With the credibility of COP26 at stake, there is an urgent need to update climate commitments more regularly

People demonstrate during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, Scotland, Great Britain, on November 7, 2021. REUTERS / Yves Herman

Por Mark John, Simon Jessop y William James

GLASGOW (Reuters) – Behind headlines promoting cut emissions and financial commitments, the UN climate talks in Glasgow face a battle for credibility.

In the past week, rich countries have repeatedly defaulted on their promises. Big polluters have traded accusations and environmental activists have accused them of treason, while years of UN climate negotiations to control carbon emissions and protect the most vulnerable have had little effect.

“We have not seen sincerity in the commitments and progress made by developed countries, and we have heard many more slogans than practical results,” Chinese delegate Gao Xiang wrote in the official Shanghai newspaper on Saturday, the Guangming Daily.

Emissions are increasing and global temperatures, already 1.1 degrees Celsius higher on average than in pre-industrial times, continue to rise. Rich nations, which missed the 2020 deadline to deliver $ 100 billion a year in climate finance to the poorest nations, now say they won’t deliver on that promise until 2023.

Activists have called the first week’s fanfare a “greenwash” even as country delegates and UN negotiators are still working out the details to implement promises old and new.

But with the history of climate diplomacy riddled with broken promises, many have wondered: what needs to change beyond this year’s two-week conference to ensure accountability?


Negotiators from nearly 200 countries will return to the COP26 table on Monday, when there will be only five days left to close the deals needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius.

Big issues to be solved include establishing credible rules for carbon markets, assessing how industrialized countries should pay for climate-related losses incurred by the rest of the world, and securing financing to help developing countries adapt. .

But one idea has gained traction: have countries review and, if necessary, update their emission reduction commitments every year, rather than according to the current five-year schedule.

“It’s an emergency. Every five years? That’s not treating it as an emergency,” said Saleemul Huq, an adviser to the 48-country Climate Vulnerable Forum, which began pushing for more frequent reviews even before the talks started on Glasgow.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told delegates last week that if COP26 fails to reach big deals, countries should be required to review their climate plans every year.

US climate envoy John Kerry also endorsed more regular reviews.

“I hope we have a very good framework. Be it five years (or less), I can’t tell you today,” Kerry told reporters Friday. “But it should definitely be as low as we can get.”

Supporters of this measure say it is crucial. With just 10 years to cut global emissions by 45%, which scientists say is vital to keeping temperature rise in check, countries must be held accountable on an annual basis, they say.

“It would be negative in my mind to leave here with too long a horizon,” Kerry said.

For poorer countries with limited government capacity, an annual initiative could create problems.

“One year is too short a span,” said Chioma Felistas Amudi, deputy scientific director of the climate change department of the Nigerian Ministry of the Environment.

Felistas said that many of the countries’ pledges, called Nationally Determined Contributions, span a wide range of areas, energy plans and government initiatives that need both political will and financial backing.

“A one-year registration would interrupt the implementation process,” he said. “Five years gives us more time to implement and also to take stock.”

Britain’s environment minister questioned whether formal changes were needed in the UN process.

“When you have these annual events … there are a lot of references to previous deals,” George Eustice told Times Radio, although he did not rule it out.

(Additional reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels, David Stanway in Shanghai and Kylie MacLellan in London. Edited in Spanish by Rodrigo Charme)


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