What was Decided at the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow?
In 2015, the global international community concluded the Paris Climate Agreement, which came into force in 2021 and replaced the Kyoto Protocol. The aim of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to significantly below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times, if possible below 1.5 degrees. Industrial and for the first time also emerging and developing countries must calculate Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and commit to them. According to the United Nations, emissions must be reduced by 45 per cent in 2030 compared to 2010 levels, in order to keep global warming significantly below two degrees.
COP26 in Glasgow was originally planned for 2020 but had to be delayed until autumn 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The overarching goal of this United Nations Climate Change Conference was to stick to the 1.5 °C target of the Paris Agreement. For that reason, the most important regulations for effective climate protection had to be defined and measures to achieve the goals needed to be set in motion. One crucial element was that the participants had to complete and operationalise the Paris Climate Agreement Rulebook.
For one thing, specific regulations were defined in Glasgow to document the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in a uniform way, communicate them transparently and avoid “double counting” (see below). The signatories also adopted regulations for the international trade in emissions reductions and Article 6, which is of relevance for carbon offset projects, and which determines the emissions reductions between nations (6.2) and between nations and private individuals (6.4.).
Article 6 of the Paris Agreement opens up the possibility for countries to enter into a “voluntary collaboration” with other countries, to achieve their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Rules for the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement were established in Glasgow. These specific conditions and binding rules were the result of six years of difficult, controversial negotiations. The passing of these regulations is an important and major step for the future of carbon offset projects like those myclimate and others offer to private individuals and companies as specific, instantly effective offsetting measures for their own unavoidable CO2 emissions. (See the explanatory video about this above).
Previously, on the basis of the regulations in the Kyoto Protocol, nations or companies financed climate protection measures in the form of carbon offset projects in developing or emerging countries. These demonstrably reduce CO₂ emissions and thus generate tradable CO₂ certificates. These so-called emissions reduction certificates (Certified Emission Reductions, CERs) can be traded and transferred on international offsetting markets. This means that until now, nations and private individuals were able to credit themselves with emissions savings by funding these savings.
The Paris Article 6.2 now regulates direct international collaboration, that is the trade in emissions reduction certificates between two or more nations. A second possibility resulting from the collaboration is the “mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development” (Article 6.4). Article 6.4 regulates the successor to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) from the Kyoto Protocol. The most important standards of the voluntary CO₂ market, such as the Gold Standard, can now define regulations based on the conditions of 6.4. These are to be checked by a UN Supervisory Body, which is yet to be created (future successor to the CDM Executive Board, EB).
Both Articles define clear quality standards for the projects. These focus, for example, on environmental integrity, transparency and sustainable development.
Certificates from the voluntary market from the time of the Kyoto Protocol are only valid if they have an issue date of 2020 or older. Certificates with a more recent date already fall under the regulations of the Paris Climate Agreement.
One important goal of the regulations is to prevent any double counting of emissions reductions. For this reason, the signatories have agreed to regulations which exclude double counting of emissions reductions achieved abroad in cooperation between nations. These certificates – now known as Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) – also always require a “corresponding adjustment”. This signifies a newly created mechanism, which is to prove that double counting or double claiming can be excluded by means of a transparent process and appropriate accounting.
Double counting refers to occasions when two parties count the same emissions reduction for their respective climate goals. For example, when a country such as Switzerland and the country in which the carbon offset project is implemented both count the CO₂ reductions achieved for themselves. To prevent this double counting of emissions reductions, countries conclude agreements with each other. In these implementing agreements, the aforementioned “corresponding adjustments” ensure that the CO₂ reductions are deducted from the national greenhouse gas inventory of the country in which the carbon offset project is implemented.
In the case of projects under Article 6.4, one would speak of double claiming instead of double counting. If a country and a private entity – such as myclimate, for example – do not have an agreement with each other, both could claim the CO₂ reductions for themselves. In such a case, this could reduce the ambition of the country in which the project is taking place.
The corresponding adjustments in Article 6 are also particularly important for the voluntary CO₂ market, for example, in order for a company to be able to continue to call itself “climate-neutral” in future. This requires only the company to be credited and the removal of the emissions reduction from the accounting of the respective project country.
At COP26 in Glasgow, all nations were requested to revise their national climate goals and measures by the end of 2022. The goal to keep global warming significantly below two degrees will continue to be pursued. Global emissions are to be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010. The follow-up conference COP27 is to take place from 7 to 18 November 2022, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt under the slogan “Together for fair, ambitious implementation, NOW”.
The key regulations for the implementation of voluntary carbon offsetting were adopted in Glasgow. There is now clarity about the implementation of the Paris Agreement. This has further strengthened the importance of international collaboration in climate protection and the significance of market-based approaches, as well as voluntary contributions from the economy and society. This means that according to the Paris Rulebook, which was adopted in Glasgow, following a transition period which is yet to be defined, in future it will only be possible to claim climate neutrality when carbon offset projects are supported by corresponding adjustments.