Climate philanthropy gives Africa’s green wall project a huge boost

One of the projects expected to take centre stage at the climate talks in Egypt next year is an African-driven ambitious megaproject that aims to create the largest living structure on the planet. 

The Great Green Wall has been described as an “African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa”. 

Dubbed the Great Green Wall, the project aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million jobs in rural areas of Sahel in north Africa by 2030. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification views it as a massive defence line against desertification. 

The project, which is being coordinated by the Pan-African Great Green Wall Agency, is Africa's flagship programme for fighting climate change and desertification. 

The wall has had starts and stops, in large part due to a lack of funding, but received a much-needed cash-injection in Glasgow.

COP26 saw US billionaire Jeff Bezos’s climate foundation promise $1 billion to help fight land degradation, particularly in Africa, and the Great Green Wall is set to be one of the beneficiaries. 

It is hoped that the project will see some movement now.

The initiative concerning 11 countries on the rim of the world's biggest desert was first launched to great acclaim in 2005, but never really got going. 

The African Union endorsed the initiative in 2007, two years after the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan hatched the plan at a summit of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States held in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.

In January this year, the Green Wall received a major shot in the arm at the One Planet Summit in Paris, where donors pledged $19 billion for the programme.

"Forty-eight percent of the funds have been committed [to work] on the ground," French President Emmanuel Macron said at a side event at the climate summit in Glasgow.

In a 2020 report, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification said there was an "insufficient, unpredictable and insecure funding situation".

General security issues in the region have also hampered progress.

Amazon founder Bezos said work on the wall – which he called a "remarkable innovation" – had to be sped up.

Philanthropy is gaining momentum in combating climate change

Apart from the billions offered by government and financial institutions, a fair share of money at the climate talks in Glasgow this past month was pledged by billionaires.

Serious philanthropic outfit the Rockefeller Foundation and super-billionaire Jeff Bezos announced significant funding at the conference. 

The Bezos Earth Fund, in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation and IKEA Foundation, formed The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet. The Alliance, which will also include eight multilateral and development-finance institutions, will start with $10 billion to test strategies and innovative technologies to support renewable energy across the globe, especially in areas where private capital is still hesitating. 

Ultimately, philanthropy doesn’t have the trillions of dollars needed to stop global emissions of greenhouse gases and slow climate change. But the funds committed through philanthropy can be galvanised faster and philanthropic organisations are not hamstrung by government bureaucracy, which means they can act quicker. 

Africa, especially, could benefit from this quicker movement of funds with new research by climate researcher Climateworx showing the opportunity for climate philanthropy in Africa was extensive.

“As illustrated at COP26, international partners – including governments and philanthropic organisations – are ready to support Africa as it seeks to mitigate the impact of climate change and navigate the energy transition,” the report on philanthropy in Africa said. 

At COP26, the Africa Climate Foundation also signed the climate for philanthropy pledge, which commits to mobilising funds for action against climate change. The ACF was the first African foundation to sign the pledge.

Joseph Curtin, director of the power and climate team at the Rockefeller Foundation, said at COP26 that even if rich countries managed to get to $100 billion, it was nowhere close to the trillions that were needed. The heavy hitter philanthropies, he said, wanted to create the conditions for the private sector to invest at a massive scale.

The alliance, announced at COP26, aimed to unlock $100 billion in public and private capital from multilateral and development finance institutions such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the African Development Bank to support developing countries in a shift towards renewable power; creating jobs while addressing climate change. 

Dr Rajiv Shah, a former administrator of USAID and now president of the Rockefeller Foundation said at the launch that the new alliance “will stand with dozens of energy-poor nations seeking to accelerate their energy transitions”.

The big-spending announcements of elite foundations such Rockefeller and Bezos, and the pooled funds managed by climate intermediaries, has led to larger foundations working more closely with governments, companies and international bodies. 

But McKinsey research, released just before COP26, shows that philanthropies have historically allocated relatively small sums to addressing the problem. 

In 2020, US-based grant makers disbursed almost $64 billion, the research found. Of that, about $320 million went directly toward climate change. Additional funding went to related environmental priorities such as air, land, and water conservation, for a total of $1.4 billion, but even these amounts pale in comparison to those spent on matters such as education ($10.5 billion).

