Jeff Shaw, (503) 551-3615 or firstname.lastname@example.org
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND -- After two weeks of often intense negotiations, the annual United Nations climate summit (COP26) wrapped up in Glasgow today. The summit took place in the wake of record-breaking storms and flooding in Glasgow, a reminder that the climate crisis is affecting every corner of our planet. It also occurred amid the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, which led to limited and inequitable participation. Many delegates from the Global South were unable to participate due to travel restrictions, inequitable vaccine access, and high cost of attendance.
Still, notable progress was made on several critical issues. Outside of the official negotiating halls, important country announcements, multilateral agreements, and philanthropic initiatives were announced regarding coal, oil and gas, methane, zero-emission vehicles, forest conservation, and fossil fuel finance.
- On coal: Twenty-eight new countries, subnational governments, and private sector entities joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, and over 40 countries signed the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition statement, greatly expanding the group of countries that have committed to stop building new coal plants and to begin to retire their existing fleets. Major philanthropic and research organizations agreed to strengthen their efforts to accelerate this transition, with Bloomberg Philanthropies announcing a huge new initiative aiming to close 25 percent of the world’s remaining coal plants—and all proposed plants—by 2025, and a global consortium of research institutions agreeing to collaborate under the new Coal Asset Transition Accelerator platform to support the world’s move away from coal to clean energy sources.
- On methane: More than 100 countries agreed to cut their methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 under the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative led by the United States and the European Union. And a coalition of major philanthropic organizations promised to fund more than $328 million to reduce methane emissions around the world.
- On zero-emission vehicles: More than 100 governments, fleet owners and vehicle manufacturers pledged to only sell zero-emission vehicles by 2040 globally, and by 2035 in leading markets. However, while leading US vehicle manufacturers and three US states joined the pledge, the US federal government did not.
- On forest conservation: More than 100 countries signed an agreement to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. The agreement includes $19.2 billion in public and private funding to support land conservation efforts.
- On fossil fuels: Almost forty countries, including the United States, pledged to end their international support for fossil fuels. The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance expanded its membership to twelve front-running countries and subnational governments that are ending or reducing their production of oil and gas. Nearly 500 global financial services firms across 45 countries agreed to align $130 trillion – approximately 40 percent of global financial assets – with the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement, including staying within the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.
There was also widespread public interest in this year’s climate summit; more than 100,000 activists protested in Glasgow for more bold action at the summit, and demonstrations were held in more than 100 countries -- many led by youth and frontline communities.
The Glasgow Climate Pact was finally signed today, after negotiations went into overtime due to disagreements over key issues. These sticking points included setting a pathway to revise and enhance 2030 emissions goals to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit alive, the amount of financial assistance that developed countries would provide to countries struggling with climate impacts, environmental integrity and transparency when it comes to tracking emissions, and fossil fuel subsidies. But it is clear that the Glasgow Climate Pact did not secure a path to achieving global net zero carbon emissions by 2050 nor achieving the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In response, the Sierra Club’s International Climate and Policy Campaign Director, Cherelle Blazer, issued the following statement:
“Despite notable progress on key issues such as coal, methane, and forest conservation in Glasgow, the reality is that the world is still far off track towards the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. And we are still not doing nearly enough to help frontline communities who are bearing the brunt of climate risks, especially those in poor and vulnerable countries. But we should not discount what was achieved at COP26. Never before have we seen so much attention paid to the need to end coal-fired power at a global climate summit, and the final decision text includes the first-ever reference to the role of fossil fuels in the climate crisis. We also witnessed the return of the United States as a key player in international climate negotiations, which was a welcome change after the last Administration’s utter failure in this arena. And the surprise US and China climate announcement, while not ambitious or strong enough, signals that the two countries are pursuing joint progress on climate action.
“While COP26 may be over, the real work is only beginning. The commitments and initiatives launched here will require follow through, and too often countries have fallen short of their promises to limit climate pollution, support developing countries struggling to deal with the consequences of a disrupted climate, and to pull financial support for dirty fossil fuel projects. Here in the United States, our next step toward meeting climate commitments is clear: get Build Back Better across the finish line.
“We cannot ignore the fact that the climate crisis is intensifying, and the ambition of developed countries -- including the United States -- must rise to match what is scientifically and morally necessary. Whether we would like to admit it or not, we are collectively in a race against the clock. Lives and livelihoods are on the line, and the stakes could not be higher. The world’s leaders, especially those from developed countries that have contributed most to the crisis and also have the most resources, need to pick up the pace -- of both commitments and follow through -- if we are to secure a livable planet for all.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.