Ultimately, the Success or Failure of the Glasgow Climate Pact Will Depend on Domestic US Politics
As the international COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow draws to a close, many are hopeful that the final agreement, now known as the Glasgow Climate Pact, represents the beginning of a new era in climate action that will prevent the most destructive effects of climate change. Experts point out that the pledges made in Glasgow didn't go far enough to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C [2.7 degrees F]. However, there was substantial progress toward those goals despite the best efforts of Brazil, Russia, Saudi Arabia and others to derail firm commitments to abandon fossil fuels.
The European Union and the United States led the charge to create firm targets with verifiable goals at COP26. U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry worked tirelessly during the conference to break deadlocks by finding compromises all nations could accept.
Washington Post: "While climate talks largely stalled under Trump, Kerry’s approach to climate diplomacy put the United States at the forefront of galvanizing international action, even as Biden’s climate agenda remains stalled in Congress. “President Biden made an unprecedented commitment to this,” Kerry said Saturday after the climate deal was signed. Biden attended last week, making announcements on methane and deforestation."
But even with America's leadership, climate activists say the final agreement in Glasgow doesn't go far enough in providing the financial support that developing nations will need to transition from fossil fuels and prepare for the impacts of climate change like floods and droughts.
Washington Post: "A proposed “facility” for helping vulnerable countries cope with irreversible harms caused by climate change — known in U.N. jargon as “loss and damage” — has been reduced to a “dialogue between parties, relevant organizations and stakeholders.” This comes as a disappointment to developing countries and activist groups, who have argued for decades that the world’s poorest deserve reparations for a problem they did little to cause."
Climate activists have also criticized conference delegates for failing to end government subsidies to fossil fuel companies, but the final draft COP26 agreement does call for a "phaseout" of such subsidies. And, there were other notable achievements leading from the conference.
The big surprise of COP26 was China's agreement to take more aggressive steps on climate change in a joint declaration with the U.S. That's a significant development because the two nations emit about 40% of all greenhouse gases.
Axios: "The Wednesday statement calls for "accelerated actions in the critical decade of the 2020s," as well as cooperation on measurement and reductions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane."
COP 26 will also be remembered for its work to end deforestation as the leaders of more than 100 countries, including Brazil, China, Russia and the United States, vowed to end the practice by 2030. The agreement covers about 85 percent of the world’s forests which are crucial to absorbing carbon dioxide and slowing the pace of global warming.
Now, with the conference concluded and the final agreement published, the hard work begins as each nation attempts to make their promises reality at home. If history is any guide, domestic politics in fossil fuel producing nations will derail some of the pledges. For instance, since the Paris Climate Agreement was struck in 2015, global emissions have continued to rise, even during the COVID-19 crisis. COP26 is a major test of whether the global community can turn that around.
Moreover, the ultimate success or failure of the Glasgow conference agreement will depend on America's continued leadership on climate. That isn't a given because of our domestic politics. Congress must still act to approve President Biden's Build Back Better plan which allocates $550 billion to address climate change, largely in the form of tax credits to ease the economic transition to electric vehicles, renewable energy and more efficient buildings. Republicans in congress adamantly oppose such funding and climate change denial has become dogma within the GOP. In a recent survey only 24% of Republican voters believe that climate change is a serious "threat that must be addressed now with major legislation.”
If the GOP captures the House and Senate in 2022, and the White House in 2024, the United States will backslide again on its climate pledges, just as it did after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris accord in 2017 and reversed many of the Obama era regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions. And, without America's leadership on the issue, Glasgow might well represent the last major international effort to prevent the most destructive effects of climate change.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content