Climate diplomacy in 2021: a year in review

Context, progress and lessons learned

The COP26 Presidency consults on The Glasgow Pact in November 2021, a key moment for climate diplomacy.
The COP26 Presidency consults on The Glasgow Pact in November 2021, a key moment for climate diplomacy. Photo via UN Climate Change on Flickr.

The myriad of climate diplomacy outcomes, and flurry of announced initiatives, unlocked in 2021 creates a long to-do list of follow-up action for the German G7 presidency in 2022. This briefing paper takes stock of the 2021 climate diplomacy agenda and outlines key G7 opportunities in 2022.  

Key takeaways

The strong alignment of the UK G7 presidency, Italian G20 presidency and the UK-Italian efforts behind the pre-COP and the COP26 presidency played a significant role in allowing these formats to build on each other. This resulted in formats that collectively cemented the centrality of the 1.5°C goal and enabled:

  • a G7 uniformly committed to climate neutrality and phasing out international coal finance in 2022,
  • a G20 committed to taking further action in the 2020s, including, “where necessary” enhancing their 2030 climate plans,
  • a Glasgow Climate Pact that opens door to accelerationagreeing processes for elaborating the global goal on adaptation, a dialogue to address support for loss and damage, an annual high-level ministerial round table on pre-2030; urged all parties who had not yet done so to submit long-term strategies towards just transitions to net zero emissions; urged parties to accelerate efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies; and requests all Parties to revisit and strengthen their 2030 targets as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022.

2021 cemented climate as a golden thread for cooperation in an era of crises, but geopolitical relationships will remain volatile heading into 2022.

The Glasgow Climate Pact opens door to acceleration, but COP26 highlighted that many emerging economies remain cautious about the speed and financing of rapid transitions. Credible answers on affordable finance will need to be found in 2022 for country-led packages replicating the South Africa Just Energy Transition Deal – both a test for G7 credibility as well as an opportunity for North – South(-South) cooperation

Stronger coalitions are needed for international structural reforms (MDBs, DFIs, IMF) to hardwire investment in climate and particularly climate resilience.

Climate impacts are becoming central to international conversations, as no region remained untouched by climate-related disasters and extreme weather events. However, 2021 also highlighted thatneither geopolitical (i.e., UN Security Council) nor international economic systems (including the IMF and development finance institutions) are yet fit for purpose in a strongly climate-impacted world.

2021 saw countries continue to launch and expand “coalition of the willing” initiatives around sectoral commitments – however, COP26 highlighted the need for much clearer transparency, tracking, and accountability mechanisms. Moving from announcement to implementation, as well as clarifying where these sectoral commitments can unlock more action by 2030 will be a key test of 2022.

Moving forward, the G7 as a format is under scrutiny – it remains a format with strong signalling power but will be judged on credible implementation at home, as well as its ability to broaden commitments to include the whole G20. This will require strong aligning with the Indonesia G20, as well as solidarity with and delivery for third countries.

Read the briefing in full.

This briefing is now available in German, access it here.


This briefing was released as part of E3G’s February 2022 newsletter, Climate diplomacy in 2022: shaping the rhythm of delivery. Subscribe to future E3G newsletters here


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