COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact – “We didn’t come home empty handed”


By Opinion by Tagaloa Cooper

The odds are always stacked against the Pacific region in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, and at COP26 we faced the additional challenge of Covid-19.

The Pacific nations contribute less than 0.06% of the world’s total greenhouse gasses, but are amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Already facing a battle for our voices to be heard, the global pandemic stretched our capacities to their limits this year.

In 2015, at COP21 in Paris, over 340 Pacific delegates attended. However, in Glasgow we had just over 100 Pacific delegates – many of whom are still making their way home or in quarantine.

Though small in population the Pacific has proved to be big in heart, dedication, and commitment through One CROP- Plus and Pacific Small Islands Developing States coordination as well as engagement in the Alliance of Small Islands States.

Reflecting on events in Glasgow, we must underscore that progress was made but not with the necessary commitment or urgency. When you consider 1.5 degrees Celsius as the benchmark for a liveable future for our Pacific people, COP26 was not a total success nor was it necessarily a failure. There is still a positive future to fight for and we didn’t come home empty handed.

Going into COP26, our delegations advocated for climate ambition and new commitments to stronger 2030 nationally determined contributions (NDC) targets and carbon neutrality by 2050.

What we have are countless pledges and stronger language; for parties to strengthen and significantly boost their NDC. To ‘ratchet’ ambition and revisit NDCs and Net Zero targets more regularly than every five years – all to reach 1.5 degrees’ target.

COP26 finalised the remaining and contentious areas of the Paris rulebook in transparency, global stocktake and carbon markets. While our region may have little benefit in carbon trading and markets, due to our almost zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), our voice and presence is vital in upholding environmental integrity. We were successful in reaching consensus on 5% of share of process for adaptation, and mixed results on carry over carbon credits and voluntary overall mitigation greenhouse emission.

We expressed disappointment for failing to obtain the USD$100 billion per year funding goal, which is now expected to be delivered in 2023. This is funding that we need in our region to help us both mitigate and adapt to climate change. There was also the call to increase funding available specifically for adaptation, funding which should be provided by the developed countries.

While we didn’t achieve this, we did see the goal to double funding provided for adaptation by 2025 which will mean an annual figure of approximately USD 40 billion to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. If combined with improved access, this will be an extremely welcome outcome for our region.

Our Pacific states called for a dedicated financial mechanism or facility specifically for Loss and Damage (L&D). However, there was disappointment as hopes for dedicated finance for L&D was watered down, resulting in the ‘Glasgow Dialogue’; an agreement to discuss future funding arrangements.

This is progress of sorts, but the refusal of some parties to engage in meaningful discussions on L&D remains a great concern. It does indicate that call of L&D finance will no longer be side-lined. We must keep the pressure up at COP27 and beyond.

In better news, developed countries were urged to provide funds for the operation of the Santiago Network that was established at COP25 to advance the work of Loss and Damage mechanisms.

We also acknowledge the gains achieved for our ocean, as Island Ocean States, we definitely did not leave COP26 empty handed. For the first time, our ocean is reflected in the outcomes and the final decision invited relevant work programmes under the UNFCCC to look at how to integrate our ocean in their work.

The preamble of the Glasgow Climate Pact highlights “the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including in forests, the ocean and the cryosphere, and the protection of biodiversity, recognized by some cultures as Mother Earth, and also noting the importance for some of the concept of ‘climate justice’, when taking action to address climate change.”

An annual dialogue to strengthen this ocean-based action is also to take place every May/June starting next year, in order to report back to the COP at the end of each year.

These are achievements, although there are many more to keep striving for. With these outcomes we sit on the cusp of new waves of action.

We need more action, commitments and drive to make this Paris Agreement promise a reality and we have that on the table for next year at COP27. While we didn’t get this at COP26, Parties have said they will come back with another round of more ambitious climate plans next year with stronger 2030 targets.

The COP26 President, Alok Sharma, stated that 1.5 is alive but with a weak pulse. Our Pacific islands are determined more than ever to breathe life into the 1.5. This legacy is what we need for our Pacific survival, hence we continue to be committed to the call to Flex for 1.5 across 2022 and at COP27 next year.

Our youth in Glasgow, led by Pacific Climate Warriors, made a tribute on the last days to the negotiators inside the room by quietly marching in the corridors in a line with the flags of the Pacific. Their message to the negotiators was ‘hold the line’ – we were united in our Pacific solidarity to do so.

In the end, the Glasgow Climate Pact was far from perfect, the Pacific did gain ground and we will keep moving forward gain even more ground at COP27. SPREP has started planning and will work with One CROP Plus to ensure the continuity of service to our region, for the benefit of our planet and humanity. Watch this space.

We acknowledge and pay tribute to the work of our negotiators and champions at COP26, those youth and non-government representatives present and those who supported the delegations from capitals to amplify the Pacific voice.

It is the voices of the most vulnerable that powers the climate change multilateral system to do what is right for our planet.

In the end, our Pacific voice matters, and must stay the course.

Oue tulou, Thank you.

*Tagaloa Cooper is the Director of Climate Change Resilience of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) leading the One CROP-Plus mechanism which is a collective of Pacific regional organisations and others, that work together to support Pacific Island Parties at COP26. SPREP is the lead coordinating agency of One CROP-Plus that includes Forum Fisheries Agency, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, University of the South Pacific and the Pacific Islands Development Forum, UN Development Programme and the UN Environment Programme.