In the past few years, however, philanthropy has begun to pick up and major philanthropists are pledging large sums to climate change. These include:

  • $500 million from Michael Bloomberg
  • $750 million from Stewart and Lynda Resnick
  • $1 billion from Hansjörg Wyss
  • $3.5 billion from Laurene Powell Jobs, and 
  • $10 billion from Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. 


They joined the ranks of longtime climate funders such as the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation.

The $10 billion pledge from Jeff Bezos, made at the beginning of 2020, made headlines. The pledge – which was to contribute $10 billion before 2030 to address climate, nature, and related social justice issues – was considered a turning point for the climate change philanthropic sector. 

“Considering that, globally, only 2% of philanthropic dollars – about $7 billion annually – goes toward climate mitigation philanthropy, this really was a turning point,” Jennifer Kitt, president of the Climate Leadership Initiative, said in a statement at the time. The initiative is a foundation-sponsored non-profit organisation based in San Francisco that guides donors on philanthropic giving to address climate change, 

In an interview with Barrons magazine Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund explained that philanthropy “can play a very big role just creating a sense of momentum”.

Steer is guiding the Bezos Earth Fund pledge of $10 billion. In addition to joining the alliance, at COP26 the Bezos Earth Fund also announced a $2 billion grant-making plan to support forests and nature.

During the United Nations’ climate week in September, the fund announced it would grant $1 billion to protect and conserve nature, indigenous peoples and cultures. It would start with the Congo Basin, the tropical Andes, and the tropical Pacific Ocean. 

Steer says the alliance is an example of how philanthropy can diagnose a problem – such as the fact that developing countries are still investing in coal when renewable energy is a cheaper, viable alternative – and remove barriers to spur governments and investors to support the shift. 

An African COP for African issues

An African COP for African issues

African-led climate action will be in the spotlight as Egypt hosts COP27 next year.

It represents the chance to  shift  the focus of the conference to more nature-based policy and biodiversity in combating climate change, several African delegates had commented at the announcement in Glasgow.  

Many feel COP27 will amplify the voice of the Global South and local communities in Africa with more African delegates able to attend. 

South Africa’s head of climate finance and innovation at the Presidential Climate Commission, Dipak Patel, said South Africa expected COP27 to be the African COP,  and that it would provide a platform to launch multiple pathways for the continent on how to tackle climate change. 

Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, said in Glasgow that COP27 would be a real opportunity to make progress in priority areas such as climate finance, adaptation and loss and damage. 

Finance to vulnerable countries still remains an issue. Several African countries expressed concern that  climate finances promises had been broken. Wealthy countries had promised $100 billion dollars a year to assist vulnerable countries at the climate talks in Copenhagen. But this did not materialise and finance fell short.  

Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale of Gabon, chairperson of the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change, called for more to be done and hoped that COP27 would cement such a promise.  He said “in Africa, the new target for funding must be $700 billion a year, not $100 billion a year.” 

He said African countries also intended to involve the private sector so that funds were used beyond government projects.

Africa has high stakes in climate change. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report indicates that the African continent is warming faster than the global average, which makes its countries more vulnerable to climate change’s devastating impacts. This is why adaptation is so crucial for the continent, because even if climate change is slowed, Africa is still sure to suffer the effects.  

Egyptian environment minister Dr Yasmine Fouad said in Glasgow that it was very important to push the adaptation agenda forward by looking at nature-based solutions. 

“It’s the land, the water, the ecosystem and the climate that together should be there for the benefit of the planet and the human beings’.

“Reducing countries’ and communities’ vulnerability to climate impacts requires urgent adaptation and finance to help developing countries absorb impacts and build resilient communities, with the meaningful engagement of indigenous peoples and their ancestral knowledge at the heart of this action.”

Analysts also expect land degradation to become an important part of the discussion at COP27.  Research shows that  65% of productive land in Africa is degraded, while desertification affects 45% of Africa’s land area, and this threatens food security if the impact of climate change is added. 

This is why the transformation of food systems is crucial to addressing the challenges brought up by climate change, as well as preserving biodiversity, Fouad said. 

