Why You Should (Almost) Always Make the First Offer

Photo: vchal (Shutterstock)

For some reason, negotiation tends to be considered a specialized professional skill instead of a basic life one. Business school students and salespeople learn tons about how to work out deals, but most of the rest of us never learn much about how to negotiate. That’s one reason why buying a major asset like a house or car is so stressful for regular folks—negotiating is mysterious to us.

But everyone negotiates on a constant basis, and learning some of the fundamentals of banging out a mutually-beneficial deal is a crucial skill we should all acquire. The challenges of learning how to bargain is often the mixture of emotion, psychology, and math. Leverage can swing back and forth between parties, and emotions can play as much of a role as finances (as anyone who has overpaid for a house because they “fell in love with it” can attest).

That’s why learning some basic negotiation skills is essential—starting with why you should always seriously consider making the first offer.

The Anchoring Effect

You’ve probably heard that you should always make the first offer when negotiating, possibly with some vague explanation about setting the terms. This is, in fact, generally good advice—because of something called the Anchoring Effect.

The Anchoring Effect is all about bias—it’s an irrational tendency in human beings to rely on the first piece of data they acquire, regardless of its value. We all have this bias—study after study has confirmed that the first number you hear will influence how you value something. When sellers make the first offer, the final price is usually higher, and one study found that 85% of negotiated outcomes generally aligned with the first offer.

The crazy part is, even when we know the first piece of data shouldn’t affect us, it does. In one experiment, people were asked to write down the last two digits of their own social security number and then asked if they would pay that much for various items. Then, they were asked to bid for the same things, and despite the fact that the “seed” number they’d been given was completely unrelated to anything, folks with higher social security numbers bid much higher for everything.

Dropping the anchor

The irrational power of the Anchoring Effect is why making the first offer (sometimes called “dropping the anchor”) is a powerful tool in a negotiation. But that doesn’t mean it always works—you need to know how to use it in order to get the full benefit of the effect.

Here are some things to consider when planning to drop an anchor into a negotiation:

  • Be aggressive. People often worry that being overly aggressive with an opening offer or price will insult or scare off the other party. But an aggressive first offer is your best strategy. An aggressive first offer leaves you room to “compromise,” while still getting a better deal in the end (a form of the “Door in the Face” technique).
  • Don’t be absurd. Keep in mind that “aggressive” doesn’t mean “insane.” While an aggressive first offer can set the goalposts in your favor, throwing out an offer that is completely out of line with reality can make the other side wonder if you’re serious, competent, or credible.
  • Be specific. The more precise your first offer is, the more effective it will be in anchoring your opposition. The classic example is pricing a house: A list price of $255,500 will get higher bids than a list price of $255,000—or $256,000.

By putting some thought into the specifics of your first offer, you can most benefit from the irrational power of the Anchoring Effect.

Other negotiating success factors

As powerful as the Anchoring Effect can be in a negotiation, it’s not a magic spell. The first thing to keep in mind is that if you’re dealing with an experienced and trained business or sales professional, chances are they know all about it and have been trained in ways to “defuse” the anchor, which is often as simple as ignoring it and pivoting to details, or offering an immediate “counter-anchor” in an effort to redefine the terms.

The key to a successful anchoring first offer is information, really. The ideal scenario for dropping an anchor is when you know more than the other side. When the other party has access to more information than you do, it’s very difficult to drop an anchor. For example, if a homeowner knows the real estate market in their area well, they know how much their property is worth, and your aggressive anchor will simply seem absurd.

Or consider interviewing for a job—the interviewer knows what the budgeted salary for a position is, and you don’t. If your first salary ask is way outside that budget, it’s not going to have the intended effect. On the other hand, if you both know the same amount of information, your anchor will be predictable and expected, making it easier to defuse.

And if you’re both in the dark, a first offer will be pretty much a guess, making it impossible to know whether you’re actually helping yourself with your shot in the dark anchor. All that being said, making the first offer has been proven to have a beneficial psychological effect on the other side of a negotiation. So use this power. Just do your research first.

