Good COP, bad COP? Takeaways from the new UN climate deal

Diplomats reached an agreement Saturday at the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland. While it didn’t offer solutions on every problem addressed at the conference, it took steps to hold wealthy nations accountable to their promises regarding phasing out coal, timetables on their emission-cutting pledges and monetary contributions.

GLASGOW, Scotland — After two years of preparation and 13 days of tough talks, did negotiators at the U.N. climate meeting in Glasgow save the planet?

In short: no.

But they were hardly expected to do so. The annual Conference of the Parties, just held for the 26th time, is all about getting countries to gradually ratchet up their measures to defuse global warming.

The focus of the Glasgow talks was not to forge a new treaty but to finalize the one agreed to in Paris six years ago and to build on it by further curbing greenhouse gas emissions, bending the temperature curve closer to levels that don't threaten human civilization.

Here's a look at what was achieved in Glasgow:

AIMING FOR FEWER EMISSIONS

Going into the Glasgow talks, most countries, including the United States, China and the 27 members of the European Union, declared new, more ambitious targets for reducing emissions.

Some, such as India, announced additional measures at the meeting itself. Side deals brokered by host country Britain covered issues such as reversing deforestation, boosting electric vehicle production, phasing out coal, clamping down on methane emissions and unlocking investor cash for the fight against climate change.

Within the official negotiations, countries agreed to firmly focus on the most ambitious goal in the 2015 Paris accord, of keeping global warming from going beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). Experts and vulnerable countries have long advocated for that threshold, but some nations previously held onto the option of aiming for “well below 2 C (3.6 F).”

They also agreed to explicitly target coal use and fossil fuel subsidies, though the original proposals were greatly watered down.

In a bid to spur further ambition, major emitters will be asked to present new targets at the 2022 U.N. climate conference in Egypt.

AID TO POOR COUNTRIES

There was bad blood going into the meeting because rich countries have failed to meet their pledge of providing $100 billion each year by 2020 to help poor nations cope with climate change.

The final agreement expressed “deep regret” about the funding failure and urges rich nations to come up with the money as soon as possible.

The share and amount of money earmarked for poor countries to adapt to rising sea levels and other impacts of climate change was also increased, though not by as much as they had demanded.

NO REPARATIONS

Wealthy nations such as the United States and European Union members rejected demands to establish a fund to compensate poor countries for the destruction wrought by climate change, which developed countries are significantly responsible for because of their past emissions.

Many vulnerable countries were angered by the decision but nevertheless backed the agreement in the hope of making progress on the “loss and damage” issue next year in Egypt.

CARBON TRADING RULES

Fixing the rules on international cooperation for reducing emissions, including carbon markets, had eluded nations since Paris. Six years on, it remained one of the hardest-fought issues in the negotiating room over the past two weeks.

The rules covering what’s known as Article 6 will become increasingly important as countries and companies aim to cut their emissions to “net zero” by 2050 by balancing out any remaining pollution they produce with an equal amount of carbon captured elsewhere.

While a compromise was found that proponents say could add trillions of dollars to the battle against climate change, some countries and environmental groups fear the deal left significant loopholes which could undermine the integrity of the system by allowing certain emissions cuts to be counted twice.

A shift by Brazil, under pressure by some of its major companies, proved decisive in clinching the deal. In return, the country gets to keep some carbon credits it amassed under an older system that experts say wasn't credible.

A small surcharge on carbon trades will go toward a fund to help poor countries adapt to global warming, but campaigners had hoped for the levy to be applied more broadly and blamed U.S. opposition for that happening in Glasgow.

TECHNICAL TWEAKS

Countries agreed to several tweaks to the rules on how and how often they need to report what they are doing to reduce emissions. While this may seem technical, experts argue greater transparency and more frequent accounting are important for building trust because nations are closely watching what others do.

China has been particularly wary of having others scrutinize its efforts too closely. Along with other developed and emerging economies, it is now expected to report every five instead of every 10 years.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(10) comments

Mike Johnson

And, this was nothing but a super spreader event, as nothing was accomplished.....https://www.gbnews.uk/news/cop26-291-positive-covid-tests-linked-to-climate-summit/159461

Barry Rabkin

One persistent reality that underscores each of the COP meetings is that the US is not going to stop using fossil fuels immediately (regardless of supply or cost). People's homes and businesses (and vehicles) must have the energy flow that is required to always keep the lights on and keep operating whenever the lights are needed to be on and the operations are needed to be running. Intermittent energy flows don't cut it even if they 'save the planet.'

Robert Fields

Reducto ad absurdum. Sure, we need/want constant power, but the consequences of continuing to pump carbon into the atmosphere are kind of bad. They just aren’t so bad yet here that people can still ignore them.

But just for practical consideration, the world will demand a carbon free society at some point as the effects everywhere of global warming get less able to be ignored. When that day comes, those who haven’t looked ahead could be stuck unable to make the switch when everyone else is having to do the same. Gas and electricity may get really expensive and/or scarce, etc. The time to change your ways is when everyone else isn’t.

Besides, when did Americans decide to retire the can-do attitude? When did we decide children’s lives and a livable planet were expendable?

