January 18, 2022 9:40 pm

Promises, doubts and opacity in the first week of the Glasgow Climate Summit

  • After a week full of announcements, COP26 turns into two summits: that of global promises and that of closed-door negotiations

  • Scientists and activists criticize the lack of clarity and ambition of the agreements announced to date

It has been a week since the Scottish city of Glasgow has become the epicenter of key negotiations for the future of the planet. The Climate Summit (COP26) kicked off last Monday with the promise of becoming a turning point in the fight against the climate crisis. After a week of big announcements, scientists and activists who are following the event on the front lines explain that the Glasgow Summit has, in reality, turned into two summits: that of grandiose promises that grab the headlines and that of technical negotiations that they are debated behind closed doors.

According to several experts questioned by EL PERIÓDICO, the first week of the Glasgow Summit closes with a somewhat bittersweet feeling. In just a few days, governments around the world have announced a battery of new agreements to, for example, reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030, reverse deforestation this decade or stop financing the purchase of fossil fuels with money public from 2022. But it is not all gold that glitters. And while these announcements have sparked the enthusiasm of many, experts suggest look at the fine print before singing victory.

The global agreement on methane, for example, does not have the signature from China, India and Russia. Indonesia has not signed the pact against deforestation. And the great commitment on the end of fossil fuels has been promoted by a score of countries from which, at the moment, the full list has not yet transcended. In all these cases, experts explain, those who refuse to sign are more concerned than those who announce their support with great fanfare. The absence of some countries in these multilateral agreements is, in reality, a declaration of intent.

There is also concern that these great global deals will turn into a mirage. In a promise that is never fulfilled. “It is all very well that new commitments are announced, but the fact that they are not binding is a problem because there are no guarantees that they will be fulfilled“explains Francisco Doblas Reyes, a researcher at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS) and one of the scientists who has led the last great X-ray of the climate crisis (IPCC).” India has promised that it will reach net zero emissions in 2070 , in fifty years. In that time, anything can happen, “reflects Doblas-Reyes.

“It is fine that new commitments are announced, but the fact that they are not binding is a problem”

Francisco Doblas-Reyes

This week, as countries announced their new commitments, several scientific bodies have recalculated the impact of these pacts for the future of the planet. Right now the world is on the way to global warming of 2.7 degrees. If the new global pacts are fulfilled to the letter, the global increase in temperatures could be limit at 1.8 degrees on average; three tenths above the ‘ceiling’ set by the Paris Agreement and well above what the scientific community considers healthy for the planet and humanity.

The chiaroscuro of the debate

After “a crazy week” running around the COP26 site, the scientist Alicia Pérez-Porro Explain what is happening on the other side of the Summit. That is, in “real” political negotiations. “We are before a very technical debate and very brainy. Some of the issues that were left open in the Paris Agreement are being discussed, such as financing and transparency mechanisms. And all this, although it is very important, does not make headlines “, comments the CREAF scientific coordinator. To understand the framework of the negotiations, Pérez-Porro explains that”Glasgow is not building a house from scratch, it is redesigning the electrical circuit“.

“Glasgow is not building a house from scratch, it is redesigning the electrical circuit”

Alicia Pérez-Porro

The climate policy expert Cristina Penasco defines this first week of the Climate Summit as “a moment in which there is a lot of courage to do things but, unfortunately, there is still a lot to do”. In an interview with this newspaper, Peñasco agrees on the diagnosis of “the two summits” but, far from being left alone with the critical part, he explains that this bifurcation may have its positive side. “It is a point in favor of multilateral agreements beyond negotiations because like this, joining forces, we will go further. Especially considering the implication that the industry and the financial sector are having in these public commitments “, comments the researcher, affiliated with the University of Cambridge.

“There is a lot of courage to do things but there is still a lot to do”

Cristina Penasco

The environmentalologist and activist Victor de Santos, from Scientist Rebellion, criticizes the lack of transparency of negotiations of the Summit and the “insufficiency” of global pacts announced this week. “Even if all these agreements were fulfilled, we would still be well above what the scientific community says. Disappointing to see this going nowhere“, he comments. The global promise to end coal, he explains, proposes to abandon this fossil fuel between 2030 (in rich countries) and in 2040 (in developing countries),” but science says that this has to do now, not in ten years. ”

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“Even if all these agreements were fulfilled, we would still be well above what the scientific community says”

Victor de Santos

After this bittersweet assessment of the first week of COP26, Glasgow is preparing for the second and final week of debate. The moment of the “high-level political negotiations“, summarizes the president of the COP, Alok Sharma, in a press release sent to the media after a week of silence about negotiations. The plan is that the agreements are closed on the 10th, that the draft is finished on the 11th and that on the 12th the results are announced. In practice, everything indicates that the conclusions will be announced throughout the weekend. According to all the scientists and activists questioned by this newspaper, it is still too early to tell if Glasgow is on the right track or not.


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