5 Reasons COP26 Was a Success

The COP26 climate change conference is due to conclude in Glasgow, U.K. on Friday as parties hope to reach a final agreement after two weeks of talks and wrangling over fossil fuels.

A draft agreement was released on Thursday but a further revised draft was provided by the conference's chair shortly after 7 am local time on Friday with nations set to discuss it before a 6 pm deadline for the end of talks.

Though the final agreement may change based on those talks, it appears that world leaders will come away with some successes, though they are also likely to disappoint some nations and activists.

Here are five reasons COP26 may be considered a success.

1. The 1.5°C Target

A key aspect of the COP26 talks has been to limit global temperature increases to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and the draft agreement published on Friday morning retained language supporting this goal.

The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change had set a goal of limiting global warming to between 1.5°C and 2°C, so keeping the lower target in the final document will be considered an achievement.

The draft agreement, "Recognizes that the impacts of climate change will be much lower at the temperature increase of 1.5 °C compared with 2 °C and resolves to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C."

2. Pledge on Forests

One success from COP26 is a global pledge "to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030" which has now been agreed by 137 countries thus far.

Some nations had already agreed to the measure but other key countries such as Brazil and China signed up to the plan and it was announced at the beginning of the conference.

If it is implemented, the pledge to curb deforestation will be seen as a significant achievement of COP26 and could help to reduce emissions considerably. A report from Climate Action Tracker estimates that the plan could cut missions by 1.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and this could increase if more countries sign up.

3. Global Methane Pledge

More than 100 countries representing 70 percent of the global economy have so far signed a pledge to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030. Methane is a major contributor to climate change.

President Joe Biden announced the global methane pledge in Glasgow on November 2 and outlined plans to cut methane emissions in the U.S., including plugging gas leaks and frequent leak monitoring.

In a statement on November 2, the European Commission said: "The strong global support for the Pledge illustrates growing momentum to swiftly reduce methane emissions---widely regarded as the single most effective strategy to reduce global warming."

4. Coal and Fossil Fuel Subsidies

More than 40 countries agreed to phase out the use of coal, which is the most polluting fossil fuel, in a move that has proven controversial.

Language in Wednesday's draft agreement referring to coal and subsidies for fossil fuels appears to have been watered down in Friday's version, which calls on countries to "transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up clean power generation and accelerating the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels."

The previous version did not include the words "unabated" or "inefficient." Still, if the section survives into the final agreement, it will be the first time a COP agreement has contained an explicit reference to fossil fuels.

5. Zero Emissions Vehicles

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - the UN group where COP is the chief decision-making body - 30 countries at the conference have agreed to "make zero emission vehicles the new normal by making them accessible, affordable, and sustainable in all regions by 2030 or sooner."

Several countries, including the U.K. and Canada, have pledged to stop selling gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040 and were joined by some carmakers, notably Ford and General Motors.

UNFCCC also noted in a statement on Wednesday that 19 countries had "stated their intent to support the establishment of 'green shipping corridors' – zero-emission shipping routes between two ports.

"This will involve deploying zero-emission vessel technologies and putting alternative fuel and charging infrastructure in place in ports to allow for zero emission shipping on key routes across the globe," the statement said.

It remains to be seen what changes might still be made to the final agreement at COP26 but there are some clear successes coming out of this year's conference.

Protesters Demonstrate at COP26 in Glasgow
Protesters move through restricted Blue Zone area of COP26 climate summit on November 12, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. COP26 is set to conclude on Friday with countries hoping to reach a final agreement. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images