COP26 what happens next? Takeaways, learnings, and what’s next for our climate

December 18, 2021

So COP26 is over. What does this mean for the environment, circular economy, and Vietnam? This conference was branded as a “fragile win” by COP President Alok Sharma and criticized by others such as the Financial Times as “more than expected but less than hoped” and “meek and weak” by Greenpeace Director Jennifer Morgan. The ultimate devastating outcome of COP26 was the failure to deliver on its ultimate target of securing a binding agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Despite leaders and negotiators finding some common ground and striking a climate deal, the world remains far from limiting warming, which was the ultimate goal.

Some of the overall wins and losses from COP26 include:

  1. Coal Target: The parties called for a clear acceleration of the “phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuel”. However, last-minute negotiations by India and then backed by China led to the pledge of complete coal phase-out reduced to a “phasing down” of coal power.
  2. Methane Goals: More than 100 countries agreed to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030; it was the first time methane was recognized as a destructive greenhouse gas.
  3. Carbon Markets: COP26 sealed negotiations on global carbon markets meaning the establishment of an accounting framework for trading credits. This would allow a country that has surpassed its target to count emissions it has prevented and sell them to another country that is behind on their own targets.
  4. Support for threatened countries: While this conference pushed richer nations to provide support to poorer countries facing damages from climate change, this fell short of providing a clear solution and no funding mechanisms were established. According to the United Nations (UN), the amounts pledged to remain far below the annual US$70 billion developing countries are estimated to need; this amount could rise to US$300 billion by 2030.

What commitments were made by Vietnam at COP26 and what are the future commitments towards climate change?

In line with COP26, Vietnam committed to reaching its net-zero carbon emission target by 2050 and called for fairness and justice in climate change issues.

  1. Dependence on coal: Vietnam is heavily dependent on coal but the government officials have stated that they will double the installed wind and solar power generation capacity to 31-38 gigawatts by 2030. Vietnam aims to phase out coal-fueled power generation by 2040.
  2. Halt to deforestation: Vietnam made a commitment to stop deforestation by 2030.
  3. Emission reduction: Vietnam has targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 9 percent with domestic resources and 27 percent with international support by 2030 as per the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).
  4. Improve flood-prone regions: Infrastructure development will be prioritized in flood-prone areas as a climate adaptation strategy.

Taken together, there was an overall shift observed at this year’s conference. Firstly, innovation was presented on center stage and seen as a key focal point. This hasn’t been the case during the past conferences showing the positive solution-driven momentum. Second, the private sector was seen to be playing a key role together with non-profit and governments to shift towards net-zero. There was more engagement from industry leaders that must be deeply involved in the transition such as financial services, mining, and shipping industries. Lastly, this year there was lots of visibility for climate adaptation as people around the world are facing climate changes already.

These shifts were discussed by Bill Gates and he stated, “Some people look at the problems that still need to be solved and see the glass as half-empty. I don’t share that view, but this is what I would tell anyone who does: The glass is being filled up faster than ever. If we keep this up—if the world puts even more effort into innovations that reduce the cost of getting to zero and help the poorest people adapt to climate change—then we’ll be able to look back on this summit as an important milestone in avoiding a climate disaster.”