A COP26 message from the Champions on a Glasgow Pact for 1.5

By Gonzalo Muñoz and Nigel Topping, UN High Level Climate Action Champions for Chile’s COP25 and the UK’s COP26 climate summits | November 14, 2021

Dear Friends,

We came to Glasgow with the goal of bringing the leadership of non-state actors to support enhanced ambition from governments and accelerate action toward the goals of the Paris Agreement.

We believe that while there is still a gap that needs to be urgently closed, we have seen many signs of progress, from leading countries and from non-state actors in all sectors. If implemented faithfully these actions will deliver progress in meaningful ways across the three pillars of Paris: mitigation, adaptation and finance. Glasgow has not guaranteed 1.5°C, but it has kept the prospect of achieving it alive.

The Glasgow Climate Pact has put science, nature and urgency front and centre, and galvanized global efforts behind 1.5°C, with a focus on the 45% emissions cuts needed this decade. It has also called for doubling adaptation finance and acknowledged the importance of addressing loss and damage, an initial step forward for the most climate-vulnerable communities.

Every year of this decisive decade matters. The request for all countries to raise climate targets in line with Paris by the end of 2022 is critical to narrowing the remaining ambition gap necessary to take 1.5C off life support. It’s also encouraging to see language on fossil fuels, an important first.

Keeping 1.5 alive requires clarity of purpose and urgent, near term action to drive systemic change. Glasgow has helped to bring the non-state actor and government agendas closer together, focused on the specific solutions needed to decarbonize key sectors and build resilience. At COP26, we have seen positively reinforcing actions by sub-national governments, industry, and finance, in the global south as well as the global north — signals of the breakthroughs and economy-wide transformation we need, from deforestation-free supply chains to EVs, green steel to green hydrogen. These signals represent the dynamism of the non-state actor agenda in driving the ambition loop for accelerated government action.

This momentum, though significant, is far from sufficient. Emissions continue to rise, climate devastation continues to intensify. People are frustrated, angry and sceptical – and legitimately so. Vanessa Nakate told delegates at our closing High-Level Global Climate Action event. “It is hard to believe business and finance leaders when they have not been trustworthy in making their pledges a reality…We desperately need you to prove us wrong.”

As we board the Glasgow train, that is our shared challenge. We have all heard the commitments. The currency of building trust — and the only currency that matters now — is immediate action that will be reflected in bending the emissions curve and  increasing resilience. To ensure commitments are followed through, our work ahead focuses on turning pledges into near term plans and enhancing accountability for delivering on commitments through better tracking of progress and impact.

As laid out in our five-year plan for the Improved Marrakech Partnership for Enhancing Ambition — we will also deepen engagement with national governments, further regionalize our work and continue to foster action on resilience and finance, especially for emerging markets and developing countries. We are pleased that the Parties have recognized our collective work in plenary sessions and warmly welcomed the five-year plan in the Cover Decisions, including support of the High-Level Champions to the Global Stocktake. We look forward to taking this forward in partnership with the incoming High-Level Champion from Egypt as soon as they are appointed.

If you would like to use your voice to mark the close of COP26 and the urgent task that now follows, we feel these messages are key:

  • Glasgow has not guaranteed 1.5°C, but it has kept the prospect of achieving it alive by calling on governments to come back next year with Paris-aligned near-term targets.

  • Glasgow has created unprecedented convergence between investors, businesses, cities and subnational regions that can drive real economy transformation — now all actors must deliver.

  • Glasgow will accelerate the move away from coal and fossil fuels and elevate the importance of addressing loss and damage. But much more to be done on these issues, and to place resilience at the heart of climate action in solidarity with vulnerable communities.

The race for a better world is on.

Nigel & Gonzalo


Signals of change

1. Governments and non-state actors stepped up on key challenges together

  • Breakthrough commitment to end deforestation, with 133 world leaders responsible for around 90% of the world’s forests promising to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, plus 33 financial institutions with $8.7 trillion in assets under management, commit to tackle deforestation in the 2020s.

  • Public-private alignment on key breakthroughs in clean technologies in five key sectors of the economy – power, road transport, steel, hydrogen, and agriculture – responsible for more than 50 per cent of global emissions. Focus on near-term action with accountability processes built in with progress being tracked and monitored as part of an annual Global Checkpoint Process and with the IEA, IRENA and the High-Level Champions advising governments on opportunities for enhanced collaboration.

  • Non-state actors lead the way on on loss and damage, as Scotland steps up as first subnational government to provide finance for loss and damage

  • Major agreement on methane speeds up our potential for deep short-term cuts to deliver on climate goals, as one of the most effective immediate actions to reduce near-term global warming.

2. Momentum is snowballing in the real economy

  • Coal power is rapidly being consigned to history, as countries make new commitments to phase out coal power and end international public support for the unabated fossil fuel energy sector.

  • End of the combustion engine in sight, as national governments, cities, states and major businesses agree to end the sale of internal combustion engines by 2035 in leading markets.

  • Mainstream private finance is publicly committed to transforming the economy for net zero. Through the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, over 450 firms across 45 countries are now committed to set robust, near-term science-based targets to halve their fair share of emissions by 2030 using the most robust 1.5C pathways such as the IPCC and IEA. Financial institutions have agreed to work together to scale climate finance to emerging economies through 5 catalytic initiatives and converge on sector decarbonisation pathways to drive real world reductions; new partnerships have also been launched to catalyze finance and climate solutions in Africa and Small Island Developing States.

  • Nearly 8,000 non-state actors – including 5,235 businesses, 67 regions, 441 financial institutions, 1,039 educational institutions and 52 healthcare institutions – commit to halving emissions by 2030 as part of Race to Zero, as the UN Climate Champions launch 5-year plan to deepen engagement with regional stakeholders, enhance the implementation of non-state actors’ commitments, and develop tools for accountability across mitigation, finance and adaptation.

3. All underpinned by critical plumbing for accelerating rapid delivery across mitigation, adaptation and finance

  • Technical groundwork laid to enable enforcement of sustainability standards and resilience actions, with launch of International Sustainability Standards Board.

  • A new metrics framework for measuring resilience, for the first time, allows cities, regions, businesses and investors to measure the progress of their work in building resilience to climate change for the 4 billion people most at risk by 2030.

  • Regulatory frameworks adopt best practice from voluntary initiatives, with the UK making net zero transition plans mandatory for UK financial institutions and listed companies by 2023, a month after GFANZ members called on G20 countries to do so.

  • Deepening integrity and accountability for non-state actor commitments as UN High-Level Climate Champions launch their 5-year plan, and the UN Secretary-General lends credibility to enhancing the integrity of non-State actor climate action by working to consolidate the foundations that Race to Zero and others have laid. A summary of the Champions’ broader work to enhance integrity can be found in an accompanying factsheet.

  • A Windows on Resilience programme brought over 7,000 people through the Resilience Hub at COP26 and elevated the voices of people on the frontlines of climate, facilitating discussions on shared challenges and solutions.
  • Race to Resilience’s partner initiatives now cover over 2.3 billion people and 100 natural systems from across 100 countries.

The Glasgow Climate Pact for business: ambition, action and collaboration

Cop26 provided an opportunity for businesses to present their plans and discuss with their peers, value chains, policy makers and civil society what it takes and what is needed. They all recognize that this cannot be done alone. Their message is loud and clear: Collaboration, collaboration and collaboration, says Maria Mendiluce, CEO of We Mean Business Coalition.