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COP26 kept 1.5C alive but President Sharma warns that rapid action is needed

COP26 has ended in Glasgow and nearly 200 countries have agreed on the Glasgow Climate Pact to keep 1.5C alive and finalise the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement. 

So, the 1.5C remains in sight, but it will only be delivered with concerted and immediate global efforts. For instance, all countries agreed to revisit and strengthen their current emissions targets to 2030, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in 2022. This will be combined with a yearly political roundtable to consider a global progress report and a Leaders summit in 2023.

The Paris Rulebook, the guidelines for how the Paris Agreement is delivered, was also completed after six years of discussions. 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. This includes Article 6, which establishes a robust framework for countries to exchange carbon credits through the UNFCCC.

And for the first time, heeding calls from civil society and countries most vulnerable to climate impacts, the COP agreed on actions to phase down fossil fuels. COP decisions went further than ever before in recognising and addressing loss and damage from the existing impacts of climate change. There were also commitments to significantly increase financial support through the Adaptation Fund as developed countries were urged to double their support to developing countries by 2025. 

The final COP26 text follows two years of intense diplomacy and campaigning undertaken by the UK Presidency to raise ambition and secure action from almost 200 countries. When the UK took on the COP26 mantle, in partnership with Italy, nearly two years ago, only 30 per cent of the world was covered by net-zero targets. This figure is now at around 90 per cent. Over the same period, 154 Parties have submitted new national targets, representing 80 per cent of global emissions. 

“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive,” said COP26 President Alok Sharma said, reflecting on the task ahead. “But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”

Indeed, current policies would leave us on a path to a devastating temperature rise. Work done by independent experts Climate Action Tracker shows that the full implementation of the fresh collective commitments could hold temperature rise to 1.8C. 

“From here, we must now move forward together and deliver on the expectations set out in the Glasgow Climate Pact and close the vast gap which remains,” said Mr Sharma. “Because as Prime Minister Mia Mottley told us at the start of this conference, for Barbados and other small island states, two degrees is a death sentence.”

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