COP27 also hopes to showcase some of the real projects on climate change that have been making a difference on the continent.  These include:

  • The Great Green Wall Initiative, an African-led movement to grow an 8,000km natural wonder across the entire width of Africa, restoring degraded landscapes, creating millions of jobs in rural areas, and sequestering carbon. 
  • Morocco’s Noor-Ouarzazate complex, the world's largest concentrated solar power plant, an enormous array of curved mirrors spread over 3,000 hectares that concentrates the sun's rays towards tubes of fluid, with the hot liquid used to produce power. Climate pioneer Morocco will be one of Africa’s shining stars at COP27. Renewables make up almost two-fifths of its electricity capacity, some fossil fuel subsidies have been phased out and the country lays claim to some of the world's largest clean energy projects. The country has received much praise for its actions to decarbonise.
  • In Egypt, the Bedouin seed plants and natural pastures restoration project is restoring natural pastures in large areas to improve Bedouin community livelihoods and achieve sustainable environmental development.

Read part 1: COP26 kept the 1.5 degree dream alive. Now the African COP will have to ensure it becomes a reality

Will COP27 be the African COP?

COP26 kept the 1.5 degree dream alive. Now the African COP will have to ensure it becomes a reality


The focus is shifting from finance to Africa: COP26 was dubbed the finance COP, and next year’s climate change talks in Egypt are already being referred to as the African COP.

Egypt will host the conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, and these climate talks will shift perspectives to the Global South’s leadership role.

African countries contribute only 4% to global emissions, yet they are among the worst hit by climate change. 

Because an African nation is playing host to the Conference of the Parties, there are high hopes that climate issues close to the heart of African nations will be advanced. But the global stakes are high as well. 

The key priorities for COP27 will evolve around climate finance, adaptation, and loss and damage. But nudging countries towards more ambitious targets will take centre stage. 

COP26 may have kept the dream of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees, but the world knows that future climate talks will have to deliver more ambition.

Next year’s summit has much work to do. Hopefully the year in between the climate talks will give the parties the chance to update their national plans on greenhouse gas emissions with more ambitious targets. 

There will also be a push to probe and fix adaptation gaps in the talks.

Olumide Abimbola, a political economist and executive director of the Africa Policy Research Institute, was looking forward to a better conversation around adaptation at COP27.

“We’re looking to see more action and less talk,” he said at a media briefing in Glasgow.

He said the conversation around the decarbonisation of companies has to be part of the planning towards COP27. 

Vicky Sins, climate and energy lead at the World Benchmarking Alliance,  agreed with Abombola and said it was crucial for the talks in Egypt to bring transparency to the forefront about what companies were doing. 

“We need to make it transparent what the impacts  are of decarbonisation at COP27,” she said. 

The need for climate finance remains great and that needs to be brought back to COP27, Sins explained. This can only happen if there is true transparency about what companies are doing. 

Climate finance will still be a big talking point at the climate talks in Egypt, with more countries looking for funds to help them shed their dependency on coal. 

South Africa’s head of climate finance and innovation at the Presidential Climate Commission, Dipak Patel, said South Africa would be going to COP27 with a clearly planned financial package that will help the country get to net zero in South Africa’s own context. 

One of the issues that will once again be in the spotlight at COP27 is loss and damage. Although a big part of the negotiations in Glasgow, nothing concrete has been decided and climate change lobbyists  would like this resolved at COP27. 

Abimbola added that there had to be better structure around the conversation on loss and damage.


Read part 2: An African COP for African issues 

‘R131 billion offer is just the start’ – Gordhan on SA’s climate funding

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has assured South Africa’s Parliament that the R131 billion climate deal money would be used for the country’s just energy transition and not Eskom’s debt.

Gordhan emphasised that the R131 billion is just an "offer" at this stage and that work remained to turn it into a reality. Negotiations will only start now to ensure that the offer turns into a deal.

"This is an offer from the developed countries, it is not a deal," he said, adding that funds would not go towards servicing state-owned power utility Eskom’s crippling R400 billion debt. 

He also emphasised that the funds would be specifically used for Eskom's energy transition, enabling the power utility to move from coal to cleaner green technologies.

Gordhan was answering questions in Parliament on Wednesday, 17 November, on South Africa’s watershed multibillion-dollar climate finance deal announced at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow two weeks ago. 

South Africa committed to ambitious targets at the talks to attract billions in climate funding from wealthy nations. South Africa is one of the world’s most coal-dependent countries, and its commitments are a huge milestone at the conference.The deal will be watched closely to see if it can be used as a model for other developing countries looking to move away from coal.  

The historic deal saw France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union pledge R131 billion over the next three to five years in the form of grants, concessional loans and investment and risk-sharing instruments, including mobilising private sector funding.

In return for the funds, Eskom has promised to close down its coal power stations before the end of their normal lifespan, over the next 15 years. When announcing the deal the South African government said it would be used in part to fund Eskom to build a strong renewable energy sector.

