A disappointing COP26 closure, but keeps a narrow window open for 1.5°C

Posted on 13 November 2021

EU’s role was uneven in a summit outcome that allows a pivot to implementation
We came to Glasgow expecting leaders to agree to a step change in the pace and scale of climate action. While we didn’t get the step-change, and the text agreed is far from perfect, we are moving in the right direction, in WWF’s view. 

Governments had to make progress in resolving three major gaps: a gap in targets to reduce emissions, a gap in rules to deliver and monitor progress, and a gap in financing the climate action needed to put the world on a pathway to a safer future. 

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead on Climate and Energy, said:  “We must acknowledge that progress was made.  There are now new opportunities for countries to deliver on what they know must be done to avoid a climate catastrophe. But unless they sharply pivot to implementation and show substantial results, they will continue to have their credibility challenged.”

While the short-term ratcheting-up of climate pledges by 2022 is welcome, COP26 wrapped up today with weak decisions in a number of important areas, including adaptation, loss and damage and climate finance. But, there are significant hooks in the text for countries to increase short-term climate ambition and to implement binding climate policies. 

The EU supported some of the more positive elements which made it into the final text. For example, this COP marks the first time that fossil fuels subsidies are mentioned in an approved decision text, as well as the recognition of the need to ramp up investments in clean energy while ensuring a just transition.  The first text was well received. Yet, we were deeply disappointed by the watering-down of the language on coal from phase-out to phase-down by a single country, India. WWF emphasizes that strong  language, deadlines and ways to operationalize are needed if we are to achieve the needed transition away from all fossil fuels.
Ester Asin, WWF European Policy Office director said:
“As one of the most progressive regions on climate, the EU needed to pull its weight. And indeed, it defended pillars of the Paris Agreement, like aiming for 1.5°C, as well as crucial wording on ending fossil fuel subsidies and coal, which, shamefully, has been substantially weakened. We now have one year for all parties to come back with stronger climate pledges or the 1.5°C limit will start slipping out of reach.”

Imke Lübbeke, WWF European Policy Office head of climate and energy said:
“Yesterday Commission Vice-President Timmermans said: “if [the EU] need to do more, we will be doing more”. Given today’s agreement for all parties to increase their pledges by COP27, and the fact that the EU’s ambition is not aligned with a 1.5°C pathway, the EU needs to rapidly deliver on that promise. The Fit for 55% package must set rules to cut emissions faster, make polluters pay, allow everyone to finance clean solutions, and increase wind and solar power while ending subsidies for harmful tree burning for energy.”

Importantly, the final text recognises the critical role of nature in achieving the 1.5°C goal, encourages governments to incorporate nature into their national climate plans, and establishes an annual ocean dialogue for ocean-based mitigation.
More information:

WWF comments on the EU at COP26: WWF International press release on the conclusion of COP26