What happened at COP26? What can it mean for EU support to climate action?


The 26th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties continues to be a subject for discussion - was it a success or a failure? Decisions failed to put the world on track of the 1.50C target. Also, current NDC ambitions revealed to be insufficient. This has been discouraging for everyone hoping to have significant results from COP26.

COP26, however, also brought hope for the future. Through the Glasgow Climate Pact, all parties agreed to keep the 1.5ºC target alive and to finalise the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement. An increasing number of countries set “net zero targets”. Despite concerns were expressed on the credibility of such targets, this has been a significant progress when compared with previous COP meetings.

Other key results of COP26 have been:

  • The Glasgow Climate Pact foresees a “phase-down of unabated coal power (and of) inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”, as well as “mid-century net zero”.
  • Parties are expected to revisit their 2030 emission reduction targets in 2022 with higher mitigation ambitions.
  • There will be annual high-level Ministerial meetings on pre-2030 ambition in order to speed up further enhancement of mitigation commitments.
  • COP26 finalised the Paris Rulebook, resolving the key outstanding political decisions needed for Parties to begin implementing the Paris Agreement
  • The important role of nature in achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goal was emphasized.

Besides these milestones, there have been also several positive results which could be further supported by the EU in its partner countries.

First of all, adaptation to climate change has been more in the focus of attention of decisions and working groups, acknowledging that it needs to be given a higher priority. Parties have agreed to launch the 2-year “Glasgow-Sharm el Sheikh Work Programme” (GlaSS) on the Global Goal on Adaptation. This is a significant step forward to strengthen resilience and increase the capacity of people especially in climate vulnerable nations.

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The focus on adaptation shall be translated into more available funds for developing Parties. The Glasgow Climate Pact calls “developed country Parties to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing country Parties from 2019 levels by 2025.” COP26 also saw a record finance raising effort for the Adaptation Fund of over $350m, around three times the previous highest level. Contributions to the Least Developed Country Fund reached $600m.

COP26 made clear statements that the changing climate has already and will increasingly cause loss and damage. It endorsed the need for more money to be provided to tackle loss and damage through existing sources. By launching the Glasgow Dialogue, Parties, civil society and technicians come together to discuss how to increase the funds applied to loss and damage and how Parties in need can access these funds. COP26 did not reach consensus on a proposal from developing countries to set up a financing facility dedicated to loss and damage.

Parties also recognised the need to continue the support to developing countries to identify capacity-building gaps and find solutions to resolve them. The needs for capacity building are particularly high, notably in view of the stricter Enhanced Transparency Framework compared to former MRV systems. Insufficiently ambitious NDCs implied the need to review national ambitions by 2022. Further, and regardless of the level of ambition, there are also doubts on the capacity of some countries to remain on track with their proposed emission reduction and time targets. This implies many countries still need to set new routines for climate action planning, implementation, monitoring and feedback mechanisms in compliance with ETF requirements.

International climate finance is expected to increase significantly in the years to come. Climate funds mobilisation and efficient use also require human and institutional capacities, that need to be built in recipient countries.

COP26 highlighted the connections between both climate and biodiversity challenges. Decisions taken encourage Parties to incorporate the protection, conservation and restoration of nature and ecosystems in their national and local climate action plans, to support sustainable livelihoods, indigenous people and local communities.

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Also, negotiations on the Paris Rulebook led to several outcomes on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement (on cooperation in the implementation of NDCs to allow for higher ambition in mitigation and adaptation actions and to promote sustainable development and environmental integrity), common timeframes for GHG mitigation targets and Enhanced Transparency Framework. Especially, the ETF should bring all Parties to the same line of reporting requirements, starting from 2024.

The outcomes of COP26 do not allow us to take a deep breath of relief from the climate crisis. Yet, it is difficult to declare COP26 as a defeat looking at the achieved results. These open new opportunities to address the challenge of our time and achieve more sustainable futures.

 ©EU GCCA+ Dominican Republic