Adaptation and adaptation finance
The text reiterates the global goal on adaptation, which is to "enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change", which is increasingly important in view of the IPCC report's recent finding that the world has already warmed to 1.1 degree Celsius. In addition to adaptation, the text envisages support for countries suffering loss and damage (permanent impacts of climate change resulting from a range of natural phenomena from sea level rises to floods), the financial cost of which is expected to roughly triple between 2030 and 2050 for developing countries. The final text did not however commit to any specific funding of activities to avert and minimise the impact of loss and damage, though countries do agree to continue discussions on such funding.
Adaptation finance for vulnerable nations is a difficult subject on which to reach consensus, and leaders of vulnerable nations were vociferous about the need for developed nations to step up throughout COP. For these countries, mitigation alone will not address the key risks that they face from climate change. Countries committed to "at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing countries from 2019 levels by 2025". The draft provisions which would have committed at least half of future finance to adaptation rather than providing the majority for mitigation actions were not agreed in the final text.
Mitigation, temperature increases and fossil fuels
The Pact recognises the imperative to keep global average temperature increases to 1.5 degrees and uses the language of the IPCC report to commit the parties to "rapid, deep and sustained reductions". Unlike previous texts, the agreement defines the trajectory for the 1.5 degree goal, namely an interim goal of 45% of 2010 levels by 2030 and net zero by around 2050. Significant focus is placed on the nearer-term target, as not achieving the 2030 target would likely put the 2050 target out of reach. Countries are required to refine their Nationally Determined Contributions during 2022 to ensure that they are aligned with the 2030 goal, rather than waiting for the usual 5 year cycle for updates.
The text goes on to say that the signatories will "establish a work programme to urgently scale-up mitigation ambition and implementation in this critical decade"; again, this and related sections on mitigation represent a change in tone from previous agreements which have more clearly left individual countries to decide how to pursue and implement the agreements' overall goals.
Perhaps the most contentious clause in the entire draft agreement sought commitments from countries to "accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels"; the final text, after pressure from India and China, commits not to a phase out but to "accelerating efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies". Alok Sharma called on India and China to "explain themselves… to the most climate vulnerable countries in the world". Though the final text fell short of the ambitious wording in the drafts, the Glasgow Climate Pact is the first international climate agreement to even mention fossil fuels.
In addition to the provisions on adaptation finance noted above, the text calls for the mobilisation of all sources of finance to not only meet the previous commitment of USD 100 billion per year, but to go beyond it. The draft texts contained a placeholder for provisions relating to a new collective quantified goal on climate finance – draft options included a commitment to a predefined amount (e.g. USD 1.3 trillion per year by 2030), but the final agreement contains a commitment to negotiate a new collective quantified goal after the conclusion of the main agreement. Though on one hand this approach has the benefit of buying time to bring countries on board who may currently resist a higher commitment, if countries are not able to commit when the eyes of the world are on them, they may never do so.
For all its potential shortcomings, there is an urgency in the actions described and the language used in the Glasgow Climate Pact that is a noticeable departure from the messaging in the Paris Agreement. Alok Sharma has repeatedly apologised for the outcome, but an agreement of this nature emerging from the summit was by no means a foregone conclusion. For instance it was said on Wednesday last week that one (unnamed) country asked to delete the entire section on mitigation. Similarly, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the closing days that the 1.5 degree target was "on life support", but the final text kept the target alive. Guterres feared that the agreement would reflect a "lowest common denominator" between the countries' varied positions, and perhaps it does, but ultimately even that is an improvement on the Paris Agreement. The EU was criticised during the conference for not having been more proactive in the negotiations, but at its conclusion, lead negotiator Frans Timmermans attempted to close with a balanced but positive message: