What to retain from the two weeks of discussions at COP26? The mechanism of the 2015 Paris Agreement seems to be more or less working. The climate policies that were in place at the time led to a warming of + 3.6 ° C at the end of the century; current policies are on a likely trajectory of + 2.7 ° C, even if they unfortunately cannot rule out warming up to + 3.6 ° C.
If they are kept, the long-term commitments of the countries declared to the convention could limit the warming to + 2.1 ° C, or even + 1.8 ° C, taking into account all the announcements that have been made in Scotland . However, several countries have not agreed to any strengthening of their commitments compared to 2015, including Australia, Indonesia, Russia, Switzerland, Thailand. Some have even pushed the provocation to make less ambitious promises this year… than in 2015, such as Brazil and Mexico.
On the positive side again, several sectoral agreements were signed in Glasgow, on methane, coal and deforestation. For the first time after a COP, the final text also mentions fossil fuels. In South Africa, and this is perhaps the most promising event of COP26, a financial agreement has been found to allow the coal mining industry to convert to renewable energies: it consists roughly in erasing the debts of the country’s main public electricity operator in exchange for investments in green infrastructure. Which is exactly what, with other economists, we have been suggesting for several years to implement at the level of the euro zone.
However, the goal of the Paris agreement is to maintain global warming “Clearly below + 2 ° C” and to do everything in order not to stray from + 1.5 ° C. We are far from it: the IPCC report published in August indicates that we should exceed the ceiling of + 1.5 ° C at the start of the 2030s. Then, there is a worrying inconsistency between the commitments for 2030 and those for the long term. term aimed at achieving carbon neutrality between 2050 and 2070.
Indeed, the objectives for 2030 are not sufficient, and do not limit the probable warming below + 2.4 ° C at best. This “implementation gap” indicates that even short-term goals need to be significantly strengthened. Not to mention the reality of their implementation: an investigation by Washington Post has just revealed that the gas emission figures displayed by Russia are entirely false since Russian gas installations let escape 20% of methane leaks, absent from official statistics.
Climate justice is the main loser of this COP. The industrialized countries are always reluctant to provide the funds they have pledged to give to the countries of the South to help them reduce their emissions, and to adapt to the impacts that are already hitting them hard. Industrialized countries, including the EU and the United States, are also blocking negotiations around “loss and damage”: compensation demanded by countries affected by the irreversible consequences of climate change, and in particular the engulfing of certain islands, of the Mekong Delta or at least a third of Bangladesh by rising sea levels.
Indigenous peoples, among the least responsible for the climate problem but at the forefront of those affected by it, continue to fight to make their voices heard. They are particularly worried about the “solutions” put in place, such as carbon markets, which could impact their lifestyles even more severely. Rightly so, since economic analysis easily shows that a carbon tax is a much better tool to fight against global warming than market instruments which are, by construction, inefficient in terms of transmission of information through prices, inefficient and unfair in terms of allocation of risky resources.
Finally, the very conduct of COP26 revealed a denial of democracy that can only alert: every day, more than 50,000 people marched through the streets of Glasgow, rightly announcing the apocalypse if we do not act. . Meanwhile, a handful of diplomats were meeting, doors closed, to negotiate an inadequate deal based on flawed science. Indeed, beyond the Russian gas leaks, the emission figures provided by several other countries are notoriously false: Malaysia, for example, claims that its tropical forest absorbs four times more carbon than other similar jungles. … The difference between the figures and the reality could represent up to 20% of the emissions officially displayed.
And now ? The agreement signed in Glasgow indicates that countries will have to step up their ambitions again next year. Admittedly, this is a step forward compared to the original mechanism of the Paris Agreement, which provided for a five-year wait. But, faced with the ecological disaster, the “small advances” are setbacks. Finally, international discussions cannot replace effective action by countries. In France, for example, the unraveling by the government and the lobbies of the Climate and Resilience law suggests that not only are we not respecting the Paris agreement that we signed, but also our chances of being in agreement with it. The European objective of reducing our emissions by 55% by 2030 is dwindling day by day.