What was achieved and agreed by leaders at the climate summit?

1. The Glasgow Climate Pact

Climate negotiators ended two weeks of intense talks in Glasgow with nearly 200 countries agreeing the Glasgow Climate Pact to keep 1.5°C alive and finalise the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement. All countries agreed to revisit and strengthen their current emissions targets to 2030, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), in 2022, rather than several years further down the line. The pact also states that the use of unabated coal should be “phased down”, as should subsidies for fossil fuels. To help vulnerable nations cope with the deadly impacts of extreme weather, such as rising seas, there were also commitments to significantly increase financial support through the Adaptation Fund, although the creation of a new Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility was vetoed with further pledges expected by 2023.

2. The deforestation pledge

World leaders pledged to halt and reverse deforestation by the end of 2030. More than 30 financial institutions – with over $8.7trn in assets under management – committed to tackle agricultural commodity-driven deforestation and related human rights abuses in their portfolios by 2025, with a focus on palm oil, soya, beef, cocoa and pulp and paper.

3. Green tech plan to hit net zero

A total of 40 nations, representing more than 70% of the world’s economy, backed the Breakthrough Agenda – a new 10-year plan to deliver clean and affordable technology around the world by 2030. The initiative unites countries to create green jobs and growth globally, making clean technologies and solutions the most affordable, accessible and attractive option before 2030 – beginning with power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture. In addition, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced they will be joining the Bill Gates Breakthrough Energy initiative, in a £680m deal to support the scale-up of climate technologies developed in the EU. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos also told COP26 he would contribute £1.5bn towards reforestation, as well as £370m to a fund that invests in renewable energy projects.

4. The end of coal?

The COP agreed action on “phasing down” of unabated coal power and ending international coal financing. Although the wording is weaker than the initial proposal calling for a “phase out” of coal, this is the first time fossil fuels have been mentioned in a UN climate talks declaration. Greenhouse gases produced by burning coal are the single biggest contributor to climate change and one of the UK’s key aims for COP26 was to try and draw a line beneath the world’s coal usage. More than 40 countries agreed to shift away from coal, ending investment in new coal power generation domestically and internationally.

5. Sustainable agriculture and land use

Governments pledged urgent action and investment to protect nature and shift to more sustainable ways of farming. Plans to reform agricultural practices to tackle the climate crisis in the UK will mean a change in the way we grow and consume food. The government has committed to invest in the science needed for sustainable agriculture and for protecting food supplies against climate change. The UK aims to engage 75% of farmers in low-carbon practices by 2030. In a show of similar commitment from the private sector, almost 100 high-profile companies from a range of sectors committed to becoming “nature positive”. Meanwhile, 100 countries signed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce their methane emissions by 30% by 2030. The signatory countries collectively represent 70% of the global economy and produce about 50% of global methane emissions.

If we judge the success of COP on if we have more momentum coming out of it than going in, it’s passed the test

James Close, Head of Climate Change

6. Financial services and decarbonisation

Many people now believe businesses have a wider responsibility than simply to make a profit; we all have a part to play in tackling the climate crisis. The UK’s financial institutions and listed companies will publish their plans on how they will transition to net zero from 2023 onwards. There was also a pledge from more than 450 organisations in the financial sector in 45 countries to move $130trn of funds under their control into investments where the recipient is committed to net-zero emissions by 2050, under the new Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). A new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) will develop harmonised global environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure standards.

7. Science and innovation

A group of 47 countries committed to building low-carbon and sustainable health systems able to withstand the impacts of climate change. At an event on decarbonising homes and buildings across the UK, Katie Murray, CFO at the bank, said the government and private sector must collaborate to make the low carbon transition just for all. Solutions include: making subsidies and discounted finance products available, including mortgages; longer-term financing from governments; and partnerships to develop innovative solutions to help individuals and smaller business with their net-zero journey.

8. Collaboration for the future we want

China and the US agreed to boost climate cooperation. The world's two biggest CO2 emitters pledged to act to achieve the 1.5°C temperature goal set out in the  Paris Agreement. The world is welcoming in a new era of partnership with climate action at its heart. Speaking from COP26, Caroline Haas, Head of Climate and ESG Capital Markets at the bank, said: “To keep moving forward, businesses must work together on a variety of solutions that apply to different situations around the world. Collaboration is key – the cost of inaction will be much greater than the cost of implementation.”

9. Accelerating action on transport

Zero-emission vehicles will become “the new normal” as 30 countries agreed to work together to make them accessible, affordable, and sustainable by 2030 or sooner. Nineteen governments stated their intent to support the establishment of “green shipping corridors” – zero-emission shipping routes between two ports. This will require the deployment zero-emission vessel technology and the installation of alternative fuel and charging infrastructure in ports. The UK pledged to shift to clean trucks by committing to end the sale of most new diesel trucks between 2035 and 2040.

10. Women tackling climate change

The UK announced £165m to address the inequalities that make women and girls more vulnerable to climate change and empowering them to take climate action. Research shows that companies with better gender diversity on boards are more likely to reduce the intensity of energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and water use. CDC Group, the UK’s development finance institution, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) are joining forces under the framework of the 2X Climate Finance Task Force to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate finance investments.

Crucial next steps

James Close, Head of Climate Change at the bank, said: “If we judge the success of COP on if we have more momentum coming out of it than going in, it’s passed the test, particularly with the engagement of the private sector and the mobilisation of finance through the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ).”

Only a spirit of cooperation and consensus will help countries to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement and keep the target of 1.5°C global warming alive.

Even with the action committed both during and before COP26, communities around the world will continue to feel the impact of our changing planet. 

COP26 President Alok Sharma said: “It is up to all of us to sustain our lodestar of keeping 1.5 degrees within reach and to continue our efforts to get finance flowing and boost adaptation. After the collective dedication which has delivered the Glasgow Climate Pact, our work here cannot be wasted.”

Alison Rose, CEO NatWest Group, who spoke on panels at COP26 to discuss climate solutions and opportunities from tackling climate change, said: “We need to build resilience, we need to be bold, and we need tougher targets and real commitments – there is no time to wait.”

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