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The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow.

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A new global agreement – the Glasgow Climate Pact – was reached at the COP26 summit. It aims to reduce the worst impacts of climate change – but some leaders and campaigners say it does not go far enough.

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The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow.



The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP26, was the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, from 31 October to 13 November 2021. The president of the conference was UK cabinet minister Alok Sharma. Delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the third meeting of the parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement (designated CMA1, CMA2, CMA3), and the 16th meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP16).

The conference was the first since COP 21 that expected parties to make enhanced commitments towards mitigating climate change; the Paris Agreement requires parties to carry out a process colloquially known as the ‘ratchet mechanism’ every five years to provide improved national pledges. The result of COP26 was the Glasgow Climate Pact, negotiated through consensus of the representatives of the 197 attending parties. Owing to late interventions from India and China, that weakened a move to end coal power and fossil fuel subsidies, the conference ended with the adoption of a less stringent resolution than some anticipated. Nevertheless the pact was the first climate deal to explicitly commit to reducing the use of coal. It included wording that encouraged more urgent emissions cuts and promised more climate finance for developing countries to adapt to climate impacts.

In the midst of the conference, on Saturday, 6 November 2021, a march against perceived inadequate action at the conference, and other climate change-related issues, became the largest protest in Glasgow since anti-Iraq War marches in 2003. Additional rallies took place in 100 other countries.


The United Kingdom held the presidency of COP26. Initially, the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, was appointed as president of the conference, but she was removed on 31 January 2020, several months after she had stepped down as an MP. Former Prime Minister David Cameron and former Foreign Secretary William Hague declined to take the role. On 13 February 2020, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Alok Sharma was appointed. On 8 January 2021, Sharma was succeeded by Kwasi Kwarteng as Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary and moved to the Cabinet Office, in order to focus on the presidency full-time.

Nigel Topping, the former CEO of climate change action organisation We Mean Business, was appointed the UK Government’s High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26.

Italy partnered with the UK in leading COP26. For the most part, their role was in preparatory work such as the hosting of a pre-COP session and an event for young people called Youth4Climate 2020: Driving Ambition. These events took place between 28 September and 2 October 2020 in Milan.


Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in April 2020 the conference was postponed to 31 October–12 November 2021. Both host countries, Italy and the UK, were heavily affected by the pandemic, and the venue of the conference, the SEC Centre in Glasgow, was converted in May 2020 into a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients in Scotland.

Convention Secretary Patricia Espinosa tweeted that “in light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive, COP26 in November 2020 is not possible.” She also indicated that economies restarting would be an opportunity to “shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, just, safe and more resilient.” The rearranged date was announced in May 2020. Earlier in 2021, the UK and Italy hosted summits of the G7 and G20 respectively.

Independent observers noted that though not directly related, the postponement gave the international community time to respond to the outcome of the United States presidential election, held in November 2020. President Donald Trump had withdrawn the United States from the Paris Agreement, although this could not take effect until the day after the election; while his Democratic challengers pledged to immediately rejoin and increase ambition to reduce emissions. Joe Biden did so upon being installed as president. At the conference, Biden apologised for Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement.


Previous summits have been sponsored by fossil fuel companies. To reduce this influence, the UK government decided that sponsors “have to have real commitments in place to help them reach net zero in the near future”. The first principal partners included three British energy companies and a banking and insurance company.

The World is getting warmer:

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Annual mean land and ocean temprature

The different faces of climate action:

There was a clear gender and generation gap at the Glasgow talks. Those with the power to make decisions about how much the world warms in the coming decades are mostly old and male. Those who are angriest about the pace of climate action are mostly young and female.

Malik Amin Aslam, an adviser to the prime minister of Pakistan, scoffed at some of the distant net zero goals being announced during the conference, including India’s: “With an average age of 60, I don’t think anyone in the negotiating room would live to experience that net zero in 2070,” he said.

On the first day of the conference, Greta Thunberg joined scores of protesters on the streets outside the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow. Throughout the two-week conference she and other young climate activists — including Vanessa Nakate, Dominika Lasota and Mitzi Tan — made numerous appearances at protests.

