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COP26 – signposts for the final agreement

As the clock ticks down on COP26, the scramble to reach a meaningful agreement is intense. At previous meetings, the deadline has been exceeded, sometimes by days, in the final frantic effort to find an agreed form of words.

Here is our guide to the likely sticking points.

Money matters

Developed countries have guaranteed $100 billion a year by 2025 to help the least developed countries reach the 1.5C challenge. Boris Johnson has made clear that finance has the potential to ‘unlock’ an ambitious settlement to this conference. What remains to be seen is how the final text commits the West to this offer, and what will be done to ensure follow through. There is pressure from less developed countries to target this money at climate mitigation, rather than decarbonisation.

Performance proof

The Paris agreement committed signatories to making their own plans to cut greenhouse gases – a process that was to be repeated every five years. The ambition was to keep temperature rises to 2C or below. What Paris did not include was a means to check each country’s progress. There is a strong case for a system that requires transparency – but China in particular is reluctant to sign up to such provisions. 

Turning the screw

Every five years, each country is required to submit to the UN their Nationally Defined Contributions. The UK had hoped to make these submissions more frequent, not least so that improved technology can be factored in as it becomes available. An ambition to to this is included in the draft, but whether it will make the final treaty remains to be seen.

When is 1.5C possible?

All the indications are that the world will not be able to restrict global warming to 1.5C within existing target times. The final text could give a better indication of the chances of this happening and a revised sense of potential time scale.

Offsets market

In Paris world leaders committed to creating a global market  in carbon offsets. They did not, however, agree a framework for making this happen. The Glasgow agreement could plug this gap and thereby allow wealthy countries to pay developing countries for offsets – say by planting forests or establishing solar plants. Avoiding low quality offsets is the real challenge for any market.  

Image: “Boris Johnson launch of COP26” by UK Prime Minister is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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