COP26 Calls for Net Zero by 2050

November 18, 2021

Last week, a new global agreement — the Glasgow Climate Pact — was reached at the COP26 summit in Scotland. The agreement, although not legally binding, will set the global agenda on climate change for the next decade. The overall goal of the summit was to ask the 200-plus countries in attendance to strengthen their national climate blueprints to bring them in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Under the Paris Agreement of 2015, countries were asked to make changes to keep global warming “well below” 2˚C and to try to aim for 1.5˚C in order to prevent a climate catastrophe. The new climate pact urges countries to keep cutting global emissions until reaching net zero in 2050, not only reducing carbon emissions as much as possible, but also balancing out any remaining emissions through carbon capture and storage mechanisms. However, critics say that the current pledges are too low, and without longer term targets, they are inconsistent with net zero goals and will cause global temperature to continually increase.

Surprise Joint Declaration Between U.S. and China, But No Deal on Methane

In what will be likely be seen as one of the major achievements of the conference, China and the U.S. issued a surprise joint declaration to work together to slow climate in this decade and both reaffirmed the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. However, China signaled it won’t join the global pledge to cut methane emissions, which is an initiative launched by the U.S., the European Union, and partners to reduce global methane emissions to keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5C within reach.

More than 100 countries representing 70% of the global economy have now signed onto the pledge, but without the top three emitters: China, Russia, and India.

More than 100 countries representing 70% of the global economy have now signed onto the pledge, but without the top three emitters: China, Russia, and India. The signatory countries have committed to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 by using best available inventory methodologies to quantify methane emissions, with a particular focus on high emission sources, such as exhaust from natural gas engines, and the practice of flaring and handling coal mine ventilation. Twenty-plus global philanthropies will provide $328 million to support scaling up these methane mitigation strategies worldwide. The Biden administration plans to meet the reduction goal in the U.S with stringent new methane regulations for the oil and gas industry released by the EPA.

Pledges Made for EV Transition While Key Countries, OEMs Stay Silent

If the world is to limit global warming to 1.5˚C, experts estimate that the share of light-duty electric vehicles (including plug-in hybrids) needs to grow to at least 75% by 2030. Two landmark pledges were made at COP26 to accelerate the transition to 100% zero emission vehicles, although they alone cannot reach that market goal. In the first pledge, several governments and OEMs (including GM, Ford, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, and Mercedes Benz) signed on to an agreement to transition to 100% zero-emission sales of new cars and vans by 2040 globally and by 2035 in “leading markets.”

In a separate pledge, 15 also agreed to work toward 100% zero-emission sales of new trucks and buses by 2040.

In a separate pledge, 15 also agreed to work toward 100% zero-emission sales of new trucks and buses by 2040. Critics have noted that the world’s largest auto markets, including the U.S., China, Germany, South Korea and Japan, were absent from the pledges, and the top two global automakers (Toyota and Volkswagen) also didn’t sign. The countries that have signed up, including Canada and Britain, represent just a fifth of the global car market, and the corporate signatories produce only about 30% of cars sold worldwide.

Final Pact Struggles to Tighten Climate Goals on Coal, Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The early draft of the climate plan asked countries to strengthen their national climate blueprints by the end of next year to bring them in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. It also called on the U.N. to report every year on what the overall impact of countries’ climate plans is on global warming. Notably, the draft called on countries, for the first time, to accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels. While the draft failed to mention any dates, more than 40 countries pledged to quit coal. However, some of the world’s most coal-dependent countries, including Australia, India, China, and the U.S., haven’t signed up and the language in the draft has been watered down after pushback.