Participation in COP26:

Before the summit councils in and around Glasgow pledged to plant 18 million trees during the following decade: the Clyde Climate Forest (CCF) is projected to increase tree coverage in the urban areas of the Greater Glasgow region to 20%.

In September 2021, the conference was urged by Climate Action Network to ensure attendees would be able to attend in spite of travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the months before the conference, the British government had restrictions on travel from certain countries in place, and COVID passports were required in certain venues. Critics suggested unequal deployment of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide could exclude the participation of representatives of poorer countries most affected by climate change. The UK subsequently relaxed travel rules for delegations. Only four Pacific Islands nations sent delegations due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, with most island nations compelled to send smaller teams than they otherwise would have. Organisers have in place numerous COVID-19 rules for attendees, dependent on vaccination status.

On 4 June 2021, a nighttime light projection onto the Tolbooth Steeple was installed, under the ‘Climate Clock’ initiative. The projected Deadline and Lifeline statistics count the time window before 1.5 °C warming would become inevitable, and the percentage of global energy delivered through renewables, respectively.[citation needed] The Scottish Events Campus (SEC), known as the Blue Zone, temporarily became United Nations territory: the other main venue is the Green Zone at Glasgow Science Centre.

The summit was described as receiving “the cleanest electricity in the UK”, as 70% was supplied from low-carbon nuclear power from plants in Torness and Hunterston B, while the rest mostly came from wind power.


US President Joe Biden at the opening ceremony

Attendees dressed up, on the first day of the conference

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi meeting with CEO and Special Representative of the UNSG for Sustainable Energy for all and Co-Chair on UN Energy Damilola Ogunbiyi

Twenty-five thousand delegates from 200 countries are attending, and around 120 heads of state. Among the attendees were US President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. English broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough, who was named COP26 People’s Advocate, spoke at the summit.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke. Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš denounced the proposed European Union Fit for 55 laws, part of the European Green Deal, saying that the bloc “can achieve nothing without the participation of the largest polluters such as China or the USA”.

Prince Charles addressed the opening ceremony in person. Queen Elizabeth, having been advised to rest by doctors, addressed the conference by video message. Bill Gates called for a ‘Green industrial revolution’ to beat the climate crisis.

The fossil fuel industry was the largest delegation at the conference, with 503 people accredited.

Non Participants:

In October 2021, China’s leader Xi Jinping announced he would not be attending the conference in person and instead delivered a written address as the organisers did not provide an opportunity for a video address. With greenhouse gas emissions by China being the world’s largest, Reuters said this made it less likely the conference would result in a significant climate deal. However, a Chinese delegation led by climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua did attend. The 2021 global energy crisis intensified pressures on China ahead of the summit. The prime ministers or heads of state of South Africa, Russia, Iran, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey and Vatican City also did not attend the meeting.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said his non-attendance was due to concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi did not attend; a formal request had been made by Struan Stevenson and Iranian exiles of the National Council of Resistance of Iran to the Scotland police, to arrest Raisi for crimes against humanity if he attended based on the legal concept of universal jurisdiction. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also did not attend the summit. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who faced international condemnation over rising deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, also decided not to attend the summit personally.

The non-attendance of both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping received criticism from US President Joe Biden and former US President Barack Obama.

Myanmar and Afghanistan were entirely absent; both countries had their U.N.-recognized governments ousted militarily in 2021. The Myanmar military junta was blocked from entry to the summit. Six exiled Afghan climate experts had their applications rejected by the UNFCCC. Additionally, the island nation of Kiribati did not send participants, while fellow island nations Vanuatu and Samoa registered but failed to send a delegation.

About the Conference of the parties:

A conference of the parties (COP; French: Conférence des Parties, CP) is the supreme governing body of an international convention (treaty, written agreement between actors in international law). It is composed of representatives of the member states of the convention and accredited observers. Scope of the COP is to review the “implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments that the COP adopts and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention”.


