Glasgow COP26 climate conference: success or failure? – The Weekly 74

If you have an insight into the EU’s political processes, you are probably familiar with the time- and energy-intensive practice always applied by the 27-member community to eventually arrive at a final decision or just a joint statement on even the simplest of questions. This should come as no surprise because, as we are fully aware, it’s hard to find a compromise in any issue among 27 points of view and interests. And since it is indeed a compromise, when it happens, the proverbial glass is either half full or half empty for some. That’s exactly what happened at the end of the Glasgow climate summit, too: we may have mixed feelings about the final agreement and our judgement largely depends on whose point of view we take. But could it actually be any different when it comes to an agreement that was negotiated and signed by nearly 200 countries, especially when the debate is about the most pressing and difficult issue: our climate and the global warming that threatens the future of our planet? Should we consider the COP climate conference a success or a failure?

While we completely understand such feelings as the desperation of the countries stricken by the global warming induced natural disasters or the future generations’ frustration with the lack of political will or the laborious decision-making processes, it’s vital to stay with both feet on the ground of reality and feasibility when we evaluate the climate conference and its results. Although we do have a lot to thank activists like Greta Thunberg and other NGOs for their efforts in the area of climate protection, especially because they ultimately kept the issue on the agenda and put pressure on decision makers, unfortunately the often overly ambitious goals and unrealistic expectations dishearten and depress many people when the results fall short of what they expected.

However, the depression is not justified this time, because the conference did actually achieve significant breakthroughs in several issues.

Of course, we can lament the fact that the conference and the final declaration did not commit to a specific target date for phasing out coal-fired power, and produced hardly more than a reference to curbing methane emissions, but, realistically speaking, it’s a miracle that the carbon issue made it to the final draft at all, instead of falling victim to the veto of the developing countries who still rely on coal as a key energy source. The richer countries have undoubtedly failed to pay up the promised financial contributions so sorely needed by poorer countries for adapting their economies, but it’s also a fact that the agreement managed to double the funding for the transition of developing countries by involving a wider group of richer countries and private sector stakeholders, including the world’s largest corporations that were persuaded to make generous pledges in order to ultimately achieve net zero emission. Indeed, the mandatory NDCs, i.e., Nationally Determined Contributions are currently far below the level needed to make the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 feasible, but the summit did make each participant promise to come up with new commitments and upgraded plans for next year’s COP27 conference in Egypt.

On top of all that, the Glasgow conference, contrary to all expectations, was able to keep the global warming limit at the level of 1.5 degrees Celsius which was originally agreed by the participants of the 2015 Paris summit and which, in the present state of scientific knowledge, is vital for us to avoid a climate catastrophe. This goal probably would not have been achieved without the participants finalizing the so-called Paris Agreement Rulebook, making the Agreement operational and implementable at last.

They also signed agreements on reducing methane emissions, cutting down on deforestation and supporting zero-emission transport, i.e., the production of electric vehicles.

Another exceptionally positive outcome of the COP26 is that western countries committed to mobilise $8.5 billion over the next five years to enable the transition of South Africa, i.e., Africa’s largest economy, from carbon based power plants to more sustainable solutions. It may seem like a tiny step, but the summit has just created a citable and attractive precedent of how the developed world can support the poorer countries in their transition.

Based on these achievements, the agenda of the next COP27 Egypt conference is already given.

While we have absolutely no reason to lean back after the Glasgow conference, it would be an equally big mistake to fall into lethargy over the deficiencies of the agreement. In the upcoming decades, each country will face enormous challenges to make the decisions allowing us to hand down a more sustainable and liveable world to the next generations to come. For that to happen however, we’ll need ambitious but realistic goals, solidarity and cooperative efforts from all nations.

As far as climate conferences are concerned, they will always fall short of the expectations but, despite all their deficiencies and imperfections, they are still our planet’s greatest and perhaps only chance and hope for us to achieve our goals together. - *Jobbik MEP, Márton Gyöngyösi:* [(]