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expert reaction to first draft of an agreement at COP26

The draft COP decision has been proposed by the President.


Dr Joeri Rogelj, Director of Research and Lecturer in Climate Change and the Environment at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, said:

“The draft presents an ambitious COP outcome that acknowledges the science and presents it as the basis and context for all other decisions. There is a limit to how far diplomatic efforts of the UK presidency can lead to further increases in reductions targets over the next couple of days. A lot of progress has been made, but currently this still falls short of the goals of the Paris Agreement. Encouragingly, however, the draft text acknowledges this shortfall and suggests an accelerated process to update pledges and increase ambition. Now it’s up to countries to defend the parts of the text they support so that the final outcome is an ambitious one. “


Prof Jeffrey Kargel, Senior Scientist, Planetary Research Institute, Tucson, Arizona, said:

The COP26’s recommendations are a needed impetus to avoid a worst-case global climate catastrophe. Already we see dire consequences of global climate change, and business as usual will more than double what we have already witnessed. My concern is that some major economies of the world seem to think that they can escape action and let other countries do the heavy lifting. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not their world versus our world; it is one planet. Developing nations, too, have an obligation to develop wisely.

“I am not concerned about life in general, down to all the cockroaches and rats and microbes, going extinct; that won’t happen. But human civilization is very much at risk, as is the natural world as a thriving planet. I can’t say whether we are headed toward a dark, post-apocalyptic world, or that humans are headed to a Stone Age future, but the aspirations and livelihoods of our children and grandchildren are immediately at risk this century. Our decisions and actions will affect humanity for centuries beyond. We need to heed the recommendations of the COP26.”


Dr Lisa Schipper, Environmental Social Science Research Fellow, Environmental Change Institute, said:

“The target of end of 2022 for new pledges is insane – it’s way too late! We need pledges by end of this year and action to have impact by the end of 2022.”


Prof Lavanya Rajamani, Professor of International Environmental Law at the University of Oxford, and part of the core drafting and advisory team at the 2015 Paris negotiations, said:

“The draft agreement is instructive not just for what is in it, but even more so for what is not. The draft agreement ‘urges’ states to embed their net zero targets (GHG or CO2)  into their long-term low GHG development strategies under the Paris Agreement, and to align these with their short-term NDCs. The agreement emerging from COP-26, however, needs to go much further. It needs to create a clear process to anchor mid-century net zero targets in the Paris Agreement’s institutional architecture, and systematically enhance the credibility, accountability, and fairness of such targets. Ultimately the success of the negotiations depends on the extent to which ‘national determination’ can be disciplined in service of the climate, whether in relation to short term actions or long-term targets.” 


Dr Laurence Wainwright, Departmental Lecturer, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, said:

“It is in many ways an impressive document, particularly in its ambition and clarity. It is candid, bold and unifying. However, at times it is vague and short on details – particularly in terms of implementation. It is all well and good to use words like ‘urges’ and ‘encourages’, but the real test of course will be in whether meaningful action will be taken as a result of the decision document. Moreover, one must be careful to strike the right balance between the forest (strategic goals) and the trees (practical implementation) with such texts – and here we perhaps see too great a focus on the forest.”


Prof Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, University of Oxford, said:

“Hmmm… are they now telling us that by ‘keep 1.5 alive’ they always meant ‘buy a big defibrillator to resuscitate 1.5 °C by 2100’?

“It’s a bit worrying that they seem to suggesting the Parties agree things that aren’t true, such as: ‘limiting global warming to 1.5 °C by 2100 requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around mid-century’. First, does this mean we have all now agreed that pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5 °C in the Paris Agreement always meant getting temperatures back to 1.5 °C by 2100? I always thought it meant limiting peak warming (which is the main driver of peak impacts) to as close to 1.5 °C as possible. And if it is now agreed that the 1.5 °C goal does not refer to peak warming at all (I confess I missed that memo), then the statement simply isn’t true. What 45% by 2030 and net zero around mid-century delivers is to halt warming to close to 1.5C (probably within the range of recent revisions to pre-industrial temperatures) not long after mid-century, nothing more – temperature trends after mid-century will depend on the balance of emissions and removals after mid-century, which are not in the control of today’s decision makers anyway.”


Prof Euan Nisbet, Greenhouse Gas Group, Royal Holloway, said:

“COP 26 hasn’t been as headline-grabbing as earlier meetings, but maybe there is some real accomplishment taking place, not just ‘blah blah blah’. 

“There will be firm benefits from the new attention to neglected non-CO2 greenhouse gases such as methane and N2O. [Paragraph 18] 

“The emphasis on capacity building [paras 32 and 33] is particularly welcome. Developing countries need more than finance. They need to build their own science skills in their own universities and agencies, so they themselves see the needs and choose actions best suited for their own communities. 

“The need to cut CO2 emissions is dominant, very urgent, and we are making catastrophically little progress on that. 

“But to quote St David, patron saint of Wales, ‘Do the little things’. They will add up also, and if so, COP 26 will be a success.”


Bob Ward, Director of Policy and Communications at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said:

“This draft includes all the key elements of a successful outcome, but there needs to be more ambition and more precision. It is clear that the current set of pledges on emissions are not yet consistent with having a reasonable chance of holding warming to no more than 1.5 Celsius degrees.

“We need countries to agree to return every one or two years with more ambitious pledges. We also need stronger evidence of action to deliver the pledges. Rich countries must come forward with credible plans for delivering the overdue financial support for developing countries and offer significantly increased support from 2025 onwards.”


Prof Neil Harris, Professor of Atmospheric Informatics, Cranfield University, said:

“The current text shows that the world’s governments are yet again incapable of addressing this issue. Politics is getting in the way.

“They seem to be happy if they can get a reduction in warming from 2.7 to 2.4C agreed at this COP and to leave further decisions for the future.  I was hoping for under 2C by the end of this COP. 

“Real commitments with penalties and no wriggle room have to be given to achieving that in a year’s time, otherwise the same thing will happen again. And before you know it, it will be 2030.

“From a broader perspective this has been my view for some time but this COP has confirmed it in my mind with governments managing less than their share of the load.

“The only hope is that the slack is taken up by local and regional governments (especially cities), the private sector and by individuals.  The anger of the youth, the indigenous peoples and the global south is entirely justified.”


Prof William Collins, Professor of Meteorology, University of Reading, said:

It is important that this agreement recognises the importance of the 1.5 degree goal, and also that the latest science from the IPCC shows that deep cuts (45%) in emissions are needed in the next 9 years. The current pledges in Glasgow are not even close to meeting these cuts by 2030. If countries do not start straight away on a path towards these 2030 emission levels it will be too late to update them in 2025 (the next scheduled revision). The hope was that this level of ambition could have been achieved in Glasgow; if not, countries will need to be brought back to negotiations again next year.”


Prof Meric Srokosz, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, said:

“I guess the two key paragraphs are:

  1. Also recognizes that limiting global warming to 1.5 °C by 2100 requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around mid-century;
  1. Strongly urges all Parties that have not yet done so to meet any outstanding pledges under the Convention as soon as possible;

“And the key question is: are governments prepared to agree to AND implement the necessary reductions in CO2 emissions? Or, in Greta Thunberg’s words, will this just be a ‘greenwash’ – with fine words but insufficient action?”



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