By: Jeff Somers

Source: Why You Should (Almost) Always Make the First Offer

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The Power of Empathy in the Workplace

iStock Image -1023552044

We’ve all had those moments of pure attention, when it seems everyone in the room is attracted to your energy. Yet for many of us, that place is difficult to tap into. Your mind races with nervousness about something previously said and you worry about what to say next, each distraction lessening the power of your interaction.

The key to success in these moments is empathy. This ability to understand and relate to others is a powerful skill that takes work, but in mastering it, you can better both your personal and professional interactions.

Related: Use these five elements of psychology to improve your writing.

The Power of Empathy

Empathy is about establishing trust by outwardly recognizing what someone else is experiencing. It’s difficult for people to fully engage in any interaction if they don’t feel that they are being heard and understood.

Think about how free and open your interactions are with close friends and family. Your conversations are super productive because you have each freed yourself to fully engage.

However, at work or in our other day-to-day interactions, we are naturally cautious. We withhold information, we don’t ask the tough questions, and it’s much harder to make decisions or resolve issues. That generally leads to subpar outcomes.

Four Steps for Practicing Empathy

1. Observe: Pay attention to voice, tone, body language, and the situation.
2. Listen: What feelings and emotions are being conveyed?
3. Interpret: What needs are behind those feelings and emotions?
4. Share: Openly state what you think you understand about the other person and ask for feedback to make sure you’re right.

Straightforward, right? Not exactly.

Why Listening is Scientifically a Struggle

Being a good empathizer is largely connected with being a good listener.

Chris Voss, former FBI negotiator and author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, explains that it’s a struggle to focus in attentive moments because listening is far from a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do, and empathetic listening can power some of the most fundamental functions of your workplace.

If you struggle with listening, you are not alone. Renowned author and journalist Michael Pollan examined this difficulty in his recent book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.

Pollan found that a major area of the brain known as the default mode network (DMN), which acts as an overseer keeping brain operations in check, is most likely the very operator that makes active listening so difficult.

How the DMN Works

The DMN is what kicks in when you have nothing to do. And it seems to be responsible for the construction of what we call the self or ego. It’s all that noise that comes pouring in when you’re in idle; the flood of thoughts about the past and future and myriad distractions that we often feel powerless to overcome. It can become who we are. It also leads to rumination and self-referential thinking, which is not conducive to empathy.

The DMN is powerful, but you are not powerless to resist it. Attention, focus, and active listening help quiet the ego, allowing you more effective listening.

Try this: Consistent meditation, even just 10 minutes a day, has been shown to decrease activity in the DMN, which then leads to better empathy.

Practicing Empathy in the Workplace

Empathy in the workplace is something I encourage the team at D Custom to actively practice. Here are some of the things it can power.

Empathy and Negotiating

While Voss’ FBI negotiations might not be the first place your mind goes in wondering where and how empathy might be better understood and applied, it is paramount in their field. As he notes, when preparing for a negotiation, it’s more important to concentrate on demeanor and state of mind rather than what you will say or do. This is empathy in all its glory.

Empathy and Trust

Empathy establishes trust, and establishing trust enables more productive working relationships. By practicing empathy in the workplace, you will expose goals and concerns more readily. And you cannot resolve issues until that comes from both sides.

Implementing empathy to build trust starts with recognizing people’s fears and validating them without passing judgment or offering a solution. If you do that in a consistent way as a team member or leader, you will get all manner of engagement from your team.

Empathy and Creativity

Empathy is about a genuine connection, and active listening is a gateway to thoughtful collaboration. Ideas come to light in a creative environment, and an attentive approach helps increase input so much that possibilities expand in a way they would not have otherwise.

Empathy can be a force for powerful relationships. From persuading groups to negotiating with terrorists to growing a fruitful community of coworkers, empathy emerges as an imminent provider of success. It’s wired into our psychology to the point that we can’t resist it. So be present and empathy will follow. From that, the possibilities are boundless.

