United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres
United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a plenary session at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow Image Credit: AFP

If you have to sum up the outcome of the COP26 summit that wrapped up in Glasgow on Saturday in few words, the phrase “kicking the can down the road” would perhaps be apt and, for all intents and purposes, that is indeed what the 25,000 delegates, governmental representatives and global leaders could agree to.

The Glasgow Climate Pact becomes the first deal on climate change to specifically reduce the use of coal — a concession that allowed for an agreement by deciding to “phase down” rather than “phase out” its use. Going into the Glasgow summit, the hope was that all parties could reach a comprehensive deal to limit the warming of our planet to just 1.5 degree Celsius.

With the UAE set to host COP28 in two years’ time, the groundwork begins now on building consensus that the damage being inflicted on our planet is stopped, and that the worse effects of climate change are halted outright if not significantly reversed.

COP26 delegates only managed to sign off on a joint plan of action after a commitment to phase out coal that was included in earlier negotiation drafts was watered down, leaving COP26 President Alok Sharma to say he was “deeply sorry” for how events had unfolded.

The issue of coal and its significance for nations such as China and the US that burn it for energy production, and others such as India where it is a cornerstone powering domestic growth, was always going to be difficult. The Glasgow pact is at least a start, one where there has finally been movement on coal. COP28 can at least begin to accelerate that momentum now that coal has started to shift.

Since the Paris Agreement six years ago, providing a financial incentive to poorer nations to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, adapt renewable energies, change their environmental outlook and subsidise their development, is part and parcel of the fight for that 1.5 degree limit.

Financing remains an issue, with just half of the money promised at Paris paid. Developing nations want to see more — and more urgently. The historical reality is that much of the damage done to our environment began with developed nations’ exploitation of fossil fuels, and there is a price to be paid for asking developing nations now to turn from those carbon-based fuels.

The fight for 1.5 degrees was not won in Glasgow — it was at best a draw. There is a new fixture now at COP28 — and we all cannot afford to lose.