In a nutshell
UN Climate Summit in Glasgow: Between Success and Disappointment

Curbing the threat posed by the greenhouse effect will require binding mitigation measures and drastically higher investments to fund them worldwide. Hence there were great expectations at the UN Climate Summit, COP 26, in Glasgow. The Foundation was also on site to shine a spotlight on some key features at the most important climate event of 2021.

Robert Bosch Stiftung | December 2021
Aerial view of flooding in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone

Heat waves, extreme rainfalls, drought: Climate change influences the number and severity of weather extremes. This is no exception in Freetown, the capital of the West African state of Sierra Leone.

2015 saw the international community commit themselves in a historic climate agreement in Paris to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius – and strive to stay below 1.5. But reality has so far fallen significantly short of this ambition. Despite a range of political measures, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. “The climate summit delivered a thoroughly ambitious package of compromises,” reasons Dr. Gerrit Hansen, former Program Director Climate Change at the Robert Bosch Stiftung. “This includes reviewing the national climate change plans annually from now on, reinforcing the 1.5-degree target and its connection with the science, and the vast majority of countries committing to greenhouse gas neutrality by the middle of the century. However, there was less progress on key issues of justice, such as support for poorer countries to help with adapting to the impacts of climate change.”

Next to a bridge stands the green-lit building where the COP26 is taking place
Tomek Emigrant

In 2021, government representatives, journalists and climate change activists met for the 26th time in this building in Glasgow.

What was the aim of the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow?

Alongside tangible measures, such as accelerating the phase-out of coal, increasing investments in renewable energies, and protecting our forests and their function as carbon sinks, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow had two overriding, and vital, objectives. First, an ambitious final declaration was to underpin the targets set out in the Paris Agreement and build confidence in this multilateral process. Second, it aimed to raise widespread support for a cross-sectoral transformation to a greenhouse gas neutral society. The UK presidency succeeded in both, with the resulting Glasgow Climate Pact setting out many key decisions. The conference itself gathered momentum with a plethora of declarations of intent and announcements of new partnerships between governments, business, and the finance industry as well as the integration of Indigenous and youth groups in the process.

What were the key issues?

The UK presidency for this year’s climate summit was firmly committed to meeting the 1.5-degree target. Another central issue on the agenda was the role of nature and nature-based solutions. For instance, binding agreements were sought to ensure improved protection or restoration of key ecosystems in order to adapt to the consequences of the climate crisis. There was also a strong focus on climate justice. In addition to the question of how the 100 billion U.S. dollars in financial support for poorer countries pledged in Paris in 2015 would be raised, another key topic was how to deal with loss and damage caused by climate change. After all, even if we succeed in stabilizing the climate in the long term, the most severe consequences of climate change in the coming decades will primarily affect those who have played the smallest role in its creation. A further central issue was the concept of a “just transition”, whereby a fair transformation to a climate-neutral society is ensured.

Animals gather beneath the only tree in an arid landscape.
Ricardo Lima

One consequence of climate change: Parched grounds and drought have tragic consequences for people and the environment.

What agreements and progress on climate change were made in Glasgow?

In recent years, the countries party to the Paris Agreement have drawn up a detailed set of rules to implement the climate targets already agreed on in Paris. Glasgow saw the remaining unresolved issues of this Rulebook finally worked out. A central point of contention that was resolved was what form international cooperation, particularly on emissions trading, should take. Now there are clear rules on how companies and countries can offset greenhouse gas emissions outside their own national borders. When it comes to the creditability of emissions reductions, the devil is in the detail, but a robust framework like the one established in Glasgow is essential if we want to achieve climate targets.

Disappointing, in contrast, was the poor outcome on climate financing, and the persistent refusal of industrialized countries to make funds available for loss and damage. Many hopes have now turned to the “African” COP 27 in Egypt, which will focus on resilience and adaptation. One issue that was largely missing from the agenda was migration as a result of climate change. The World Bank predicts that migration, especially within national borders, will drastically increase by 2050 if we fail to significantly slow the global rise in temperature. Cities, civil society actors, and a number of states brought this issue to Glasgow and made sure it will receive significantly more attention at the next Climate Conference in 2022.

What part did the Robert Bosch Stiftung play in the Climate Conference? 

A global climate change conference also constitutes a forum for actors from across the globe to draw attention to their projects and initiatives, as well as to network. Glasgow saw many of the Foundation’s partners present their work. For instance, the Global Landscape Forum in cooperation with the UK presidency organized a three-day conference on “Forests, Food, Finance”, where one of the Foundation’s projects on the restoration of drylands in the Sahel was presented. The Global Alliance for the Future of Food was involved in a range of activities relating to climate and food, including the launch of the Glasgow Declaration for Food and Climate. The Climate Justice Resilience Fund organized an extensive program on climate justice, while the international association of mayors, the Mayors Migration Council, presented an action plan on climate and migration. Among other things, the Robert Bosch Stiftung used the Conference to announce the Global Cities Fund for Inclusive Climate Action, which from 2022 will award five cities in Sub-Saharan Africa a total of one million U.S. dollars in funding to help better protect migrants from the consequences of climate change. 

What are our priorities in our work on climate change?

Climate change and land use

Alongside phasing out fossil fuels, the land sector plays a central role in protecting the climate: Deforestation, soil erosion, synthetic fertilizers, and factory farming are responsible for around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, small-scale farmers in the Global South in particular are already facing the consequences of climate change on a massive scale. A rapid and equitable transformation of how we use land is vital to ensure sustainable development toward a climate-neutral society. We support solutions that protect the climate and ecosystems, build resilience, and address inequality. This involves working internationally, with a geographic focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

Human mobility in the context of climate change

Global climate change is depriving millions of people of their livelihoods and forcing them to leave their homes. Many initially turn to cities to build a new life. Across African cities in particular, rapid urbanization and the impact of climate change are already intersecting, with serious consequences for one of the most vulnerable population groups: migrants. We support stakeholders, largely on the African continent, in developing and implementing innovative and sustainable solutions. We promote dialogue between political, academic, and civil society actors and aim to help integrating scientific findings and practical insights into political processes on climate-induced migration.

Climate justice and a just transition

Both within individual countries and on a global scale, there is a sharp divide between those causing and those affected by the climate crisis. More affluent people and wealthy countries have played a much greater role in heating the atmosphere. At the same time, they are better equipped to deal with the consequences of climate change than the less affluent or socially disadvantaged. As the impacts of the climate crisis further deepen existing inequalities, halting climate change is not least a social issue. We support actors who develop and implement measures to protect the climate while reducing inequalities.