Some 200 countries agreed to adopt the Glasgow Climate Pact on 13 November after more than two weeks of intense negotiations at the COP26 meeting.
The agreement acknowledges that commitments made by countries so far to cut emissions of greenhouse gases are not enough to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. It asks governments to strengthen those targets by the end of next year, rather than every five years, as previously required.
The pact for the first time includes language that asks countries to reduce their reliance on coal and roll back fossil fuel subsidies although this proved to be a contentious issue for those countries still heavily dependent on those energy sources. India had requested that the deal call on countries to "phase down" rather than "phase out" unabated coal. No firm dates were set for the reduction in subsidies.
India's climate minister Bhupender Yadav asked how developing countries could promise to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies when they "have still to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication".
The deal made some headway on the demands of poor and vulnerable countries that wealthy countries responsible for most emissions pay up. It "urges developed country Parties to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing country Parties from 2019 levels by 2025." This raises the possibility of a trillion dollar a year fund from 2025, although a previous pledge for richer countries to provide $100bn a year by 2020 was missed.
It also, for the first time, mentioned "loss and damage" in the cover section of the agreement, acknowledging the costs that some countries are already facing from climate change. However, this was a major disappointment for many delegations, who, nevertheless, backed the agreement hoping talks on loss and damage would continue.
Lia Nicholson, delegate for Antigua and Barbuda, and speaking on behalf of small island states, said: "We recognise the presidency's efforts to try and create a space to find common ground. The final landing zone, however, is not even close to capturing what we had hoped." Shauna Aminath, environment minister for the low-lying Maldives, said: "We have 98 months to halve global emissions. The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence for us."
Negotiators also agreed on setting rules for carbon markets, potentially making available trillions of dollars for protecting forests, building renewable energy facilities and other projects to combat climate change. Companies as well as countries with vast forest cover had lobbied for a robust deal on government-led carbon markets hoping to legitimise the fast-growing global voluntary offset markets. Some measures would be implemented to ensure credits are not double-counted under national emissions targets, but bilateral trades between countries would not be taxed to help fund climate adaptation which was a key demand for less developed countries.
Side deals agreed during the conference was a global methane cutting initiative led by the USA and the European Union in which some100 countries promised to reduce methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. Also, the USA and China -- the world's two biggest carbon emitters -- in a joint declaration agreed to cooperate on climate change measures.
In addition companies and investors made voluntary pledges to phase out gasoline-powered cars, decarbonise air travel, protect forests, and ensure more sustainable investing. Financial organisations controlling $130 trillion agreed to back "clean" technology, such as renewable energy, and direct finance away from fossil fuel-burning industries.
Overall, environmental organisations were sceptical that any of the pledges would be met. Sara Shaw, from Friends of the Earth International, said the outcome was "nothing less than a scandal". She noted: "Just saying the words 1.5 degrees is meaningless if there is nothing in the agreement to deliver it. COP26 will be remembered as a betrayal of global South countries."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the planet was "hanging by a thread". He said: "We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe... it is time to go into emergency mode - or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero." In a video statement at the close of the meeting, he said the agreement “reflects the interests, the contradictions, and the state of political will in the world today”.
He added that it is time to go “into emergency mode”, ending fossil fuel subsidies, phasing out coal, putting a price on carbon, protecting vulnerable communities, and delivering the $100bn climate finance commitment. “We did not achieve these goals at this conference. But we have some building blocks for progress,” he said.
As part of the agreement, countries will meet next year to pledge further major carbon cuts with the aim of reaching the 1.5C goal. Current pledges, if fulfilled, will only limit global warming to about 2.4C. Next year's COP27 summit will be in Egypt.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) played an active part in the conference , including organising and participating in a number of side events. These included, among others, “Addressing climate impacts and resiliency of the energy infrastructure,” jointly led by IAEA and the World Meteorological Organisation; “The contribution of nuclear innovations to strengthen complementarities with renewable energies and meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement,” led by France; “Fusion Energy – the State of the Art,” jointly led by the ITER Organisation and IAEA; “Climate resilience for the global clean energy transition,” jointly led by IAEA and ICF.