COP26 has ‘mountain to climb’ to curb warming as talks intensify

“Even with all new Glasgow pledges for 2030, we will emit roughly twice as much in 2030 as required for 1.5 degrees Celsius,” CAT said.

China, the world’s largest emitter, says it will achieve net zero only in 2060, the same year as major oil and gas producer Russia. India, another large-scale polluter, has a target date ten years later.

Moreover, CAT explicitly warned against assuming that longer-term “net zero” pledges would even be met, since most countries have not yet implemented the short-term policies or legislation needed.

“It’s all very well for leaders to claim they have a net zero target, but if they have no plans as to how to get there, and their 2030 targets are as low as so many of them are, then frankly, these ‘net zero’ targets are just lip service to real climate action,” said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, one of the organisations behind the CAT.

Sharma acknowledged as much, saying: “The world needs confidence that we will shift immediately into implementation, that the pledges made here will be delivered, and that the policies and investment will swiftly follow.”


A key pillar of climate action is carbon pricing and trading – mechanisms that force polluters to pay a market price for their emissions, or pay others to offset them, by planting trees that bind carbon or investing in cleaner power.

COP26 is supposed to create a global framework for carbon pricing, but the problem has defeated the last two climate summits, and is in danger of proving insurmountable in Glasgow too.

“There’s a higher chance of getting a deal this time, but it could be very weak,” said Gilles Dufrasne, a policy officer with Carbon Market Watch. “Having no deal might hence be an acceptable outcome.”

Many campaigners including Greenpeace oppose the use of carbon offsets under any circumstances, saying they lessen the incentives for polluters to change their habits, and risk paying for changes elsewhere that would have happened anyway.

“Net zero does not mean zero,” warned Teresa Anderson, climate policy coordinator for ActionAid International. “In the majority of cases, these corporations … are planning to carry on business as usual” for long periods, she added.

But some say things could be worse, noting how US President Joe Biden had promptly returned the world’s second-biggest greenhouse gas emitter to the Paris Agreement, from which his predecessor Donald Trump had withdrawn, and pushed a US$555 billion climate package through Congress.

Democratic US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez underlined the more constructive US approach at the Glasgow conference on Tuesday.

“We’re just here to say that we’re not just back. We’re different and we’re more just. And we are more open-minded to questioning prior assumptions of what is politically possible,” she said.

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