Gordhan said negotiations would now take place at a technical level to determine if the offers were compatible with South Africa's financial requirements and capabilities. 

It is now over to a group of ministers, led by South Africa’s Environment Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy, to negotiate on the offer. 

“A technical team has been established and includes South African lenders and experts as well as international experts, to engage in negotiations.”

Crucial points to be discussed were how much of the funding would be grant money, and just how "concessional" the concessional funding will be.

Gordhan added that the deal was a "government project", not specifically an Eskom project, and the money would also be used for two other projects – a green hydrogen project and the production of electric vehicles in South Africa.

Eskom will get the lion’s share of the funds and one of the projects that the state utility will use it for is to refurbish its old coal power plant Komati. Eskom plans to turn the aged coal power station into a clean power plant as part of its just energy transition.

Gordhan said that if Eskom received funding for the Komati refurbishment, it would have an important impact on repurposing and repowering the station. Plans for the plant include an agri-voltaic plant which allows for dual land use for the generation of solar power and agriculture.

He said funding could be used to retrain workers, and prepare the plant for new workers, as well as mitigating the impact on communities.

Gordhan said the R131 billion is "merely a start" and does not cover all of South Africa's transition issues. A lot more money needs to be raised by developed countries, either before or after 2030. 

South Africa pleased with Glasgow climate talks, but knows more work is needed

South Africa is encouraged by the outcome of the climate talks this past weekend in Glasgow.

This was the view of Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, who told a press briefing on Wednesday that South Africa welcomed the outcome of the climate summit.

She said the outcome provided parties with a firm basis for the full and effective implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement.

“The international community has united behind a shared objective to inject a greater sense of urgency to address the global climate crisis and to do so on the basis of international equity and latest available science.” 

She said the complex Glasgow package outcome strikes the right balance to accommodate the very different national circumstances and capacities among nearly 200 parties, so that all are enabled and empowered to contribute their fair share and to enhance their climate ambition.

Creecy believed the outcome would help developing countries like South Africa accelerate the phase down of unfiltered coal to low-carbon energy, but warned it should be done in a manner that takes into consideration national interests and availability of resources.


​Coal ‘phase down’ wording

Creecy was referencing the controversial final wording of the Glasgow Pact signed at the end of the two-week COP26 negotiations. A fierce debate erupted among the different parties’ negotiators over the wording of the intention to abandon coal in the final text of the deal. 

In facilitating the Glasgow Pact, nations agreed to change the wording from a coal “phase-out” to a “phase-down”, at the insistence of India, whose backers included China and South Africa. 

Creecy defended the “phase down” language, and said that the wording should take into account countries’ unique circumstances as they shed their coal dependence. 

“There is wording there that talks about the recognition of national circumstances and the importance of a just transition.

“And I think that what that language is all about … is saying that for developing countries, there is a recognition of the enormous cost that transitioning economies to lower carbon growth paths and to climate resilient societies is going to have.”

“I think that there has been an estimation by the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] that developing countries will require in the region of US$4 trillion over the next 15 years to achieve these transitions.

“And I think that text was really about saying that countries must be transitioning. Like our country, we have to do our fair share. But we have to be transitioning at a manner and at a pace that is determined by our national sovereign interests and by the availability of resources.”

“We can’t be signing up to a situation where we are not ensuring that we have adequate financial support for the transitions that will be taking place,” she said.

Saliem Fakir, the executive director of African Climate Foundation, was buoyed by the fact that coal had finally been addressed in firm language at climate talks. He said South Africa should urge its partners, particularly in India and China, to phase out coal in 20 years. 

“I would say in the outcome of COP26 the big positive is that for the first time in the history of the climate talks we are talking about phasing out coal. Yes, the phasing out of coal is still insufficient and we have to work harder to push our ambitions.”


Multibillion-rand watershed climate deal

South Africa’s watershed multibillion-dollar climate finance deal announced in the first week at COP26, still remains one of the highlights of the conference, and is part of the financial support Creecy is calling for in South Africa’s just transition. The deal made South Africa a star performer at the talks, setting the scene for the country to transition away from coal to cleaner forms of energy.

In the historic deal, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union had pledged R131 billion to South Africa over the next three to five years in the form of grants, concessional loans and investment and risk-sharing instruments, including mobilising private sector funding. 

“Of course the cherry on top is the political agreement between South Africa and its developed world partners,” Fakir said. 