90% of world now committed to net zero after pledges from India and others “Paris Rulebook” completed: creation of international carbon market and stricter emissions disclosures “Phasing down” of coal and fossil fuels highlighted for the first time in a COP final agreement Joint policy commitments on deforestation, methane, and international coal financing Reinvigorated international collaboration: joint US-China declaration on climate collaboration, $8.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership for South Africa, etc. Private sector mobilization: 5,200+ businesses and approximately 450 financial institutions (40% of financial assets) committing to science-based net-zero targets Growing private-public collaboration including global initiatives to develop, scale, and deploy the technologies required to address hard-to-abate sectors Steps toward robust and transparent disclosure and reporting of private sector plans Agreement for developed countries to double collective funds for adaptation by 2025

The COP26 agreement:

The agreement – although not legally binding – will set the global agenda on climate change for the next decade:

The world leaders’ summit was on 1 and 2 November, with each leader giving a national statement.

An important goal of the conference organizers is to keep a 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) temperature rise within reach. According to the BBC negotiators who may be key to the dealmaking include Xie Zhenhua, Ayman Shasly, Sheikh Hasina and Teresa Riber.

China said it aims to peak CO

2 emissions before 2030 and to become carbon neutral by 2060. It was asked to set a clear earlier date as this would have a very large “positive impact” on the Paris Agreement targets.

Phasing out of Coal:

South Africa is set to receive $8.5 billion to end its reliance on coal, details are sparse regarding capping mines, exports and local community support for the workers in the industry. Countries including Chile, Poland, Ukraine, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam also agreed to phase out coal in the 2030s for major economies, and the 2040s for poorer nations. These nations include some of the world’s most intensive users of coal. However they do not include the world’s largest users of the fuel, China, India, and the United States of America.

The US and many other countries agreed to limit methane emissions. More than 80 countries signed up to a global methane pledge, agreeing to cut emissions by 30% by the end of the decade. The US and European leaders say tackling the potent greenhouse gas is crucial to keeping warming limited to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F). Australia, China, Russia, India and Iran did not sign the deal, but it is hoped more countries will join later.

Methane Emission:

The US and many other countries agreed to limit methane emissions. More than 80 countries signed up to a global methane pledge, agreeing to cut emissions by 30% by the end of the decade. The US and European leaders say tackling the potent greenhouse gas is crucial to keeping warming limited to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F). Australia, China, Russia, India and Iran did not sign the deal, but it is hoped more countries will join later.

Russia demanded sanction relief on green investment projects for energy companies such as Gazprom. Russia’s climate envoy Ruslan Edelgeriyev accused Western countries of hypocrisy for urging Russia “to reduce methane leakages and yet we have Gazprom under sanctions”.

Net-zero targets

Many attendees committed to net-zero carbon emissions, with India and Japan making specific commitments at the conference. India, the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide by jurisdiction, set the latest target date planning to be net-zero by 2070. Earlier in October, China – the largest emitter of carbon dioxide by jurisdiction – had committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2060, and it was believed that India would issue a similar commitment. However, this was the first time that a date for carbon neutrality had been given as part of India’s climate policy. Green hydrogen has emerged as one of the major areas where companies can collaborate to help decarbonise hard to abate industries.


Leaders of more than 100 countries with around 85% of the world’s forests, including Canada, Russia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States, agreed to end deforestation by 2030, improving on a similar 2014 agreement by now including Brazil, Indonesia, businesses and more financial resources. Signatories of the 2014 agreement, the New York Declaration on Forests, pledged to half deforestation by 2020 and end it by 2030, however in the 2014-2020 period deforestation increased.

Indonesia’s environment minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar stated that “forcing Indonesia to zero deforestation in 2030 is clearly inappropriate and unfair”

Article 6:

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which describes rules for an international carbon market (such as for trees in the deforestation agreement) and other forms of international cooperation, is being discussed as it is the last piece of the rulebook remaining to be finalized. Although the parties have agreed in principle to avoid double counting of emission reduction across more than one country’s greenhouse gas inventory, exactly how much double counting will actually occur remains unclear. Carrying forward pre-2020 Kyoto carbon credits will be discussed, but is highly unlikely to be agreed. Therefore Article 6 rules could make a big difference to future emissions.

