A review of COP 26: the key ‘take-aways’

Amidst all the hype, ‘blah-blah-blah’, hard negotiating and compromising at the recent COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, there were really four key areas for which the issues needed to be addressed, commitments made and actions to be pursued agreed. These were:

  • Cars: To agree a timescale for ICEs to be phased out in their entirety
  • Cash: To agree the requisite funding to be made available to developing countries, especially those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, to facilitate their adaptations / preparations
  • Coal: To agree a timescale for the phasing out of this fossil fuel as an energy source
  • Trees: To agree a timescale for the complete discontinuance of all deforestation activity
  • We will now seek to summarise what can be seen as the principal outcomes from the summit.

Cause for encouragement:

Coal & fossil fuels:

This was the first global climate deal which stated that fossil fuel consumption is a major determinant of climate change and formulated a plan to reduce the use of coal in power generation, with commitments to phase it out from 23 countries. This was tempered by some of the largest consumers declining to sign up, including USA, China & Russia.

20 countries pledged to stop financing overseas fossil fuel projects, including USA, UK and Canada.

Some countries also committed to granting no new licences for oil / gas exploration and establishing an end date for production.

Forest Loss: 

The ‘Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use’ was signed by 137 countries (including Brazil!) and covers 91% of the world’s forests. A commitment was made to ‘work collectively to halt, and reverse, forest loss and land degradation by 2030’. This is backed by £14 bln of public and private finance.

Without any interim targets, on-going monitoring will be key, especially due to some ambivalent interpretation by both Brazil and Indonesia.

Emissions targets ‘ratchet’: 

The deadline for countries to announce bolder emission reduction targets has been brought forward from the 2025 meeting to next year’s COP27, in Egypt.

There are potential ‘mitigations’ allowed to ‘take in to account different national circumstances’, which could be invoked by both China and India on the basis that they’re doing all they can, mindful of the role of coal in their power generation sector!

The ‘ratchet’ also demurs from explicit reference to limit warming to 1.5C.

Methane emissions: 

More than 100 countries, including the USA, committed to reduce methane emissions, which are 80 times more toxic as a GHG than CO2, by 30% by 2030 vs. 2020 levels.

If fully implemented, it is assessed that this could curtail warming by circa 0.2C by 2050.

Regrettably, China, India and Russia, three of the five biggest emitters, declined to sign up.

COP21 (Paris) rule book: 

An agreement was reached over the ‘Paris rule book’, which established rules on how countries should fulfil the pledge, made at COP21 in 2015, to limit global warming and reduce GHGs.

A deal on carbon markets was also reached, allowing those who reduce emissions to better than their targets to sell offset credits to other countries, enabling them to get closer to their targets.

Agreement was also made on a transparency framework to standardise the format for reporting on targets and emissions.


At the 2009 Copenhagen meeting (COP15), developed countries undertook to advance $100 bln from both public and private sources each year from 2020 to assist developing nations to manage and adapt to climate change.

It was assessed funding was around $20 bln short of that last year, and the pledge might not be achieved until 2023. Funding commitments by both Japan and the USA will enable the target to be met in 2022. Developed countries were requested to increase adaptation funding by 2025 to double that in 2019.

Amounts pledged are assessed to still be around $70 bln per year below what is required.

Need to do better:

Global warming: 

The Paris, COP21, meeting established the imperative of containing global warming by the end of the century at a maximum of 1.5C vs. pre-industrial times. An analysis of the COP26 pledges covering measures over the next decade indicated that these would only contain warming by 2.4C, with existing policies resulting in +2.7C.

So, there’s a lot more to be done.


A number of countries, urban centres and organisations undertook to phase out ICE cars & vans by 2040 and by 2035 in certain leading markets e.g. UK. Over 30 countries signed the ‘Declaration on Zero Emission Cars and Vans’ but this did not include several large economies, such as the USA, China and Germany. Similarly, while a number of the vehicle manufacturers, such Ford, GM, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover signed up, VW, BMW and Toyota declined.

Loss / damage: 

A proposal for a damages fund to assist poorer countries with losses arising from severe weather events, rising seas and other climate related impacts was submitted by developing countries. This was opposed by the USA, who had the proposal watered down to provision of technical assistance but no money to fund any rebuilding.

The proposal will be submitted again at COP27 next year. 

Elimination of coal: 

Possibly the biggest disappointment of COP26 was the insistence by both China and India, who, respectively generate 60% and 70% of their electricity from coal powered plants, that the declaration on its future usage substitute ‘phase out’ with ‘phase down’

COP26 was never intended to deliver the full package of pledges required to contain warming to well below 2.0C by the end of the century nor to map out the country strategies to support these undertakings.

Rather, it should be viewed as one of several steppingstones to get there.

However, the current state of progress means that there is a very wide gap between where the world is, post-COP26, and where it needs to be in order to be able to achieve the maximum 1.5C temperature rise.

This is against a backdrop where the world still needs oil and gas which means that one of the key challenges, still to be addressed, is how best to manage the transition out of these energy sources in a way that is consistent with meeting the 1.5C max. target

One of the imperatives for the success of this transition is the need for policymakers to get serious about the

adoption of a global carbon pricing system- a compelling, but feasible, hurdle to be addressed as a matter of some urgency in the coming years.

Rod Prowse worked for 30 years across the full spectrum of the downstream oil sector, in both the UK and USA, whic included leadership positions in both retail and wholesale fuels businesses. Rod draws on his extensive knowledge of this global industry to bring us ‘Industry Insights’ each month.