“It will also expand to other countries and shows that there's a willingness to consider a just energy transition transaction deal.”

He said Eskom, the presidency and the ministry of environment as well as all the key political players at national government pushed for this deal, and made South Africa the stellar performer.

“Of course the devil is in the details and a lot more work needs to be done,” he said, adding that the presidential climate commission will be pushing hard that the finance is connected with the work that needs to be done to ensure a just transition. 

The deal is attracting a lot of attention and South Africa as an opportunity to really take an increase in quiet diplomacy, Fakir commented. 

“This deal has put us back into the forefront of the climate negotiations.”


Push on finance

Fakir said South Africa had provided good leadership on pushing the envelope on finance and it's created a track of work that will enable parties to review the $100 billion climate finance target, to assist vulnerable countries. He said that could be used in ways that can facilitate an increased flow of finance towards Africa.

Creecy also said COP26 set the international community on the right track to addressing the existential challenge of climate change. 

“For the first time the governing bodies of the Convention and Paris Agreement have agreed to the importance of supporting developing countries in financing”

The environment minister said for South Africa the main priorities, as mandated by the Cabinet ahead of COP26, were to secure an ambitious and progressive finance and adaptation package to support African and other developing countries, as well as to complete the Paris Agreement Work Programme. And in this COP26 succeeded, she said. 

The unresolved issue of the recognition of Africa´s Special Needs and Circumstances is kept alive for substantive discussion at the African COP27, to be hosted by Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh next year.

Glasgow took the world one step closer to winning the war against climate change, but more fervour is needed

The Glasgow climate talks, which concluded over the weekend, have bought the world a step closer to combating the climate crisis. Although COP26 was criticised for not delivering an ambitious enough deal, analysts feel that the talks delivered many positive outcomes.


  • The big climate deal emerging from the talks is the Glasgow Climate Pact. For the first time in the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change process, specific references were made to phasing down unabated coal power and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Another success was that parties managed to finalise the Paris Agreement Rulebook, which means that the agreement is now operational and implementable. The big sticking point in finalising the rulebook was the so-called Article 6,  the chapter on carbon credit trading systems, which essentially deals with climate projects that cross national boundaries. Negotiators were able to define how countries trade carbon offsets and how they use non-market-based approaches to cut emissions in other countries.  
  • Another win for Glasgow was that negotiators were able to complete the enhanced transparency framework. This defines the tables, outlines and other formats for the reports, and will enable parties to submit their first biennial transparency reports in 2024. These reports, which were agreed to under the Paris Agreement, will detail their climate actions plans. 

In the closing plenaries, where parties were able to give their final reflections on the talks, many pointed out that though the Glasgow deal was not perfect, they had signed it because they believed it took the negotiations forward. 


Other big decisions that were made at COP26 were:

  • That developed countries would double their adaptation finance from 2019 levels, by 2025, and that all parties will have to submit their updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) - their pledge on how much they will cut their emissions - before the next COP.
  • On common time frames, countries agreed to submit new NDCs every five years.  Thus in 2025, NDCs that outline countries' plans with an end date of 2035 will be submitted, and then in 2030 NDCs with an end date of 2040 would be submitted.
  • The Glasgow Pact also established an annual high-level ministerial roundtable on pre-2030 ambition and an annual dialogue to strengthen ocean-based action on climate change.
  • African delegates polled after COP26 concluded felt that the two-year programme of work was progressive, as was a move from five-year reviews of country-by-country submission to an annual review. The annual reviews could assist countries in submitting their 1.5 degree compatible NDCs, delegates believed. 

Needs more work

One of the biggest disappointments was the discussion around loss and damage. Many developing countries lamented the outcome on this subject. Delegates had hoped COP26 would establish a firm financial mechanism to help fund vulnerable countries' loss and damages they would experience as a result of the climate crisis, but wealthy countries remain loath to admit any blame because they fear lawsuits in the future. As a result the loss and damage negotiations were dubbed the Glasgow Dialogue, and this discussion will convene from 2022 to 2024 to find a solution on the divisive topic. Disappointed African delegates said that advanced economies were simply not taking responsibility for their role in loss and damage. 

Where will Glasgow take us?

Saliem Fakir, the executive director of African Climate Foundation, said the agenda for the climate talks in future was going to have to focus on a more integrated approach between adaptation, where countries have to adapt to effects of climate change, and mitigation, where countries have to cut emissions to slow warming. 