Climate Finance:

Climate finance for adaptation and mitigation was one of the principal topics of negotiation. Poor countries want more money for adaptation, whereas donors prefer to finance mitigation as that has a chance of making a profit. Appointed to the role of Climate Finance Adviser was Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England. The Paris agreement included 100 billion USD annually in finance by 2020 for developing countries. However, wealthy countries failed to live up to that promise, with members of the OECD behind in their commitments and unlikely to reach the agreed amount before 2023. A group of large finance companies committed to net zero portfolios and loan books by 2050. Scotland became the first country to contribute to a loss and damage fund.

Mitigation: The Glasgow agreement has emphasised that stronger action in the current decade was most critical to achieving the 1.5-degree target. Accordingly, it has:

  1. Asked countries to strengthen their 2030 climate action plans, or NDCs (nationally-determined contributions), by next year
  2. Established a work programme to urgently scale-up mitigation ambition and implementation
  3. Decided to convene an annual meeting of ministers to raise ambition of 2030 climate actions
  4. Called for an annual synthesis report on what countries were doing
  5. Requested the UN Secretary General to convene a meeting of world leaders in 2023 to scale-up ambition of climate action
  6. Asked countries to make efforts to reduce usage of coal as a source of fuel, and abolish “inefficient” subsidies on fossil fuels
  7. Has called for a phase-down of coal, and phase-out of fossil fuels. This is the first time that coal has been explicitly mentioned in any COP decision. It also led to big fracas at the end, with a group of countries led by India and China forcing an amendment to the word “phase-out” in relation to coal changed to “phase-down”. The initial language on this provision was much more direct. It called on all parties to accelerate phase-out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies. It was watered down in subsequent drafts to read phase-out of “unabated” coal power and “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. But even this was not liking to the developing countries who then got it changed to “phase down unabated coal power and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies while providing targeted support to the poorest and the most vulnerable in line with national circumstances…”. Despite the dilution, the inclusion of language on reduction of coal power is being seen as a significant movement forward.

Adaptation: Most of the countries, especially the smaller and poorer ones, and the small island states, consider adaptation to be the most important component of climate action. These countries, due to their lower capacities, are already facing the worst impacts of climate change, and require immediate money, technology and capacity building for their adaptation activities. As such, the Glasgow Climate Pact has:

  1. Asked the developed countries to at least double the money being provided for adaptation by 2025 from the 2019 levels. In 2019, about $15 billion was made available for adaptation that was less than 20 per cent of the total climate finance flows. Developing countries have been demanding that at least half of all climate finance should be directed towards adaptation efforts.
  2. Created a two-year work programme to define a global goal on adaptation. The Paris Agreement has a global goal on mitigation — reduce greenhouse gas emissions deep enough to keep the temperature rise within 2 degree Celsius of pre-industrial times. A similar global goal on adaptation has been missing, primarily because of the difficulty in defining such a target. Unlike mitigation efforts that bring global benefits, the benefits from adaptation are local or regional. There are no uniform global criteria against which adaptation targets can be set and measured. However, this has been a long-pending demand of developing countries and the Paris Agreement also asks for defining such a goal.

Socioeconomic transformation:


45 countries, including the UK, U.S., Japan, Germany, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Vietnam, Philippines, Gabon, Ethiopia, Ghana and Uruguay, pledged to give more than 4 billion dollars for transition to sustainable agriculture. The organization “Slow Food” expressed concern about the effectivity of the spendings, as they concentrate on technological solutions and reforestation en place of “a holistic agroecology that transforms food from a mass-produced commodity into part of a sustainable system that works within natural boundaries”.


The conference placed electric cars and pledges for vehicle electrification at the centre, while, according to activists, better investment and political will for sustainable transport modes have not been forced through with the focus not being on public transport and cycling.

