At 5:48 a.m. on Wednesday, November 10, the first draft of the COP26 agreement sees the light of day. In six pages, negotiators at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow put down on paper for the first time the phase-out of coal and the end of fossil fuel financing. The timeline reveals much about the atmosphere in the hallways, where tension is rising after the handshakes and photo ops of the first few days.

We’ve summarized the key outcomes of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in this blog post.

Ticking time bombs

The Glasgow Pact calls on countries to consider further measures to curb potent non-CO2 gases such as methane. In addition to climate-damaging CO2, its “evil twin” methane also threatens our atmosphere. Methane is produced naturally in 40 percent of cases and occurs primarily in peatlands. When permafrost thaws in polar regions, the gas escapes. Also included in the COP26 document is language that emphasizes the need for a “gradual phase-out of coal” and a “phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies.” This was the first time that negotiators explicitly referred to a move away from coal and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies in a climate conference decision. However, wording for a mandatory shift away from fossil fuel subsidies reads differently.

 

Will we reach the 1.5 degree target?

New national commitments to meet the 1.5 degree mark are to be in place by 2022. The 1.5-degree target refers to the goal of limiting the man-made global temperature increase due to the greenhouse effect to 1.5 degrees Celsius, calculated from the start of industrialization around 1850 to the year 2100.

But the COP26 agreement, says Jennifer Tollman of the European think tank E3G, is “soft.” Considering that many countries have deliberately ignored the 1.5-degree target that was already fixed in the Paris Agreement, much stronger commitments to meet CO2 reductions are needed. Tollman said the document in general “shows the discrepancy between what negotiators are putting on the table and what they announced in the first days of the COP.”

 

Financial support for poorer countries

The agreement of the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 reaffirms the importance of public and private funding to achieve climate protection measures. It also stipulates that $100 billion in aid money – primarily to developing countries – should flow by 2023.  The distribution of funds will focus on a compensation mechanism for loss and damage caused by catastrophic climate events.

The missed opportunity: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

According to the United Nations (UN) Global Electronic Waste Monitor 2020, e-waste is the world’s fastest growing waste, representing a record 53.6 million tons in 2019 alone. By 2030, e-waste is expected to grow to 74 million tons per year. This problem, which is growing in relevance, was looked for in vain on the COP26 agenda, and while current government strategies are intended to create solutions to reduce emissions, opportunities to promote and support the reuse and recycling of rare materials and functional products were overlooked. As a result, the opportunity to drive the progress of a Circular Economy has been missed. In the IT industry, the potential of this economic model is particularly great. Many PCs, servers or monitors are still functional and can continue to be used. This is because secondary use is much more ecological than direct recycling. The reason: not all components and raw materials can be reused during recycling, and reprocessing requires energy. Prime Computer takes back larger quantities of used IT equipment and reintroduces them into the economic cycle via certified partners. Sacha Ghiglione, CEO of Prime Computer, recently gave a keynote presentation at the COP26 We Don’t Have Time Backdoor event at CIRCULAR ELECTRONICS DAY to make the weighty issue heard despite its absence from the official agenda of the climate conference.

Transparency of the measures

Another important issue that remains unresolved is transparency. How the countries’ emissions data will be disclosed and their CO2 emissions monitored remains unclear. Negotiators are working on the Excel files that contain the emissions data and are fine-tuning how they are presented. This is a complete change from the past because, as Alden Meyer, senior associate at E3G, points out, surveys show “we may be underestimating the true extent of emissions. We need to increase transparency.”

(c) Dati Bendo

Summary

Climate change activists draw a disappointed conclusion: “What’s on the table is still not good enough,” said Tracy Carty, head of the Oxfam delegation. This climate conference was all about money. Because without funds, all the good intentions of the declaration remain moot. And the richest countries come to the negotiating table without having done their homework. The $100 billion promised to developing countries for the transition by 2020 (a pledge made at the 2009 Copenhagen conference) has not materialized, so the latter must now ask the former for more funds and more certain pledges. Moreover, the political elite is not yet sufficiently sensitized to address the urgent problem of growing e-waste and to recognize the potential of the circular economy. That’s why we need committed and courageous entrepreneurs who see this problem as an opportunity and shape our future sustainably with their innovative ideas.

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