The major agreement sealed on Saturday that sought to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius alive left observers dismayed as it fell short of providing the funds needed by vulnerable countries to deal with the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
The Glasgow Climate Pact, signed by nearly 200 nations after two weeks of intense negotiations, called on countries to reduce the use of coal for the first time in the history of the UN-brokered talks. It also urged governments to boost their plans to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions sooner.
But the conference ended with last-minute objections from coal-dependent countries China and India who wanted the language on coal watered down from “phase out” to “phase down.”
The pact does not also reflect a commitment from developed countries to pay the long-overdue financial pledge of $100 billion per year.
Although the deal urged rich nations to “at least double” the funding to help developing countries like the Philippines adapt to climate change impacts, it was criticized for not doing enough.
Tony La Viña, a negotiator in previous climate talks, called the outcome of the climate negotiations held in the Scottish city of Glasgow a “disappointment.”
“While advances were made, they do not go far enough. What was agreed was the bare minimum and not the maximum possibles,” he said.
“The long, drawn-out negotiations ended in a deal that allows developed country governments to sidestep their responsibility to deliver their fair share of climate action and settle their climate debt,” said Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development coordinator Lidy Nacpil.
Jon Bonifacio, an activist with Fridays for Future and Youth for Climate Action Philippines, said the Glasgow agreement “did little to ascertain our present and future when it comes to the climate crisis.”
“This means we keep fighting, at the international, national, all the way to the community level to make sure that we are heard and that we are not ignored,” he said.
Loss and damage
One of the most contentious issues during COP26 was “loss and damage” associated with the adverse impacts of climate change.
Vulnerable countries have been pushing for dedicated funding that will help them cope with losses and damages from extreme weather events and slow onset events such as sea level rise brought by fossil fuel burning and deforestation.
But a proposal for a loss and damage finance facility was blocked by developed nations.
“They were not ready for that approach even though they kept saying we recognize that you need this assistance,” G77 and China negotiator Vicente Yu told Philstar.com on the sidelines of COP26. G77 and China, which includes 134 countries, is the largest negotiating bloc.
Instead, governments conceded to initiate a “dialogue” to discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities “to avert, minimize and address” loss and damage in future talks.
“Without adequate and forthcoming climate finance and strong acknowledgement from rich countries on their financial responsibility for loss and damage, it will be hard for developing countries already grappling with COVID-19 and heightened poverty to confront impacts from climate extremes and slow-onset events,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Yeb Saño, a former climate negotiator for the Philippines.
Despite the letdowns, there were advances made during COP26. The rulebook of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement was finalized, allowing the delivery of the landmark accord.
The Santiago Network, a network of organizations and experts that can provide technical assistance and support to vulnerable countries, was also operationalized.
Climate Reality Project Philippines branch manager Nazrin Castro said COP26 was an “incremental step forward” rather than the “monumental leap” needed to ensure a livable planet.
“We aim for incremental wins here and there in hope that eventually they all amount to steps forward to fighting climate change together,” Yu said.
In a speech on Saturday, the Philippine delegation, through Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentabella, expressed concerns over several portions of the agreement, but said the country remains hopeful.
“As a country, we remain hopeful that we come out of Glasgow hungrier for more action,” he said.
For Yu, who has been attending UN climate talks since 2007, hope for a better future does not lie in the outcomes of negotiations.
“That hope lies not in what we agree here. But that hope lies in what we do back home and together in our communities, in our countries, in international level,” he said.
This story was produced as part of the 2021 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.
Banner image: Logo of COP26 in Glasgow, United Kingdom / Credit: Gaea Katreena Cabico