By Paul Buckley

Source: The Power of Empathy in the Workplace | D Custom

.

Related contents:

Britain’s leaders in workplace wellbeing recognised in national awards shortlist Wellbeing News

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Microsoft in Advanced Talks to Increase Investment in OpenAI

Microsoft previously invested $1 billion in OpenAI.Photo:Mike Segar/REUTERS 

Microsoft Corp. MSFT 1.26% is in advanced talks for a new round of funding in OpenAI, according to a person familiar with the matter, as the software giant seeks to further incorporate artificial intelligence into its products.

No deal has been reached between the two sides and the funding amount could vary as negotiations evolve, the person said. The companies have held talks in recent weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI in 2019.

The new cash could help bankroll the tremendous computing power OpenAI needs to run its various artificial intelligence products on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service.

The startup already uses Azure as its exclusive cloud partner and has agreed to give priority to Microsoft when bringing new technologies to market.Everything is now a tech thing. Columnist Joanna Stern is your guide, giving analysis and answering your questions about our always-connected world.

OpenAI earlier this year launched Dall-E 2, a project that allowed users to generate art from strings of text and showed the fast advances being made in that segment of AI technology. Last week, Microsoft announced it was integrating Dall-E 2 with various products including Microsoft Design, a new graphic design app, and the image creator for search app Bing.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Microsoft have each developed its own image-generating models—but have been slower to release them to the public, in part because of ethical concerns.

A newer set of startups have moved more quickly. In August, artificial intelligence startup Stability AI released its own text-to-image generator to the public. It then raised $101 million in new funding from investors including Lightspeed Venture Partners and Coatue Management.

OpenAI, led by the technology investor Sam Altman, began as a nonprofit in 2015 with $1 billion in pledges from Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and other backers.

In 2019, OpenAI created a for-profit company and raised the $1 billion from Microsoft, citing greater computing and staffing needs. OpenAI said it would cap profits at the company, diverting the remainder to the nonprofit group.

Much of OpenAI’s research is focused on the potential impacts of artificial general intelligence, the idea that AI systems could one day become better than humans at performing some of the most important tasks.

Some researchers have cautioned that recent advances in AI contribute to unwarranted hype around the technology, and many applications are fraught with ethical issues.

OpenAI said more than 1.5 million users created over 2 million images a day using Dall-E 2 after it was released to the public this month. The technology can turn text descriptions like “an Andy Warhol style painting of a bunny rabbit wearing sunglasses” into realistic images and artworks.

OpenAI has also developed programs to automatically generate text or computer code from written language samples, which are used by companies including Salesforce Inc. CRM 0.02% and Intel Corp. INTC 0.76%

By: Berber Jin and Miles Kruppa

Source: Microsoft in Advanced Talks to Increase Investment in OpenAI – WSJ

Critics:

Criticism of Microsoft has followed various aspects of its products and business practices. Frequently criticized are the ease of use, robustness, and security of the company’s software. They’ve also been criticized for the use of permatemp employees (employees employed for years as “temporary,” and therefore without medical benefits), the use of forced retention tactics, which means that employees would be sued if they tried to leave.[246]

Historically, Microsoft has also been accused of overworking employees, in many cases, leading to burnout within just a few years of joining the company. The company is often referred to as a “Velvet Sweatshop”, a term which originated in a 1989 Seattle Times article,[247] and later became used to describe the company by some of Microsoft’s own employees.[248] This characterization is derived from the perception that Microsoft provides nearly everything for its employees in a convenient place, but in turn overworks them to a point where it would be bad for their (possibly long-term) health.

As reported by several news outlets,[249][250] an Irish subsidiary of Microsoft based in the Republic of Ireland declared £220 bn in profits but paid no corporation tax for the year 2020. This is due to the company being tax resident in Bermuda as mentioned in the accounts for ‘Microsoft Round Island One’, a subsidiary that collects licence fees from the use of Microsoft software worldwide.

