Complex Made Simple

COP26: What you need to know about climate decisions so far

Leaders at the COP26 summit in Glasgow agreed on two deals that could become key tools in the climate fight

100 countries backed a UK-led declaration to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s net-zero pledge on Monday was a welcome surprise Close to 100 countries have committed to cutting back on the potent greenhouse gas methane

According to Bloomberg Green, leaders at the summit in Glasgow agreed on two deals that could become key tools in the climate fight.

The U.S. and European Union’s much-anticipated pledge to cut methane emissions got support from more than 90 countries, though super-polluters China and Russia held out.

Also, 100 countries backed a UK-led declaration to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030 which was backed by Brazil, home to the Amazon jungle, and Russia, home to the world’s largest expanse of temperate forests. It also came with a $19 billion commitment from both governments and companies. The pact encompasses about 85% of the world’s forests.

Getting on target graph

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s net-zero pledge on Monday was a welcome surprise to many. Based on Modi’s other promises, it’s possible India’s emissions have already peaked.  

Another promising technological innovation is direct air capture (DAC), which is attracting dollars from Elon Musk and Bill Gates.  

COP26 Scorecard

The second day of the COP26 climate summit, according to the New York Times, saw progress on climate issues but still fell well short of the big prize: Securing aggressive commitments to reach net-zero carbon emissions globally and to slow the rising temperatures that have led to lethal fires, floods, droughts and heatwaves around the world.

According to the Independent, Europe could see near 50C heat every year by the end of the century if urgent action is not taken to slash greenhouse gas emissions, citing a Met Office analysis.

This summer’s deadly European heatwave, named Lucifer, which saw a new temperature record of 48.8°C set in Sicily, would have been impossible without the climate crisis, the analysis found.

Such heat in Europe can now be expected once every three years as a result of the global warming that Earth has already endured, it added. 

However, current pledges and promises put forward are still not enough to put the world on track to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of the century, the aspiration of the landmark Paris Agreement made in 2015.

The analysis is the latest in “attribution science,” the study of how the climate crisis is influencing extreme weather events and extremes.

The scientists used a “medium” greenhouse gas emissions scenario, called “SSP4.5”, to examine how the risk of heatwaves on the same scale as Lucifer might change in the future.

The scenario would see temperatures rise by around 2.7°C by 2081 to 2100, with a possible range of between 2.1C and 3.5C.

This level of warming is around the level expected if countries do not increase their current ambition on the climate crisis.

UN review published ahead of Cop26 found that countries’ current climate plans would result in around 2.7°C of heating by 2100.

Methane

Close to 100 countries have committed to cutting back on the potent greenhouse gas methane at the Cop26 climate summit.

The nations have agreed to slash methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

Brazil is among new signatories to the Global Methane Pledge, a deal spearheaded by the US and the EU.

“Methane is one of the gases we can cut fastest,” added Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.

“Roughly 30% of global warming since the industrial revolution is due to methane emissions … Today global methane emissions grow faster than at any time in the past.”

Most human-made methane emissions come from fossil fuels and agriculture, particularly livestock rearing.

Because it is potent but short-lived in the atmosphere, it has been described as the strongest lever available for reducing warming in the near term.

“Methane is an easy win in terms of climate action,” said Professor Emily Shuckburgh, director of Cambridge Zero at the University of Cambridge.

“[It] is the second most important greenhouse gas and rapid cuts would make an important difference. It has contributed about 0.5C to warming to date and, although it doesn’t stay as long in the atmosphere as CO2 in the first 20 years after its release, it is 80 times more powerful at heating (it).”