Praising the hard work of COP26 President Alok Sharma – the British Indian Cabinet minister in charge of navigating the negotiations – Johnson expressed the hope that the two-week-long summit which went into extra time over the weekend will mark the “beginning of the end of climate change”.
His statement followed an agreement between nearly 200 countries on a final communique late on Saturday, which recognises India’s intervention for the world to “phase down” rather than “phase out” fossil fuels.
“There is still a huge amount more to do in the coming years. But today’s agreement is a big step forward and, critically, we have the first ever international agreement to phase down coal and a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees [Celsius],” said Johnson.
“I hope that we will look back on COP26 in Glasgow as the beginning of the end of climate change, and I will continue to work tirelessly towards that goal,” he said.
According to the impact analysis of the agreement, the central summit goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C has been kept in reach – provided countries continue to take ambitious action over the next decade.
Over the last two weeks, tens of thousands of people from 197 countries came together in Scotland for the talks which culminated in the ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’. It commits countries to phase down unabated use of coal, supports a just transition for developing countries and action to tackle loss and damage, and agrees a common timeframe and methodology for national commitments on emissions reductions.
India, represented by Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, made a crucial intervention to insist on fairness and balance in the final communique.
“Developing countries have a right to their fair share of the global carbon budget and are entitled to the responsible use of fossil fuels within this scope. In such a situation, how can anyone expect that developing countries can make promises about phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies (when) developing countries have still to deal with their development agendas and poverty eradication,” questioned Yadav.
China also had similar views on the subject of fossil fuels, impacting the final wording of the pact to reflect efforts to “phase down” the use of unabated coal and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, while providing targeted support to the poorest and the most vulnerable in line with national circumstances.
“On the issue of coal, for the very first time in any of these conferences, the word coal is actually reflected in the text; that is a first. Yes, of course, I would have liked to ensure that we maintained the ‘phase out’ rather than changing the wording to phase down, but on the way to phasing out you have got to phase down,” Alok Sharma told ‘Sky News’ on Sunday.
“Ultimately, we need to ensure that we continue to work on this deal and commitments. And, on the issue of coal, China and India are going to have to justify to some of the most climate vulnerable countries what happened. You heard the disappointment on the floor,” he said, insisting it overall marked a “historic agreement” worth being proud of.
Countries are now asked to return next year with a more ambitious 2030 emissions reductions target – or so-called Nationally Determined Contributions – in line with the 1.5C target. This will be combined with a yearly political roundtable to consider a global progress report and a Leaders’ summit in 2023.
The UK government said it will continue to push for greater action on reducing emissions and supporting developing countries with finance and access to new green technology over the next year of its Conference of Parties (COP) Presidency, before Egypt takes on the mantle in November 2022.
The Paris Rulebook, or the guidelines for how the Paris Agreement is delivered, was also completed on Saturday after six years of discussions since the Paris COP in 2015. This includes Article 6, which establishes a framework for countries to exchange carbon credits through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action,” said Sharma, soon after he struck his gavel to announce the Glasgow Climate Pact.