Dame Margaret Hodge, a Labour MP in the UK said, “It is unsurprising – yet still shocking – that massively wealthy global corporations openly, unashamedly and blatantly refuse to pay tax on the profits they make in the countries where they undertake business”.[250]

In 2020, ProPublica reported that the company had diverted more than $39 billion in U.S. profits to Puerto Rico using a mechanism structured to make it seem as if the company was unprofitable on paper. As a result, the company paid a tax rate on those profits of “nearly 0%.” When the Internal Revenue Service audited these transactions, ProPublica reported that Microsoft aggressively fought back, including successfully lobbying Congress to change the law to make it harder for the agency to conduct audits of large corporations.

“Embrace, extend, and extinguish” (EEE),[253] also known as “embrace, extend, and exterminate”,[254] is a phrase that the U.S. Department of Justice found[255] that was used internally by Microsoft[256] to describe its strategy for entering product categories involving widely used standards, extending those standards with proprietary capabilities, and then using those differences to strongly disadvantage competitors. Microsoft is frequently accused of using anticompetitive tactics and abusing its monopolistic power.

People who use their products and services often end up becoming dependent on them, a process known as vendor lock-in. Microsoft was the first company to participate in the PRISM surveillance program, according to leaked NSA documents obtained by The Guardian[257] and The Washington Post[258] in June 2013, and acknowledged by government officials following the leak.[259]

The program authorizes the government to secretly access data of non-US citizens hosted by American companies without a warrant. Microsoft has denied participation in such a program. Jesse Jackson believes Microsoft should hire more minorities and women. In 2015, he praised Microsoft for appointing two women to its board of directors

.

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Biography.com. Archived from the original on November 6, 2016. Retrieved November 8, 2016.“Microsoft Company History”. Archived from the original on August 6, 2013. Retrieved March 20, 2013.Finucane, Martin (December 30, 2008). “Harvard Square newsstand sold the magazine that started a revolution”. Boston.com. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on January 1, 2009.

“Bill Gates: A Timeline”. BBC News Online. BBC. July 15, 2006. Archived from the original on June 22, 2006. Retrieved July 17, 2010.Schlender, Brent (October 2, 1995). “Bill Gates & Paul Allen Talk Check Out The Ultimate Buddy Act in Business History”. Fortune. Time Inc. Archived from the original on May 3, 2011. Retrieved April 25, 2011.Allen, Paul (2011). Paul Allen: Idea Man. Penguin Group. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-14-196938-1.

Staples, Betsy (August 1984). “Kay Nishi bridges the cultural gap”. Creative Computing. 10 (8): 192. Archived from the original on May 11, 2011. Retrieved July 15, 2010.Dyar, Dafydd Neal (November 4, 2002). “Under The Hood: Part 8”. Computer Source. Archived from the original on September 1, 2006. Retrieved July 14, 2010.Engines That Move Markets: Technology Investing from Railroads to the Internet and Beyond.

John Wiley & Sons. 2002. ISBN 978-0-471-20595-1. Archived from the original on March 23, 2019. Retrieved February 8, 2018.“Microsoft to Microsoft disk operating system (MS-DOS)”. Smart Computing. Sandhills Publishing Company. 6 (3). March 2002. Archived from the original on April 5, 2004. Retrieved August 18, 2008.Blaxill, Mark; Eckardt, Ralph (2009). The Invisible Edge: Taking Your Strategy to the Next Level Using Intellectual Property.

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O’Connor, Clare. “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Microsoft Billionaire Paul Allen, Seattle Seahawks Owner”. Forbes. Archived from the original on February 2, 2018. Retrieved February 1, 2018.“Microsoft OS/2 Announcement”. April 10, 2010. Archived from the original on April 10, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2017.

