COP26 fails to achieve fundamental goals

The Glasgow Climate Change Conference brought much debate at the end of 2021. Unfortunately, the states failed to meet public expectations and the conference ended on a bitter note. At the same time, a newly issued Emissions Gap Report speaks clearly − in order to keep the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius alive, the global commitments of the Paris Agreement must be met by 2030. The EU is well on the way to achieving the said goal, as its report states it had exceeded the set emission reduction targets already in 2020. In 2021, however, it is expected for the emissions to increase, which leaves the EU with the crucial task to maintain the set trend.

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COP26 provides unsatisfactory results

Probably the most significant event of the last quarter was the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow that, while being far from satisfactory in terms of implementing the measures and making the commitments needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, has increased global climate change ambitions. Specifically, the $ 130 trillion Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero fund was set up to accelerate the transition to a clean economy. Furthermore, a new International Sustainability Standards Board was established, tasked with publishing climate and ESG standards.

In relation to mitigating the impacts of climate change, an agreement was reached to amend − and tighten − the so-called NDCs, i.e. the 2022 national emission reduction commitments of individual states. This measure is intended to force governments to increase the ambitions arising from the Paris Agreement. In relation to Article 6, a rulebook has been developed which provides the necessary practical instructions for implementation. Among the most important guidelines are the rules to minimize the risk of “double counting” of carbon emission reductions and the identification and correction of loopholes in the legislation.

Reducing national emissions according to the NDCs insufficient. Warming by 2.7 degrees Celsius expected

The Emissions Gap Report 2021 accentuates the urgency of the situation: it concludes that there is a 50% chance that global warming will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next twenty years. Regarding the current climate commitments of the states and other mitigation measures, the scientific calculations carried out under the UN Environment Programme indicate that the temperature will increase by 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The report further analyses that the existing NDCs are not sufficient. To reduce global warming, projected emissions need to be reduced by 55%. Nevertheless, G20 members do not yet have a plan in place to reach their NDCs or Net Zero. However, many national climate plans are postponing the implementation of the measures beyond 2030. Reducing methane emissions from fossil fuels, waste and agriculture could help fill the emissions gap and provide for a short-term limiting of global warming. Provided the rules are clearly defined, carbon markets could also help reduce emissions.

The European Union meets its 2020 climate targets

According to the EU Climate Action Progress Report 2021, the European Union has exceeded its greenhouse gas reduction target for 2020 – which even fell to its lowest level in 30 years. The pandemic also led to a year-on-year abrupt reduction in emissions. The report provides a relatively comprehensive picture of the evolution of emissions in different areas – the EU’s fulfilment of its international obligations, the effectiveness of the EU ETS system, the evolution of emissions within effort sharing (i.e. emissions outside the EU ETS system), the EU’s land use within carbon sequestration, the member states’ adjustment to climate change, financing the new measures and the EU’s support of its neighbours and developing countries in achieving international commitments.

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