World leaders, business groups and NGOs have said the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement is still alive, despite disappointment with the COP26 outcome.
The two-week conference concluded with countries agreeing to “revisit and strengthen” their 2030 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by the end of 2022 and report progress on emissions every two years, as well as committing to ‘phasing down’ coal use. Negotiators also agreed on carbon market rules for implementing Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, but failed to deliver elsewhere, such as in delivering a financial assistance programme to help poorer countries deal with ‘loss and damage’ caused by the climate crisis.
Despite this, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, UK prime minister Boris Johnson and UN secretary-general António Guterres have all stated that the Paris Agreement is still alive. “COP26 is a step in the right direction,” said von der Leyen. “1.5°C remains within reach; but the work is far from done. The least we can do now is implement the promises of Glasgow as rapidly as possible and then aim higher.”
These sentiments were echoed by the business community. Eliot Whittington, director of the UK and European Corporate Leaders Groups, said the summit has generated fresh energy around the 1.5°C target. “If the range of commitments from governments, business and investors to deliver real action is reflected in and inspires more ambitious new targets next year, then we still have a chance of doing this – that is insufficient but undeniable and positive progress.”
Tanya Steele, chief executive at the World Wide Fund for Nature, said COP26 has reinforced the need for rapid, deep and ongoing emissions cuts alongside support for vulnerable countries facing climate impacts. “This summit has seen the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C become the North Star guiding us all, but a clear pathway is far from certain, and we still have a long way to go.”