Barry Rabkin

We will expect constant power regardless of the implications for the planet. Our "can do" spirit: we can do what we need to do to always have constant power. We will NOT swelter in the Summer or freeze in the Winter to "save the planet." The World can demand whatever it wants to demand: the US will never cede its sovereign power regardless of the cost of energy or the results of Climate Change. The US answers to the US Constitution ... the US does not answer to the World.

Mike Johnson

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Robert Fields

And, the intermittent thing already has an answer though there’s a lot of research going into even better solutions. South Australia power company Noeon and the Australian government contracted Tesla to build a 100MW battery (129MWh) battery that bridges most energy grid events. It was so useful it has already been expanded to 150MW/193.5MWh. That’s bigger than 2/3 of PNM’s generating stations for MW which it can deliver for over an hour at a time. Longer if not being drained at full rating.

https://hornsdalepowerreserve.com.au/

https://www.tesla.com/fi_FI/videos/powerpack-hornsdale

https://www.pnm.com/energy-sources

But other methods of energy storage are also being explored and are already in service. There are options on dealing with intermittent energy sources. Lots of them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grid_energy_storage

This is a minor issue in the overall situation only because it’s an added expense. New Mexico has lots of wind and solar potential and our solar generation is pretty dependable with our plentiful sunlight. And power demand drops off a lot at night anyway. The EIA has real time generation/consumption/import/export energy data available and it’s easy to see the daily solar contribution and just how regular it is. Wind is a lot more variable. Add energy storage and we can build out reliable alternative energy sources that complement each other and reduce the need to be so reliant on gas and coal for electricity. This link hopefully shows the custom dashboard for PNM but if not, delete from the trailing slash after dashboard and you should be able to request the data for PNM.

https://www.eia.gov/electricity/gridmonitor/dashboard/custom/1BF4D7722B38184CCF9214194EE14357

We have to do this stuff, Barry. Hiding your head in the sand accomplishes nothing but setting us up for disaster.

Barry Rabkin

No, we do NOT have to do this stuff. Again, there will be a large number of "us" who will not kiss the rear ends of the Climate Change Inquisition.

Mike Johnson

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Mike Johnson

Well said Mr. Rabkin, and Dr. Jim Hansen would agree with you when he said about these kind of useless political shows: "It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bull.... for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

And even Greta knows better than to think any of this will do anything, from the mouths of uneducated, inexperienced babes....."It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place,” Greta Thunberg said.“The COP has turned into a PR event, where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets, while behind the curtains governments of the Global North countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action.”

And of course the world is not even close to stopping the use of even coal: "New coal plants to emit 28 bln tonnes carbon.

COP26 host wants agreement on ending coal use.

Asian governments say coal needed for economic growth.

Coal remains world's leading power-generation fuel."

https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/cop26-aims-banish-coal-asia-is-building-hundreds-power-plants-burn-it-2021-10-29/?mc_cid=b38a9bc7fc&mc_eid=c92d5958c4

Fossil fuels will be around for many, many decades, and there is nothing anyone will really do to stop it, since economics and GDP growth trump everything. Get used to it to get over it.

Robert Fields

The effects of global warming are now clearly visible to everyone. We have much greater risks of violent and extreme weather and those risks manifest in these things happening with increasing frequency and severity. Just plotting the earth’s average temperature over the last 40 years unfortunately shows an unmistakable and steady increase. The planet can only take that for so long.

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature

Like it or not, we are making decisions now that will directly affect the planet’s ability to support life and civilization as we know it in the future. Unfortunately, as we transition from life as we know it to a deluge of environmental disasters, things will likely get pretty unpleasant for everyone. In short, we are trading the long term stability of our country and world for the short term profits of a greedy few.

The fossil fuel industry is running an ad here in New Mexico with some farmer (actor?) singing the praises of the benefits of New Mexico’s oil and gas industry. He talks about how oil and gas feeds New Mexico. That’s mostly true for now but the future is on our doorstep. Some parts of the state are running out of water. We have a dryer than normal winter forecast that will likely reduce water reserves even more. Our future is getting bleak thanks to all that wonderful oil and gas. Farmers are being bankrupted and selling farms but first selling their water to the oil and gas industry. So of course oil and gas want to pretend that everything is just peachy and use the image of a farmer to do it.

We won’t be getting any second chances on this. There aren’t do-overs. It’s a painful reality. At some point we will just be along for the ride as climate and weather do their thing and adjust to a hotter planet and all that entails.

We aren’t yet at a place where governments are actually forced to act by citizens so the world will largely continue to look the other way. The thing is that the longer we wait to do the things we really need to do, the harder it’s going to be to stop the heating of the planet. At some point it will become impossible to stop thanks to tipping points we are now beginning to hit.

On the plus side, we as regular citizens can do what governments aren’t. We can transition to hybrids and electrics, install solar panels, and do better at watching how we use energy. Everything we save now is less to do when everyone does start realizing we have dug our hole extremely deep. And tell the fossil fuel industry what they can do with their fossil fuels.

And about that fossil fuel industry - they leave big messes behind. SE New Mexico is apparently hitting their limits with the dirty and polluting industry that is threatening our futures. Oil and gas are not friends of New Mexico.

https://www.currentargus.com/story/news/local/2021/09/30/billboards-across-southeast-new-mexico-slams-oil-and-gas-industry/5905835001/

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