COP26: How should we feel about the final deal?

Credit: PA

It’s hard to know when the reactions are so different. For Greta Thunberg, this is nothing more than “blah blah blah”.

For Extinction Rebellion, it’s a “titanic failure”.

But after months talking to climate experts, it feels that Greenpeace’s Jennifer Morgan - who has herself attended 26 separate COP meetings, is perhaps closer to a wider consensus in environmental circles.

She describes the deal as “meek and weak”- with nowhere near enough to protect the poorest countries - and still far from the track to 1.5 degrees.

  • Greenpeace’s Jennifer Morgan: 'This deal barely keeps the 1.5 degrees goal has achieved a signal that fossil fuels are on the way out'

Particularly disappointing for campaigners has been a lack of action on financially supporting countries already hit by loss and damage - and of course the watering down on coal.

But Morgan also says that this deal sends a signal that the era of coal is ending - and that the hope of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees has been kept alive - if only just.

When I interviewed the chief executive of the UK’s Climate Change Committee, Chris Stark, he said it was important not to ignore the progress.

In the past year, the world has come a long way - with the vast majority of GDP now covered by a net zero ambition- up from just 30% - and with new nationally determined contributions (NDCs) now on track to cut greenhouses gases by five billion tonnes in 2030.

Let’s be clear - that isn’t enough. To be on track to stay below 1.5 degrees we need to cut that figure by a monumental 29 billion tonnes, so there is still a massive gap.

But the direction of movement is unquestionably positive - with climate experts at the conference repeatedly arguing that there are many reasons to be hopeful.

Sepi Golzari-Munro, acting director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “The agreement reached in Glasgow is not perfect, but given the economic and political context around the world, it’s delivered more than many expected.”

Campaigners point out that while the reference to coal and other fossil fuels was watered down, it was in a COP document for the first time.

While a request for countries to speed up better climate plans in 2022 also remained in the draft, and there was a promise to rebalance a $100bn annual promise for poorer countries, towards helping them adapt to the impact of climate change as well.

Many were disappointed that there was no more than dialogue around funding loss and damage in countries already hard hit, (something the US has resisted because of fears of liability) but loss and damage was in there - for the first time.

For Chris Stark there is good movement on the long term ambition but much more needed in the short.

On that he’s clear - this is the start of the UK’s presidency of COP - he says- and they have the rest of the year to act further.

He insists that is critically needed before countries meet again in Egypt next year.