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How To Geek. Retrieved November 29, 2020.Chew, Jonathan (August 24, 2015). “Microsoft Launched This Product 20 Years Ago and Changed the World.” Fortune. Retrieved November 29, 2020.Microsoft collects little for Telewest call – CNET News

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How To Become a Killer Negotiator In Nine Steps

Negotiating is something we do on a daily basis, be it at work or at home, and is key to ensuring that you always get the best outcome. According to the late soul singer Marvin Gaye, “Negotiation means getting the best of your opponent”. But negotiation is an art form that is hard to learn and even harder to master.

We’ve cherry-picked the most powerful tips for becoming a killer negotiator from Quora, the global question and answer network, to find the secret to getting what you want, every time.

1. Always be prepared

“You need to know as much as you can about the other party/topic/project”, explains Sebastian Amieva, a Quora poster who studied negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Fellow Quora poster Margaret Weiss agrees: “Negotiation is about the other party. It’s not about you. You can be the best orator in the world – concise, convincing, eloquent – but if the other party cannot relate to you, regardless of your skills, all of those efforts will be in vain.

“The first thing that negotiators do is research their target audience – and based on the information gathered they adjust their pitch to the exact expectations of the other party. This research is what makes a person a good negotiator: the ability to connect to the needs of the other party, and the ability to speak on the same level.”

2. Remain objective

“A mediator must remain objective in discussing issues, even if they dislike some or all of the parties to the negotiation,” says Shane Dempsey, a professional mediator.

Even if you don’t like the other parties involved, they should still receive professionalism and courtesy, Ms Dempsey added.

3. Use open-ended questions

According to behavioural science expert Craig Dos Santos, asking open-ended questions is key to negotiating, as it gets the other party talking, “so you can learn more, listen more, and figure out what is driving their thought process”.

“Don’t ask questions that start with verbs. ‘Is that okay?’ or ‘Is the budget proposal correct?’ Instead try, ‘How can we improve this?’ or ‘What changes are needed in the budget proposal?’”

4. Don’t talk too much

By listening more and talking less, negotiators are able to develop a detailed understanding of the needs of the other person.

“The best negotiator that I’ve known really didn’t talk much,” says Yishan Wong, a former chief executive of Reddit whose Quora post on this topic received almost 2,000 upvotes (or “likes”). “He would just ask you questions about what you wanted and listen really carefully.

“People like to talk about what they want and how they feel about it, so they will tend to go on about things if you let them, and he would just let them do that, all the while listening really carefully.

“He would then go away and figure out how to structure the right deal given the resources/abilities at his (or his company’s) disposal, and then present them with a deal,” adds Mr Wong. “He didn’t need to talk them into it very much, the key seemed to be all about getting into their heads to find out what kind of deal would be most appealing to them.”

5. Force a ‘no’ out of your opponent

Mr Dos Santos has a contrarian approach to negotiation. “When you get a ‘no’ you have a real answer,” he says. “Being open to (or even inviting) ‘no’ is respecting the other side’s ability to make a choice. Often yes answers are actually maybes, and they also don’t give you information about the boundaries.

“A simple example: someone offers you £95,000, and you ask for £100,000. They say yes. What did you learn? Could you have asked for more? Should you have asked for something else instead?”

Mr Dos Santos claims that the key to asking the harder questions is being able to bring the person back after ‘no’. “Hard questions introduce tension, and your ability to ask them is gated by your ability to reduce that tension by making the other party feel okay/better,” he says. “Notice the focus on emotion.”

6. Give them options

“Humans have a basic need for autonomy. If our ability to choose is restricted, we rebel,” claims Quora poster Brandon Villano.

“Come up with a few options that are favorable to you, and give them the opportunity to select which one they want. This is very powerful because it makes them feel much more in control (while still satisfying your requirements).

“All in all remember it’s a win/win situation you are looking to achieve. You want the other party to feel good about the decision they made and happy that they got what they wanted. If you always come out on top with others feeling cheated, you build a bad reputation and this will make others wary of attempting a transaction with you.”

