The thorny challenges of COP26 in Glasgow

“What is the point of a COP? “ The question comes up to each Conference of the Parties on climate change. But we can also turn the question around. Where would the fight for the climate be without these high-level meetings, which place climate issues at the center of the world game – this time, from October 31 to November 12, in Glasgow? Far, no doubt, from the achievements obtained. If they are not spectacular, if global CO emissions2 continue to increase, the momentum towards a low carbon world is underway.

→ EXPLANATION. COP26: what is a climate conference for?

“You have to see the glass half full, thus estimates Henri Waisman, researcher at the Institute for sustainable development and international relations (Iddri) and member of the IPCC. Thanks to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which requires states to review their commitments upwards every five years, there has been progress and collective ownership. Even countries like Indonesia have adopted a climate strategy – aiming for carbon neutrality in 2060. Who would have imagined that not long ago? “

According to IDDRI, around sixty States and more than 1,000 companies have committed to carbon neutrality, often by 2050.

The COPs, essential milestones

” Insufficient ! “, will say a lot. In fact, the warming trajectory is still at 2.7 ° C in 2100, according to the UN, very far from the objective of the Paris agreement of staying well below 2 ° C, and preferably at 1.5 ° C. With emissions that are likely to climb by 16% between now and 2030 when they should fall by 45%… Nevertheless: in a world crippled by rivalries – and without “global policemen” -, the COPs are proving to be essential milestones.

What’s at stake this time? COP26 is the most important since 2015, because it closes the first five-year cycle – which will ultimately be six years, Covid requires. In other words, it must push States to raise their objectives, while some are showing little support.

“Out of 144 revised commitments, about sixty have an equal or lesser ambition”, lamented Lola Vallejo, at Iddri, on October 20. The next day, the UN Secretary General appealed to the ” sense of responsibility “ to avoid a “Disaster”.

At the G20, a first impetus

Lola Vallejo counts on the role “Political accelerator” of the COP. From Monday 1er and Tuesday, November 2, many heads of state and government are expected in Scotland, including Emmanuel Macron. And this weekend, in Rome, the G20 should give a first impetus. Countries showing themselves to be cautious will thus have to answer to the collective.

“The press and civil society are very important to put pressure on the leaders”, remarks the IDDRI researcher. Australia, for example, which has all the potential to develop renewables, might find it difficult to justify its pro-coal stance. “The COP is an accountability framework”, she sums up.

Even China, which does not like having its agenda dictated, plays its part in it. ” serious “ on the international scene, adds Henri Waisman. It has already committed to carbon neutrality in 2060 and to no longer finance coal-fired power plants abroad.

A tense context between North and South

Another key element of the dynamic: sectoral coalitions. The British presidency of the COP26, which has positioned itself on the food industry and the electric car, will bring States and manufacturers around the table. “Zero carbon steel could also be an important topic in Glasgow, spurred on by South Africa, Henri Waisman advances. Technical solutions are emerging, but require real cooperation. “

The fact remains that confidence must be restored, in a tense context between North and South. First, because the 100 billion dollars promised to countries of the South as of 2020 are not there – climate finance capped at 79.6 billion in 2019, according to the OECD. Then because the lack of vaccine solidarity has left its mark. “The Covid has deepened inequalities. This is not trivial in this chamber ”, observes Lola Vallejo, recalling that the strength of the COPs is, precisely, to put countries on an equal footing. “However, some delegations from the South may be less numerous because of the Covid …”

This confidence – whether regained or not – will weigh on the negotiations. And in particular on two thorny subjects, which relate to the rules of application of the Paris Agreement. On the one hand, the project to create a global carbon market. On the other hand, the rules of transparency. Today, “The roadmaps of the countries do not have common rules, each one does a little as he wants”, observes energy consultant Stéphane His.


The most important COP since 2015

The “COP” is the conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. One hundred and ninety-seven “parties” (countries or groups of countries) signed this convention adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

In 2015, during the COP21, the States adopted the Paris agreement on the climate, which entered into force at the end of 2016. Universal, it establishes rules intended to keep warming below 2 ° C and if possible at 1 , 5 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era.

Every five years, signatory countries are required to present a more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction roadmap – the Paris Agreement is seen as a process, in order to move forward in stages and collectively. These roadmaps are called “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs).


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