COP26 Decision Time

As with previous COPs, a draft decision paper was produced during the second week of negotiations. It formed the basis for intensified discussions ahead of the formal deadline. A revised draft was duly published on Friday morning. We can expect further refinements of the text to emerge as horse-trading continues over the weekend. Key points to look for in the final agreed declaration include: 

  • whether it contains concrete references to phasing out of fossil fuels; 
  • whether it compresses the timescale for Parties to provide updated/enhanced NDCs; 
  • what commitments it makes on the Paris Rulebook, especially Article 6; and 
  • the timescale for developed countries to comply fully with their earlier promises on the provision of climate finance to developing countries.

There has been a lively debate on whether the pledges already made at COP26, if fully delivered, would in fact limit global warming to less than 2 degrees by the end of the century. Different climate models appear to give slightly different projections. But the uncertainty over long term damage is far from academic. The Precautionary Principle requires that we plan for the worst while hoping for the best. 

Last Tuesday was themed Science and Innovation Day in the COP Presidency programme. I attended the headline event, entitled ‘Responding to the IPCC Report: Keeping 1.5o alive’. The keynote speaker, UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, emphasized that the 6th Assessment report of the IPCC provides convincing evidence that every fraction of a degree of global warming above the 1.5-degree target causes escalating economic and societal damage. 

With so much still to play for in the closing hours, the EU negotiating team is working flat out. We will have to wait until the dust settles to assess just how much progress has been made. Ibec’s coverage of the conference will conclude next week, hopefully with a short interview with Minister Eamon Ryan.