Fossil fuels

A draft text published on 10 November asked governments to accelerate phase-outs and desubsidization of fossil fuels, the largest source of (anthropogenic) global greenhouse gas emission, [additional citation(s) needed] but was opposed by several countries with large fossil fuels based economic sectors.

Parallel Processes:

A lot of substantial action in Glasgow happened in parallel processes that were not a part of the official COP discussions. The announcements made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi about increased climate action from India fall in this category. These do not form part of the final agreed outcome, but Glasgow can certainly claim credit for facilitating these actions.

  1. India announced a Panchamitra (a mixture of five elements) of climate actions. It raised the targets for two of its existing climate targets, announced two new ones, and also promised to turn net-zero by the year 2070. India’s new commitments created the maximum buzz on the first two days of the Glasgow meeting.
  2. Several other countries also announced enhanced climate actions. Brazil, for example, said it would advance its net-zero target year from 2060 to 2050. China promised to come out with a detailed roadmap for its commitment to let emissions peak in 2030, and also for its 2060 net-zero target. Israel announced a net zero target for 2050.
  3. Over 100 countries pledged to reduce methane emissions by at least 30 per cent from present levels by 2030. Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential nearly 80 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time period. This pledge, if achieved, is estimated to avoid about 0.2 degree Celsius temperature rise by the middle of the century. The methane pledge is being seen as one of the biggest successes at COP26.
  4. Another set of over 100 countries promised to arrest and reverse deforestation by 2030.
  5. Over 30 countries signed on to a declaration promising to work towards a transition to 100 per cent zero-emission cars by the year 2040, at least in the leading car markets of the world.



Further criticisms of the results include that it needs not only commitments but also clear directions for mitigation and adaptation and robust mechanisms put in place for the relevant parties to be held accountable to their commitments. It was found that financial firms are not prevented from making private investments in fossil fuels, that there is a lack of focus on and transparency of the quality – rather than quantity or amounts – of pledges, that ending deforestation by 2030 is too late, that countries need to publish comprehensive policy-plans on how they will achieve their targets, and that the pledges are not mandatory, with no punishment mechanisms getting established at the conference and apparent content with a “self-regulation” approach for relevant organizations. According to critics, such issues could turn the conference into a “greenwashing” event of empty promises.

On 9 November, Climate Action Tracker reported that the global human civilization is on track for a 2.7 °C temperature increase in the Earth system by the end of the century with current policies. The temperature will rise by 2.4 °C if the pledges for 2030 will be implemented, by 2.1 °C if the long-term targets will be implemented also and by 1.8 °C if in addition all the targets in discussion will be fully implemented. Current targets for 2030 remain “totally inadequate”. Coal and natural gas consumption are the main cause for the gap between pledges and policies. They assessed pledges by 40 countries that account for 85% of pledged net-zero emissions cuts and found that only polities responsible for 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions – EU, UK, Chile and Costa Rica – have pledged a set of targets that they rated to be “acceptable” for comprehensiveness and for having a published detailed official policy‑plan that describes the steps and ways by which these targets could be realized.

On 10 November, it was reported that the United States and China agreed on a framework to reduce carbon emissions by co-operating on measures to lower the use of methane, phase out the use of coal and increased protection of forests.

On 11 November, the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), a group of 22 countries including China and India, asked for the commitment to mitigation to be entirely removed from the draft text, as they apparently argue that developing countries should not be held to the same deadlines as wealthier nations. The request was criticized as illogical and self-defeating as it would end up harming people in developing countries the most. and an article in the Daily Beast described the request as an attempt by China to sabotage the draft commitment. China was responsible for around 27% of the world’s current GHG emissions in 2019.

Russia demanded sanction relief on green investment projects for energy companies such as Gazprom. Russia’s climate envoy Ruslan Edelgeriyev accused Western countries of hypocrisy for urging Russia “to reduce methane leakages and yet we have Gazprom under sanctions”.

SOURCE: https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2021/11/06/default-calendar/2021-global-conference-on-health-and-climate-change

: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_United_Nations_Climate_Change_Conference

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