Professor Mark Nevitt: Key Takeaways From the Glasgow Climate Pact
(Lawfare | Nov. 17, 2021) Nearly 200 nations signed the Glasgow Climate Pact on Nov. 13. Acknowledging the increasingly strong connection between climate change and its role as a threat accelerant, the pact explicitly states that climate change is a “social, economic and environmental threat.” It also called on world leaders to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.”
Climate change is the ultimate environmental and security destabilizer, exacerbating extreme weather, drought, wildfires, and sea level rise. Climate change is already destabilizing many parts of the world. This new climate-security reality was brought home just last month in the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate and other U.S. climate-security reports. Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activity is now inextricably linked to broader security concerns.
The Glasgow Climate Pact consists of 94 paragraphs and eight thematic subparts. In what follows, I highlight the key takeaways, some surprises, and what to look for in the future.
- The Rise of “Mitigation Ambition.” Since the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change was negotiated in 1992, international negotiators have focused on mitigation—reducing each nation’s GHG emissions pumped into the common atmosphere. The Glasgow Climate Pact provides a shot in the arm to global mitigation efforts. Paragraph 29 accelerates the timeline for nations to strengthen their mitigation plans—known as nationally determined contributions—by the end of 2022. The Paris Agreement envisioned that these updates would take place every five years, so this expedited timeline was hailed as a key Glasgow achievement. Still, while plans are important, implementation and execution will determine future climate progress. All eyes will be on COP27 in Egypt next year to examine these plans and assess what actions have been taken since Glasgow.
- The Mission to “Keep 1.5 Alive” Is on Life Support. The 2015 Paris Agreement sought to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels and keep the global temperature increase “well below” 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Exceeding this threshold leads to irreversible, catastrophic harm. The National Intelligence Estimate stated that the world is well off-track to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals. While the Glasgow Climate Pact keeps the 1.5 goal alive, it is hanging by a thread. To have a chance of meeting this 1.5 goal, the world has just 98 months to cut worldwide GHG emissions in half. That’s not impossible, but it will require transformational action this decade …