minute amendments to build the consensus.
Just before convening the final plenary, UK COP26 president Alok Sharma and his team members were seen trying to convince India’s environment minister Bhupender Yadav over the text as the latter strongly objected to it on the reference of coal and fossil fuel while intervening during the stocktake. Both the leaders were even seen looking at amended version which Yadav finally proposed and the plenary accepted.
India, in fact, forced the Presidency to amend the paragraph by opting ‘phase-down’ for coal in the final text instead of ‘phase-out’ and even got included points on “targeted support to the poorest and the most vulnerable in line with national circumstances” while referring to fossil fuel subsidy even as Switzerland and EU objected to it before reluctantly agreeing on it as a compromise to finally arrive at the Pact.
It was quite an emotional moment for Sharma who chaired the plenary that finally adopted the COP26 decision. It also reflected the tensed moments which he had to pass through while bringing all countries on table through little compromises on different fronts.
Though small island nations and Mexico too along with Switzerland and EU criticised India’s move on watering down the text on coal and fossil fuel by calling it a bad economic choice, Indian delegation defended the country’s position.
A senior official from Indian delegation said, “All fossil fuels are bad for the environment. Singling out coal without talking about other fossil fuels like natural gas etc is not the best way forward. But India, in the spirit of compromise, helped evolve language that was acceptable to all. This language takes care of concerns of many developing countries including India.”
He further said, “India has always maintained that it does not favour sectoral targets. We have taken on economy wide target like reduction in emission intensity of GDP. This gives countries more flexibility to meet mitigation targets in line with the national circumstances and developmental needs. One size fits all approach is not the best way to evolve consensus on global issues.”
China too wanted clarity on coal and fossil fuel references. However, it was India which decided to call it out during the stocktake and finally Yadav suggested amended paragraph which was adopted by all countries.
Nevertheless, it was for the first time the coal and fossil fuel subsidies found place in the COP decision text, making the issue much more important in the context of keeping the 1.5 degree Celsius goal of warming limit alive at a time when the world would try to collectively achieve ‘net zero’ (carbon neutrality) by 2050.
In any case, India’s substantial focus on renewable energy and its commitment to increase non-fossil fuel installed electricity capacity to 500 GW by 2030 and achieving 50% of cumulative electric power installed capacity from renewable energy by 2030 are testimony of the country’s own efforts to gradually reduce its dependence on coal without compromising with its current development trajectory.
The outcome of COP26 is also significant in view of finalising rulebook for 2015 Paris Agreement after six years of discussion. The rulebook provides guidelines for full implementation of the Paris deal. This will allow for the full delivery of the landmark accord, after agreement on a transparency process which will hold countries to account as they deliver on their targets.
The final rulebook now includes rules for carbon markets (Article 6), which establishes a framework for countries to exchange carbon credits through the UNFCCC.
“The approved texts are a compromise. They reflect the interests, the conditions, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today. They take important steps, but unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions. As I said at the opening, we must accelerate action to keep the 1.5 degree goal alive,” said UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, after conclusion of COP26.
He also sought to remind the countries as to how it’s important to further strengthen climate action with additional pledges next year. He underlined that the
present set of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – even if fully implemented will still increase emissions this decade on a pathway that will clearly lead us to well above 2 degrees by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial levels (1850-1900).
Though COP26 finalised rules for carbon market, experts believe that it lacks clarity and may end up using old carbon emission credits to fulfil new climate commitments.
“One of the more worrying outcomes from COP26 is the rules for international carbon markets. While negotiators agreed that double-counting the same emission reductions is unacceptable, it is unfortunate that countries agreed to allow the use of old emission credits to meet their new climate commitments. At COP27, it is crucial that negotiators put stringent guidelines in place to ensure these credits represent real reductions and minimize how many end up being used,” said Ani Dasgupta, President & CEO, World Resources Institute (WRI).
On ‘loss and damage’ issue, Harjeet Singh, senior advisor, Climate Action Network International, said, “Developing countries’ proposal to set up a mechanism to mobilise and channel money to vulnerable people has been brushed aside by the rich nations, particularly the US, Australia, Japan and the European Union. While the outcome from the summit recognised the gap in dealing with losses and damages in developing countries, the step to provide finance and deliver justice to the climate victims has been delayed. We are walking in inches when we must move in miles.”