“The reason for that is that Africa does need cheaper, cleaner energy. Politically it is important for us to focus on adaptation, but we have to take a more integrated approach to dealing with climate change. We shouldn’t create an artificial divide between adaptation and mitigation.”

Fakir said that coal has finally been addressed in firm language at climate talks, which was a big positive. He said South Africa should urge its partners particularly in India and China to phase out coal in 20 years down the line. 

“I would say in the outcome of COP26 the big positive is that for the first time in the history of the climate talks we are talking about phasing out coal. Yes, the phasing out of coal is still insufficient and we have to work harder to push ambitions. We have to review them on a constant basis every year and we have to push the ambition to greater heights.”

Getting rid of old king coal is not that easy, last hours of talks show

Photo caption: Alok Sharma MP, President of the 26th United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in a bilateral meeting with the Union Cabinet Minister of Labour and Employment, Environment, Forest and Climate Change in the Government of India, Bhupender Yadav. Picture by Tim Hammond / No 10 Downing Street


The Glasgow Pact, struck on Saturday evening at the climate talks in Glasgow, was nearly scuppered in the last hours when countries insisted that coal could still not be phased out. 

A fierce debate erupted among the nation’s negotiators over the wording of an intention to abandon coal in the final text of the deal. In facilitating the Glasgow Pact, nations agreed to change the wording from a coal “phase-out” to a “phase-down”. 

Although the host country the UK had hoped that the Glasgow climate talks would be historic in the sense that it consigned coal to history, the inclusion of coal in the final deal still marked the first time that such a resolution had been made under the UN climate process.

Coal is one of the most damaging greenhouse gases and a main driver of climate change. Getting countries to shed their coal dependence is a critical step in slowing down warming. 

On Saturday it seemed that the UK’s push for coal’s annihilation would succeed, but India’s Environment and Climate Minister Bhupender Yadav delivered a passionate speech, saying that getting rid of coal too fast in developing nations would cause hardship. He also attacked the inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

“This climate crisis has been caused by unsustainable lifestyles and wasteful consumption,” Yadav said. “The world needs to awaken to this reality. Fossil fuels and their use have enabled parts of the world to attain high levels of wealth and wellbeing.”

India’s plea was supported by China, with South Africa, Nigeria and Venezuela also expressing displeasure at the clause. 

Although COP26 president Alok Sharma was loath to renegotiate the Glasgow Pact’s deal at such a late stage, pressure from the “coal phase down” nations obliged him to make concessions if a deal was to be delivered. The final document would not please everyone, he conceded, but it was far better than no deal.

Apart from the coal sticking point, climate finance also remained one of the issues that had mixed success in Glasgow. What the conference did achieve was to set the table for more aid to help poor countries to fund their decarbonisation pathway. 

South Africa’s watershed multibillion-dollar climate finance deal remained one of the talk’s highlights and could become a template for other countries if its results lived up to the hype. 

Less successful was the plans for a loss-and-damage fund. Rich countries such as the US still fear that agreeing to such a fund could open the door to enormous climate liabilities in the years to come. 

One of the big successes of this year’s talks was that it resolved several outstanding technical issues that had prevented aspects of the 2015 Paris Agreement from coming into operation. These issues, on carbon trading and the “transparency” with which countries monitor and report their emissions, the so-called Article 6, have dogged the annual climate meetings for six years but compromises were finally reached.

Read part 1 of this article. A deal is made: All you need to know about the ‘Glasgow climate pact’

A deal is made: All you need to know about the ‘Glasgow climate pact’

Despite last-minute squabbles over coal’s phasing out, the climate talks at COP26 delivered a deal that has been labeled as keeping the dream of 1.5 degrees alive. 

On Saturday evening COP26 organisers announced that countries had agreed to a climate deal that its backers proclaimed would keep the world within reach of the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees. Although coal emissions were included in The Glasgow Pact there are more fraught nights of talks lying ahead.

The negotiations carried on late into Saturday evening, as governments disagreed over measures of phasing out coal, emission pledges and providing money to the poor world through a loss and damage financial mechanism.

The talks ran nearly 24 hours into overtime, and the extra day delivered its fair share of drama as the agreement was forged. 

Delegates representing 197 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change arrived in Scotland two weeks ago with the Herculean task of strengthening the Paris Agreement of 2015 and forging a deal that would keep the world’s temperature within 1.5 degrees. 