7. Fake empathy

“The other day a friend pinged me because he wanted a discount on an Airbnb rental,” writes Mr Dos Santos. “It was £2,700 and he wanted it for £2,000. Instead of just offering £2,000, which would mean the owner would have to fight an internal battle over what the place was actually worth, I helped him over-empathise with her.”

The friend drafted an email that read: “The place is gorgeous. I loved the photos and I would love to stay there. It’s probably worth more than £2,700 and your price is a steal. However, I’m on a company budget, and I can only pay £2,000.”

This is a counter-intuitive approach: this individual has admitted that the asking price is fair and even said that it might be worth more. However, by using emotional manipulation, he got his deal. “He didn’t fight her on valuation, and he made her feel good about the place,” says Mr Dos Santos. “He got the discount. £700 in 10 minutes with one email.”

8. Fix a deadline for negotiations to end

Rather than allowing negotiations to go on interminably, fix a reasonable deadline to get the deal done.

“It is very helpful to have some deadline/expiration date to create a forcing function for the negotiators,” says entrepreneur Kacy Qua. “If you are negotiating on behalf of an organisation and you come out of the negotiation too quickly, your side will think you didn’t put up a strong enough fight.

“Having a deadline also provides a point from which you can work backward, so that you can time the flow of agreements/proposal rejections.”

9. Volunteer for The Samaritans

“The FBI often trains hostage negotiators by sending them to crisis/suicide hotlines for a year,” says Mr Dos Santos. “This is a process I’m currently going through myself. Why? Because it’s the ultimate training ground for focusing on someone’s emotions, and moving them from A to B. And it’s hugely rewarding work.”

Source: How to Become a Killer Negotiator in Nine Steps

Critics by Barbara Thomas:

If you’re new to negotiation and The Black Swan Method™, the first step to becoming a skilled negotiator is enrolling in our online class, Negotiation 9™ (N9™). This class teaches the nine core skills that are foundational to becoming a world-class negotiator. Are you brand new to the N9? Here’s a brief primer on each skill:

Labels: It is a communication technique in which you identify emotions, dynamics, and motivations that exist in the conversation but have not yet been verbalized. For example, if your counterpart seems rattled and distracted, Label the emotions, and or the dynamics behind the behavior,  “It seems like you’ve got a lot on your mind.” “It seems like something of importance is distracting you.”

Mirrors: This is a technique in which you reflect the last 1-3 words the other side says with either an inquisitive tone or a declarative tone. If your counterpart says, You won’t be able to beat this price, you can Mirror™ the last 1-3 words, “beat this price?”, or even the last word, “price?” Your tone should reflect if you are Mirroring as a question or as a statement.

Dynamic Silence: You can use silence to create awkward tension that your counterpart fills with additional information. Dynamic Silence™ is best used in conjunction with other N9 skills. Simply count one one thousand, two one thousand in your head, and your counterpart will fill the air before you get to 10. If you go past 12 seconds, you’ve missed something important that your counterpart was trying to convey to you. Label this dynamic. 

Paraphrasing: Paraphrasing occurs when you take the other side’s words and repackage them so they know you’re listening

Summary: A Summary™ is a thorough synopsis of what your counterpart said. It’s so comprehensive that your counterpart has no choice but to respond with these two magical words: “That’s Right”™. 

Calibrated Questions : These questions begin with what, how, and sometimes why and are used to shape the way your counterpart thinks. For example, you might ask: “What is this going to look like moving forward?”? This is a thought-shaping question That directs your counterpart to a thoughtful response. Here, one-word answers won’t suffice.

I Messages: These messages are designed to help you draw a line in the proverbial sand with persistent, counterproductive behavior.. Here’s the formula: When you [do this counterproductive thing], I feel [like this] because [the reason the behavior is bad]. Here’s an example: When you consistently blow off our meetings, I feel like we’re wasting our time because it seems you’re not taking this deal seriously.

