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What are the main points of contention between the countries at COP26?

The world has high hopes for the United Nations Climate Summit, held in Glasgow, Scotland, between October 31 and November 12, to come up with decisions that help avoid worst-case scenarios of climate disasters.

The success of this summit depends on the leaders of the countries participating in the summit reaching an agreement on the main points of contention, and coming up with decisive decisions to adapt and mitigate climate impacts that help all countries.

What are the main points of contention? Will the summit succeed in pushing world leaders to reach common points of understanding?

Reviewing the goals

Since the signing and entry into force of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on March 21, 1994, the world has agreed on the need to act to reduce the impact of human activity on the climate. Since then, world leaders have met regularly to confront this problem.

The Glasgow Summit is the twenty-sixth summit since the entry into force of the Framework Agreement. It is the first summit to be held to review the achievement of the goals stipulated in the Paris Climate Agreement, which was signed in 2015.

The Paris Agreement warned that if the Earth’s temperature rose by 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the temperature prevailing before the industrial revolution, it would be difficult to avoid worst-case scenarios, and accordingly the signatories to the agreement committed to implementing a number of points, namely reducing carbon emissions and expanding renewable energy production. Maintaining that the global temperature rise remains below 2 degrees Celsius and setting a target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the commitment of the major industrialized countries to provide financial aid to poor countries to deal with the impact of climate change.

It was agreed to conduct a review of progress every 5 years, and the first review was supposed to take place in 2020, but it was postponed due to the Corona pandemic until 2021.

Despite the countries’ agreement on the broad framework, which is to work to put an end to climate changes and disasters, there are many differences between countries about how to achieve these goals, the time frame for achieving them, and the emissions rates that each country has committed to reducing, as well as implementing the commitments made by rich countries towards poor countries. As part of its responsibility for climate change.

A crisis of confidence between the North and the South

In 2009, the wealthy Nordic nations, which include the United States, Japan, Western Europe and Canada, pledged to transfer at least $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries reduce greenhouse emissions and deal with the effects of climate change. However, as of 2019, only $79.9 billion has been saved, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

It will be difficult for developing countries to completely get rid of fossil fuels and move towards renewable energy in light of the need for exorbitant money to pay for infrastructure and new technology, in the absence of subsidies from developed countries.

United Nations reports indicate that about three quarters of government funds allocated to the climate sector in developing countries are borrowed funds that must be repaid and were not in the form of non-refundable grants from rich countries, which places a great burden on developing countries, especially with the losses they incurred last year. In light of the outbreak of the Corona pandemic.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, expressed his concern about the Glasgow summit, and the leaders’ success in reaching goals compatible with the desired goal in light of what he described as “a worrying level of mistrust.”

Guterres said that there is “a mistrust between the major developed countries and large emerging economies, and a general mistrust between the developed and developing worlds.”

The Secretary-General of the United Nations attributed this to the fact that “developed countries have so far not been able to implement or even provide a set of commitments that guarantee the fulfillment of $100 billion to support developing countries annually.”

The statements of the Secretary-General of the United Nations raised concerns, and according to observers, the lack of confidence may lead to developing countries being less willing to make concessions to reach a consensus.

This fear was expressed by the Director of Climate Negotiations at the World Resources Institute and former Commissioner for Climate in the European Union, Yamed Dagnet, suggesting that “the Glasgow summit will face greater challenges than any previous climate summit.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that negotiations would be “extremely difficult” and said last month that there was a “six-in-ten chance” that rich countries would make good on their promises on climate aid.

The deadlines

The list of differences between the countries parties to the climate summit includes the time frame required to reduce their emissions, the percentage of carbon emissions they aim to reduce, and how much they will convert to renewable energy.

Most major economies target to reach “net zero” emissions by 2050. Recently, Germany announced a reduction in the projected time limit for eliminating carbon emissions by five years from the original goal, as the ruling coalition announced its goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and is considered Shortest timeline among major economies to reach carbon neutrality.

On the other hand, Russia and China, two of the largest contributors of global emissions, announced that they would reach a level of zero emissions by 2060.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Monday in Glasgow that India has set itself a target of carbon neutrality by 2070.

Emissions reduction ratio

Until countries reach carbon-neutrality, there remains a dispute between them over the percentage of reduction during the coming years until net zero emissions are reached, and by what extent fossil fuels will be dispensed with and the transition towards renewable energy.

China is the largest contributor to carbon emissions in the world, but it is also one of the largest investors in alternative energy sources.

According to the Paris Agreement, China is not obligated to reduce emissions until 2030. In its newly submitted plan to the United Nations, China pledged to eliminate emissions before 2060 and to reach their peak emissions by 2030. 

The United States is the second-largest shareholder in global emissions, and has pledged to halve emissions at least by 2030, from levels in 2005, and to achieve “net zero” emissions of greenhouse gases (carbon neutrality) by 2050. .

For their part, the European Union countries presented in 2015 their plan to reduce emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030.

During the meeting of the Group of Twenty (which represents 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions) in the Italian capital, Rome, ahead of the Glasgow summit, the group’s largest economies, on Sunday, expressed their commitment to limiting climate warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and also agreed to stop funding new plants operating coal worldwide by late 2021.


This story was originally published on asharq.com, with the support of Climate Tracker.

Rahma Diaa
Rahma is a freelance Egyptian journalist and media trainer. She’s the founder of the Climate school initiative and the winner of Covering Climate Now’s Emerging Journalist Award 2021. She’s collaborated with Arab and foreign media, such as, Asharq news, Scientific American (Arabic version), climate tracker, VICE, and ARIJ websites and networks.