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Global Climate Deal Makes Progress

The new global climate deal makes important progress — but its shortcomings make strong American action more urgent than ever.

In the end, the United Nations’ COP26 summit at Glasgow, Scotland, produced an agreement signed by all parties. It included an affirmation of the urgent need for all nations to do more to decrease emissions. For the first time, the international agreement singled out coal as a special focus for emissions reductions, although the attempt to include language specifically calling for coal power’s “phase out” was changed to “phase down” at India’s insistence. It set up rules intended to guarantee that international emission credits trading results in a verifiable net reduction of pollution, and calls for the major polluters to come back to the table next year with stronger specific commitments for cutting their own emissions.

Negotiators also announced some important side deals among various parties to target specific problems:

  • In a joint announcement, the two biggest polluters (the U.S. and China) agreed to do more to cut emissions this decade, including the first time China has specifically agreed to reduce methane emissions and coal use.
  • More than 100 nations (including Brazil, Russia, China, and the U.S.) pledged to end deforestation by 2030. The agreement covers about 85% of the world’s forests.
  • More than 100 nations agreed to cut methane emissions by 30% by the end of this decade.

United Nations climate secretary Patricia Espinosa called the Glasgow Climate Pact “a very positive result in the sense that it gives us a very clear guidance on what we need to do in the coming years.” She notes the new pact will not achieve the target goal of holding total warming down to a tolerable level by itself, but was the strongest language achievable without losing key signatories.

American environmental advocates agreed on the essential next step: approving the climate investments included in the Build Back Better Act under debate in Congress. 

“COP26 decisively moved the world forward but now the climate fight must begin anew if we hope to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Promises made in Glasgow — on climate ambition and clean energy, on helping vulnerable communities rebuild and climate finance, and on curbing dangerous fossil fuels and protecting forests — must be kept, strengthened, and accelerated, beginning today,” said Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “First up, all eyes are on Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act and demonstrate that the U.S. is committed to doing its part to overcome this global challenge.”

“We can and we must seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity for climate, jobs, and justice,” said League of Conservation Voters vice president Tiernan Sittenfeld. “And when we do, when the Build Back Better Act becomes law, in the years ahead we’ll save $500 a year on energy bills, send our kids off to school in clean electric school buses, drive affordable electric cars, breathe clean, healthy air, suffer less from health problems caused by polluted air and water, and stave off even more devastating, costly extreme weather and other catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.”

The U.S. House is expected to vote on the Build Back Better Act this week, with Senate votes the week of November 29th. Tell your representative to pass it now!

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