Encouragers: Encouragers are simple acknowledgments that prove you’re in the moment, such as nodding your head and saying mm-hmm. Encouragers keep your counterpart engaged in the conversation and lets them know you are listening.

Tone of Voice: They are playing an important role in negotiations. People are six times more likely to do business with people they like. An Accommodating tone, light and friendly, should be used for the majority of the negotiation. Shift to the Analyst, “Late-Night DJ Voice,” when you need to get a serious point across and when you make an ask. The Assertive tone should not be used during negotiations. An Assertive tone will come across as challenging and accusatory, not a good tone for negotiations.  

Related contents:

Using Integrative Negotiation Techniques to Close the Deal Program on Negotiation – Harvard Law School

Dear Negotiation Coach: Which Negotiation Closing Techniques Will Get Me To The Finish Line? Program on Negotiation – Harvard Law School

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What The Outcome Of COP26 Means For The Fight Against Climate Change

British Columbia declared a state of emergency following record rainfall that resulted in widespread flooding of farms, landslides and the evacuation of residents. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While addressing the 26th UN Climate Change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, during the final hours of the event, COP26 President Alok Sharma was overcome with emotion. China and India had just proposed a last-minute change to the final text of the agreement, known as the Glasgow Climate Pact, so that the call to “phase out” unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies was watered down to “phase down.”

Delegates from other countries, from Switzerland to Cuba, deplored the move, but ultimately adopted the text in the interest of time, as the conference was running more than 24 hours late by that point.

“I apologize for the way this process has unfolded and I am deeply sorry” said Sharma, who earlier in the week had told reporters he was sometimes called “No-drama Sharma.” He then added: “I also understand the disappointment, but, as you’ve noted, it is vital we protect this package,” his voice quivering towards the end of the sentence.

Specific mentions of fossil fuels had eluded previous UN climate agreements, and the Glasgow Climate Pact was meant to mark a landmark achievement despite two rounds of revision diluting and complicating the simple “phase out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies” sentence featured in the document’s first draft. Sharma and the U.K. government had a clear goal for COP26—to keep the spirit of 1.5 alive, a reference to COP21’s milestone Paris agreement, which called for global action to prevent temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

To do so, it’s crucial to reach net zero emissions by 2050—meaning that for every amount of greenhouse gas emissions, an equal number is removed from the atmosphere—and, to be on track to reach that goal, scientists think global emissions should be halved by 2030. Earlier this year, a report from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that global temperatures have already risen by 1.1 degree Celsius on pre-industrial levels.

“We have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action,” Sharma said. It’s a statement that doesn’t hide the disappointment the conference organizers must have felt as the event that was dubbed the “most important COP since Paris” just couldn’t fully deliver on its ambition. COP26 was neither success nor failure—absolute concepts that don’t reflect the complexities of high-level international negotiations—but a mixed bag of progress on some issues, disappointment on others, and a whole lot of pledges.

COP26’s Key Agreements And Pledges

The U.K. Presidency had four key objectives summarized as “coal, cash, cars, and trees”—in other words, ending coal power generation (a pledge now endorsed by 46 countries with a deadline set at 2040), providing the long promised $100 billion annual support towards developing countries’ green transition (a goal that was meant to cover the period 2020-2025 but not materializing until 2023 at least, and whose future beyond 2025), supporting electric vehicles and a phase out of gasoline and diesel-powered motor vehicles by 2040, and reversing deforestation in an attempt to protect existing nature-based solutions to capturing emissions.

The bilateral agreement between the U.S. and China on climate change action, including a cut in methane emissions—the subject of a multilateral agreement produced at COP26 to which China refused to take part—was also a remarkable development.

Some of these agreements are imperfect—the one about deforestation, for instance, pledged to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.” It appeared a success as it involved Brazil, home to the world’s largest rainforest who’s been losing trees at record pace this year, but Brazilian senators soon clarified that their commitment would only extend to illegal deforestation. Campaigners have long indicated that the line between legal and illegal deforestation in the country is often blurred due to amnesties affecting illegally deforested areas.

