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Shortcomings in the Glasgow agreement will raise pressure on countries' and companies' commitments at Egypt's COP27 summit next year
African delegates to the UN Climate summit in Glasgow shared wider disappointments about the last minute weakening of the language on fossil fuels in the agreement on 13 November but reported some progress on their top priorities: the 'just transition' to renewable energy; raising the bar on technology transfer; and establishing the principle of responsibility for climate-related loss and damage.
For the first time since the Kyoto protocol was signed in 1997, over 190 signatories identified the use of fossil fuels as the primary cause of climate change. But delegates failed to produce more finance or even new guidelines to support developing economies' gradual switch to renewable energy, known as the 'just transition'.
Delegates in Glasgow did agree to the further reduction of emissions although often their plans for 'net-zero' carbon economies were set around dates in the distant future. India said it aimed to reach net-zero by 2070; Saudi Arabia, one of the world's biggest oil producers, is aiming for 2060.
All those countries putting forward such goals are meant to produce detailed work programmes and scheduled actions by the UN COP27 climate summit in Egypt next year. And by 2024, all signatory countries will have to submit detailed records of emissions, which will set the baseline to assess future reduction targets.
The Glasgow summit reiterated the goal of cutting global emissions by 45% by the end of this decade. That means cutting average global emissions by 6% a year, said Jason Bordoff, co-founding Dean of the Columbia Climate School in New York.
Global emissions fell 6% in 2020, points out Bordoff, but that was when global output had halved due to the pandemic and lockdowns. Emissions are now back to pre-pandemic levels.
Among developing country delegates, many said that COP26 had failed those countries most affected by climate change today: the small island states and zones in Africa hardest hit by extreme weather such as the Sahel and the Horn.
Most striking were the shortfalls and ambiguities on climate finance. G20 country contributions to the US$100 billion fund for developing economies to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate are now set to reach the initial target by 2023.
European and North American delegations resisted calls for the immediate establishment of a fund to compensate those countries suffering loss and damage caused by climate change. Instead, they proposed discussions on such a fund's structure and mechanism.
At least, said some African delegates, the principle of compensating countries for loss and damage had been established.
The main point, and the bigger pot of cash, argues Jean-Paul Adam, Head of the Climate Change division at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, is that the continent has been excluded from the bulk of the private sector climate finance. Changing that will require much faster preparation of viable projects and rapid development of some specific market mechanisms in Africa, said Adam.
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