COP26: Here’s What Countries Pledged

In Brief

COP26: Here’s What Countries Pledged

Governments endorsed the Glasgow Climate Pact and made new pledges on deforestation, methane emissions, coal, and more. But critics say they failed to secure more ambitious commitments to limit global warming.

The most recent UN climate summit—the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties (COP26)—was widely billed as a critical event for securing meaningful commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

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Experts say the conference fell short of achieving the pledges needed to reduce emissions enough to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal on limiting warming. But if governments follow through on commitments made during COP26 and ramp up ambition in the next few years, the goal could be within reach. 

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Here are some of the notable new commitments by governments, financial institutions, and individuals:

Glasgow Climate Pact 

In a first for a UN climate agreement, the pact reached by the end of COP26 urged countries to phase down coal and fossil-fuel subsidies. But it did not ask countries to completely phase them out. It called on countries to make more ambitious commitments by the end of 2022. (Previously, countries were asked to submit new pledges every five years.) Countries also agreed on rules for international carbon markets.

CFR’s Alice C. Hill and Madeline Babin examine what COP26 did and didn’t accomplish.

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More than 130 countries pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030. The signatories possess 90 percent of the world’s forests. Notably, Brazil, home to the Amazon Rainforest, signed on. In addition, Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s richest people, pledged $2 billion to help restore natural habitats and transform food systems.

This Emmy Award–winning InfoGuide visualizes deforestation in the Amazon.

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More than one hundred countries signed the U.S.- and European Union–led Global Methane Pledge and agreed to collectively slash methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. 

This In Brief explains how cutting methane emissions can move the needle on climate change. 

Coal and Fossil Fuels

Twenty-three countries went further than the Glasgow Climate Pact, making new commitments to phase out coal. Some signed on to an initiative to help developing countries, such as India and South Africa, transition away from coal. Twenty-five countries and five financial institutions committed to stop public financing for most fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022. And a handful of countries joined an alliance [PDF] that aims to halt new drilling for oil and gas. 

This In Brief examines how hard it will be for the world to quit coal.

U.S.-China Agreement

The United States and China, the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases, agreed to boost cooperation on combating climate change over the next decade. They said they will work together on increasing the use of renewable energy, developing regulatory frameworks, and deploying technologies such as carbon capture. 

For Foreign Affairs, experts debate whether the United States can trust China to fight climate change. 

India’s Net-Zero Pledge

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India, one of the top emitters after China and the United States, will aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. 

This Think Global Health article looks at how communities are adapting to climate change in India’s Zanskar Valley.

Climate Finance

In the Glasgow Climate Pact, governments agreed to set up a mechanism to help countries already suffering loss and damage due to climate change, though they did not work out the details. The pact also urged developed countries to double their collective amount of funding by 2025 to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change. During COP26, a few countries made such commitments. Among them, Japan pledged an additional $2 billion per year for the next five years, and Italy pledged an extra $1.4 billion per year. 

CFR’s Hill and Babin explain why climate finance is critical to accelerating global action.

Participants walk around a venue for COP26.
Thousands of people from around the world gather in Glasgow for COP26 in November 2021. Christoph Soeder/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

Zero-Emission Vehicles

More than thirty countries, dozens of states and cities, and several automotive companies agreed to work to guarantee that new cars and vans sold are zero-emission by 2035 in leading markets and 2040 globally.

This Backgrounder examines the state of U.S. infrastructure

Firms’ Net-Zero Pledges

More than 450 banks, insurers, pension funds, and other firms that collectively manage $130 trillion committed to use their funds to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

The Why It Matters podcast explains how to leverage markets in the fight for climate action.

Will Merrow created the graphic for this In Brief.

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