A disappointing COP26 closure, but keeps a narrow window open for 1.5°C

Posted on November, 13 2021

​Rules advanced sufficiently to allow the needed pivot to implementation
GLASGOW, Scotland (13 November 2021) - We came to Glasgow expecting leaders to agree to a step change in the pace and scale of climate action. While we didn’t get the step-change, and the text agreed is far from perfect, we are moving in the right direction, says global environmental group WWF. 

Governments had to make progress in resolving three major gaps: a gap in targets to reduce emissions, a gap in rules to deliver and monitor progress, and a gap in financing the climate action needed to put the world on a pathway to a safer future. 

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead on Climate and Energy, said: “We must acknowledge that progress was made. There are now new opportunities for countries to deliver on what they know must be done to avoid a climate catastrophe. But unless they sharply pivot to implementation and show substantial results, they will continue to have their credibility challenged.”

COP26 wrapped up today with weak decisions in a number of important areas, including adaptation, loss and damage and climate finance. But, there are significant hooks in the text for countries to increase short-term climate ambition and to implement binding climate policies. 

This COP marks the first time that fossil fuels subsidies are mentioned in an approved decision text as well as the recognition of the need to ramp up investments in clean energy while ensuring a just transition. The first text was well received. Yet, we were deeply disappointed by the watering-down of the language on coal from phase-out to phase-down by a single country, India. WWF emphasizes that strong  language, deadlines and ways to operationalize are needed if we are to achieve the needed transition away from all fossil fuels. Countries know there will be no resolution of the climate crisis unless we see deep decarbonization in every sector, concrete actions to stop nature loss, and scaled up restoration. 

Pulgar-Vidal said: “The call for a short-term ratcheting-up of climate pledges by 2022 is welcomed by WWF. We are in the middle of a climate emergency, but we are still on track for warming well above 2°C according to recent analyses, a future that will be catastrophic for millions of people and for nature. Countries must collectively fulfil 50% CO2 reductions by 2030 and deliver on this ratcheting-up mechanism in 2022 with a 1.5°C goal in mind.” 

Importantly, the final text recognizes the critical role of nature in achieving the 1.5°C goal, encourages governments to incorporate nature into their national climate plans, and establishes an annual ocean dialogue to strengthen ocean-based mitigation and adaptation.

Pulgar-Vidal concludes: “Nature truly arrived at COP26. Leaders are finally recognizing that action to protect and restore nature must be at the heart of our response to the climate crisis, in tandem with a full transformation of the energy system. COP26's recognition of the role of nature must catalyse all countries to increase the contribution of nature in their national climate plans.” 

WWF emphasizes the contribution that nature-based solutions have in increasing the resilience of the most vulnerable and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. All this must be done with local nature stewards, especially Indigenous People and Local Communities, front and centre leading on this agenda. The nature-based solutions concept was removed from the final text in Glasgow and needs to be taken-up at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh. 

The text also recognized the role that the Marrakesh Partnership has had in raising the momentum for increased climate action by non-state actors (cities, sub-national governments, financial institutions and businesses) who have shown that this is not only possible, but desirable.  Something that also emerged clearly this week was citizens' demand for credibility, with the UN Secretary General António Guterres establishing a High-Level Expert Group to give clarity to corporate emission reduction claims. WWF strongly believes that all climate pledges must follow five core principles: real absolute greenhouse gas emissions reductions; targets based in science and that run across all the value chain; adopt a rights-based approach and finally, be subject to monitoring, reporting and verification. 

“Keeping global warming below 1.5°C is still possible, as long as we build on this momentum and scale up the global response to the climate crisis. But the window is closing fast, so it’s time for world leaders to fulfil all of their promises to guarantee the future we all want and deserve”.

Tanya Steele, Chief Executive at WWF-UK, said: “This summit has seen the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C become the North Star guiding us all, but a clear pathway is far from certain, and we still have a long way to go. 

“We are encouraged by the recognition that nature must be an integral part of tackling the climate crisis and by commitments on curbing fossil fuel subsidies. Requesting countries to bring their climate pledges in line with the Paris Agreement by the end of next year is also a small but significant step. We now need to see delivery with rapid, deep and ongoing emissions cuts alongside support for vulnerable countries facing current and future climate impacts. 
“Glasgow is the start line and not the finish. The UK presidency must continue to ensure that every climate promise is kept.”


For interviews or further information, contact: news@wwfint.org 

About WWF  
WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 30 million followers and a global network active in nearly 100 countries. Our mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit panda.org/news for the latest news and media resources; follow us on Twitter @WWF_media
Scenes from the climate march in Glasgow during COP26
© David Bebber