Despite growing evidence of the damaging effects of climate change, the latest global climate conference largely failed to deliver concrete plans to finally address global warming, says a new report from RBC Economics.
The United Nations’ conference on climate change in Glasgow, known as COP26, produced incremental progress but not the sort of decisive action needed to truly limit warming in the years ahead, the report suggested.
Average global temperatures have already risen by 1.1°C from pre-industrial levels, and the goal of the Paris Agreement was to limit warming to 1.5°C, it noted.
“That would require decisive action by 2030. But pledges at COP26, if met, still put us on track to warm between 1.8° and 2.4°C,” the report indicated.
While the difference between 1.5°C in warming and 2°C seems small, RBC said the practical effects will be significant.
Under the 2°C scenario, “average droughts will be twice as long, and wildfire seasons half-again as destructive — possibly engendering worse social unrest and economic damage,” it said. “Further action to secure a future where warming is less severe is critical.”
Yet, that sort of action did not emerge from the conference.
“After just two days, it would be premature to judge Glasgow a success or failure,” the report said.
Vague promises to address methane emissions could prove meaningless or, “if acted on by individual nations, the start of a movement to consign emissions from fossil fuels to the annals of history,” it said.
At this point though, the conference appears closer to a disappointment.
“[COP26] kept the world focused on climate change, and built momentum for a collective stand on fossil fuels — but failed to deliver strong commitments from the world’s biggest emitters on how they’ll halve emissions in just eight years,” the report said.
The prospect of financial sector involvement in catalyzing the transition to a lower-carbon economy was featured at the conference, with commitments from major global financial institutions to net zero financed emissions and an international emissions trading deal. However, “the details on how to accelerate climate finance remain murky,” RBC noted.
“Nations need to grapple with how global carbon pricing, a surefire way to generate financial returns for climate investments, will evolve if we’re to use the private sector to spur abatement,” it said.
Looking ahead, to achieve real progress, “it will be critical that national ambition, climate finance, and efforts to support developing countries develop jointly and rapidly,” the report said.
Additionally, constituents with large climate goals but modest political clout, such as Canada and Europe, “may need to find ways to work together on the sidelines if these major emitters remain self-interested in key areas,” it suggested.