The 1.5 degree goal was the big dream of COP26’s hosts the UK. But countries would have had to go further with emissions-cutting pledges if they wanted to reach the 1.5 degree target, according to the latest independent analysis by Climate Action Tracker. Another analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that climate pledges made so far at COP26 could help limit global warming to 1.8 degrees. 

Many countries simply still can’t afford the cuts to their economy that the 1.5 degrees ask for, while others are terrified of the hardship the cuts will bring to their economies. But they also know that the cuts have to be made to avert a climate crisis. 

In the end there had to be a compromise and what the Glasgow Pact achieved was to keep the dream alive and to force countries to take a hard look at their pledges again. 

The pact fell short of actually getting nations to limit temperatures to 1.5C with their emissions pledges, but it received a commitment from countries to return to the negotiating table next year in Egypt at COP27 with a plan on how they could do better. 

The pact also expects parties to the Paris Agreement to increase their pledges by 2022 instead of in the middle of the decade. It also envisages new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) or emission pledges specifically on 2030 goals next year, and then NDCs on 2035 goals in 2025.

COP26 president Alok Sharma, who had delivered deep emotional pleas in the last hours of the talks, conceded that the deal was not perfect, but said that history had been made in Glasgow.

COP26 President - Alok Sharma. Photo: Bank of England.

“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive, “ he said. But it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”

The Economist described COP26 in Glasgow as delivering in three ways: “by changing timetables, by tweaking financing arrangements and by allowing for greater multilateralism.” 

UN secretary-general António Guterre, though pleased that a deal had been struck, said the world was still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. 

“It is time to go into emergency mode – or our chance of reaching net zero emissions will itself be zero.”

Executive director of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan, said the pact kept the 1.5C goal only just alive. “But a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.”

Read Part 2: Getting rid of old king coal is not that easy, last hours of talks show.

Part 2: The snail’s pace of a deal on loss and damage at the climate talks

Loss and damage has been one of the hottest discussion points at COP26, with wealthy and vulnerable countries still split on how it needed to be addressed. At the heart of the split is money and how financing will flow to countries most vulnerable to climate change. 

Talks have stretched late into the night to determine what wealthy nations should pay developing countries for the damage they would suffer as a result of climate change.

On Wednesday vulnerable countries at the COP26 climate talks called for stronger commitments on loss and damage finance in response to a draft deal. Both the host country and UN officials were optimistic that draft texts dedicated an “unprecedented” section to loss and damage, but vulnerable nations said it wasn’t enough. 

A day later non-governmental organisations delivered a unanimous plea that finance for loss and damage needed to be a legacy of COP26, driven by a multilateral process based on global solidarity and leadership. 

Developed countries, the organisation said, must uphold their promise of finance and support to the small states that are at risk of losing so much.

Catherine Pettengell, Climate Action Network UK director, said the talks had to deliver on finance for loss and damage now. 

“For too long the most urgent and devastating consequences of climate change have fallen disproportionately on those least responsible for causing climate change.”

For Aïssatou Diouf, climate change advocacy officer for Enda Energie in Senegal, it was disappointing that the conference’s draft text was still lacking finance for loss and damage.

“Loss and damage must be a priority,” said Pelenise Alofa, national coordinator for the Kiribati Climate Action Network. “Not just discussions but concrete, binding commitments that go beyond technical reports and websites and actually help rebuild lives and livelihoods.”

Tina Stege, a Marshall Islands representative, said the summit deal needed to include stronger action to mitigate the loss and damage climate change would cause. 

She said that "loss and damage is too central for us to settle for workshops. We must strengthen action on loss and damage”.

The frustration at the perceived lack of movement on loss and damage is understandable. 

At COP25 in Madrid in 2019 a framework called the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage was established. It promised to provide action and support for vulnerable developing countries, but critics say the Santiago Network was established in name only. Before COP26 it didn’t even have any staff or funding. 

Many critics said the network was just a way to placate parties calling for loss and damage compensation, and that COP25 didn’t actually achieve anything in that space. 

The World Wildlife Fund, in its briefing document before the talks, called for the Santiago Network to become fully operational. 

Even more important for loss and damage activists is a commitment to funding. They want to see wealthy countries contribute to a designated pool of funds that vulnerable communities can use if a climate disaster strikes. 

As the conference entered its last hours, it was still unclear whether it would deliver a final resolution on the issue. 

Read part one here.