26th United Nations Climate Change Conference: End of the fossil fuel era

For the first time in the history of the UN climate change conferences (COPs), the final declaration contains an agreement accepted by all countries on accelerating the global energy transition away from coal.

Decisions to speed up climate action and strengthen global solidarity

For the first time in the history of the UN climate change conferences (COPs), the final declaration contains an agreement accepted by all countries on accelerating the global energy transition away from coal and on eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels. International climate policy has thus outlined a new economic model. Generally, past UN climate change conferences were about countries setting targets. Now, for the first time, this year’s conference (COP26) also addresses how to achieve them. Germany was among the frontrunners of the global agreement – both as a leading negotiator for the EU and as part of a new collaboration which will support South Africa in its phase-out of coal and which aims to serve as a blueprint for other partnerships of the kind.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze stated: "Glasgow significantly picks up the pace on climate action – and urgency is key. The international community can and must make decisive progress in the 2020s. COP26 has shown that the world is pursuing the common goal of a climate-neutral global economy. The age of fossil fuels is coming to an end, the energy transition will be the model to emulate worldwide. I would have wished for clearer statements on the coal phase-out, but the path is now mapped out and there will be no turning back. The agreement on the energy sector opens the door for future climate change conferences to plot a course away from fossil fuels in other areas too. In order to keep within the 1.5°C limit, all countries will undertake far more frequent monitoring of progress on the Paris Agreement goals. Goals are important for climate action, but the 1.5-degree pathway will only become a reality if we walk the talk together. This can work if genuine progress is made on wind and solar energy, electricity grids, charging points for electric vehicles, forests, peatlands and green steel production."

At the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, all 197 Parties agreed far-reaching decisions on stepping up climate action and strengthening solidarity with the countries already bearing the main brunt of climate change. The global community recognises the scientific findings which show that to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius the world must significantly increase its efforts during the present decade. That is why countries are called on to revisit and strengthen their existing climate targets for the 2020s next year. This picks up the pace compared to the Paris Agreement. The EU has already significantly raised its climate target for 2030, and many other major economies have followed suit. One of the successes of COP26 came on the margins of the conference, when China indicated it would enhance its climate ambition next year.

Moreover, in future the global progress will be assessed annually and not just every five years. This means further accelerating international climate action significantly during the 2020s.

Another key element of the final declaration is solidarity with countries that are already heavily hit by climate change. Support for adaptation to the impacts of climate change that can no longer be avoided is to be doubled by 2025. Germany currently provides 2 billion euros for adaptation finance, making it one of the leading donors.

The final declaration also places a strong focus on climate change-related loss and damage. This affects island states in particular, for instance their coasts and infrastructure. In this context, shortly before the conference concluded, Germany pledged 10 million euros to identify ways of responding to loss and damage. The topic may be on the agenda at the 2022 COP in Egypt. Svenja Schulze noted: "This sends a vital message that developed countries are taking the matter seriously. I have proposed to my Egyptian colleague, the next COP President, that loss and damage be made a key topic at the next Petersberg Climate Dialogue. This is of great importance to me, because developing countries are facing the threat of grave damage from climate change that they themselves did not cause."

A milestone in the negotiations was the finalisation of the rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement. It was agreed, for example, a common time frame of five years for future climate targets, and reporting will comply with uniform standards and formats. Rules on the future trading of emission reductions between countries were also agreed. They ensure there are no loopholes in the accounting of emission reductions. For the overall success of the conference it was also necessary to make a concession to developing countries and allow the use of a limited number of pre-2021 emission reduction units. Before COP26, the European Union has decided to achieve its climate target without purchasing any units from other countries.

Over and above the official decisions of the 26th Climate Change Conference, the supporting programme also saw a number of advances: As well as the declaration by China and the US on enhancing their climate action efforts in the 2020s, another notable success is that India has now set itself the goal of climate neutrality by 2070. A new alliance on reducing methane emissions won the support of 105 countries. This alone can lead to a 0.2-degree reduction in global heating.

Germany contributed to the success of the conference in many areas:

Global coal: Germany represented the EU in the negotiations on the COP26 final declaration on the global coal phase-down. Together with partners, Germany paved the way to ensure that emerging economies were willing to take this step: The new partnership to support a socially just coal phase-out in South Africa, which Germany helped drive forward, is described by the United Nations as a blueprint for further partnerships.

Enhanced climate targets: The EU already significantly enhanced its climate target under the German Council Presidency last year. Other major economies such as the US have done the same. In Glasgow, China indicated that it would join them next year.

Climate finance: Climate finance has long been considered the issue that could lead to the failure of the conference. Germany helped pull the global North and South together on this, setting the right example with its announcement this summer to increase its climate finance for developing countries from public budgets from four to six billion euros. Other donors have followed suit. The Climate Finance Delivery Plan, produced by Canada and Germany, gave the $ 100 Billion Pledge the necessary transparency. According to this plan, developed countries will mobilise on average 100 billion US dollars each year from 2021 through to 2025.

Adaptation finance: At this conference, climate adaptation finance was in focus more than ever. Germany pledged another 150 million euros in Glasgow; a record number of countries made their own commitments. Moreover, Germany has stood with the particularly vulnerable developing countries to ensure that the call to double adaptation finance was included in the final declaration. Financing forest protection: Together with 11 other countries, Germany pledged to provide 12 billion US dollars for forest protection by 2025. This sum will support mitigation and adaptation measures, forest restoration and sustainable development.

International public finance of fossil fuels: Germany already withdrew from international financing of coal infrastructure in 2015. In Glasgow, the German government took the next step and joined an alliance of frontrunner countries to end international public finance of fossil infrastructure altogether if it is not compatible with the 1.5-degree pathway to climate neutrality.

Nuclear power: In a joint statement in Glasgow, Germany, together with like-minded EU states, sent a signal that nuclear power is no solution for tackling the climate crisis, and that it must not be included in the EU taxonomy as a sustainable energy.

Overall, Germany signed 13 of 14 frontrunner declarations of the UK COP Presidency, including the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement, the declaration to withdraw from international finance of fossil fuels, the Global Forest Finance Pledge, the Leader’s Declaration on Forest and Land Use, the Glasgow Breakthroughs for increased climate action in energy, road transport, steel and hydrogen. Germany also signed the Global Methane Pledge aiming to reduce climate-damaging methane emissions worldwide by at least 30 per cent by 2030 compared to 2020.

13.11.2021 | Press release No. 275/21 | Climate

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