Others are deprived of key players. A campaign to phase out oil and gas in the next 30 years promoted by Denmark and Costa Rica, for instance, lacked the support of COP26’s host country, the U.K., which is considering the development of a new coal mine and an offshore oil field.

Pledges submitted by countries to reduce their emissions remain insufficient to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius target. The most optimistic scenario drafted by the International Energy Agency (IEA), in which all nations follow through with their pledges, puts the world on course for a 1.8 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures by 2100. The non-profit group Climate Action Tracker confirmed the IEA calculation, but indicated that a more realistic outcome for those pledges is a 2.4 degrees temperature rise—and a 2.7 degrees on the basis of current policies.

A report this week by the Paris Reinforce consortium, which comprises 18 research institutions, adds nuance to those figures, finding that current policies put the world on course for between 2.3 to 2.9 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100, while climate pledges lead to warming of 2.2 to 2.7 degrees over the same period.

Some countries are already feeling the impact of rising global temperatures and several developing countries, some of which are already facing rising sea levels eating into their territories and extreme weather events devastating lives and livelihoods, branded a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in global temperatures as a “death sentence.” Developing countries and civil society campaigners were disappointed with the failure to create a robust mechanism to disburse financial aid towards loss and damage in the face of climate change.

Sir David King, chair of Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG), an independent group of 15 experts from 11 countries that released their own assessment of COP26’s outcome this week, called the failure to reach an agreement on that front a “fundamental breach of trust.” He said in a press statement: “What we have at hand is a fundamental breach of trust between rich and poor nations, with catastrophic consequences for the world. Without a recalibration from developed nations on how they approach their relations with poorer countries, change at the scale and pace required to ensure global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is nigh on impossible.”

The Path Ahead

On a positive note, delegates were able to finalize a deal around carbon markets that was left unfinished in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, paving the way for building a system to price and trade carbon globally. COP26 also saw unprecedented commitments from the private sector to reaching net zero goals and supplying the trillions of dollars needed to fund the transition.

“All actors in the financial sector have stepped on board to redirect the standards on where investments go. It sends a signal,” Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told Forbes during COP26.

Another sign of progress Rockström witnessed in Glasgow is an overall agreement that limiting emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement is a must. “This is the first COP where we do not debate any longer the direction we’re moving at, we’re debating the speed,” he said.

It’s not just the speed—the way to achieve those emissions reduction remains under discussion. Nuclear power and hydrogen—which can be “green” when produced via renewable energy, but is dubbed “blue” if derived from fossil fuels—were offered big platforms at COP26 in the form of pavilions and participation at keynote speeches and panel sessions, more so than producers of solar and wind energy.

Forms of transportation that don’t traditionally feature fuel engine combustion, such as trains or bicycles, weren’t even considered in the program, which instead focused on electric vehicles, airplanes, and shipping—sectors that present huge decarbonization challenges, which nonetheless shouldn’t detract from discussing existing low-carbon modes of transportation. 

Overall, lacking from the discussions at COP26 was the understanding that reaching net zero emissions requires more than just a switch from one energy source to another, but a reinvention of current modes of production and consumption. This was noted by Guy Grainger, global head of sustainability services at real estate services company JLL, who would have liked more focus on the circular economy, at least in his sector. “The circular economy has got a huge role to play in the built environment, but [it] actually hasn’t been talked about enough yet. I’m hoping that that will come,” he told Forbes.

One of the few people who addressed the need for more radical change was fashion designer Stella McCartney. “Fast-fashion [brands] obviously need to reduce what they produce,” she told Forbes. She explained that she, too, has gone through the process of reducing her product range, adding: “I want to show my industry that you can have a business model in working in a cleaner, more sustainable way.”

COP26 is now over, but the mission to prevent the worst consequences of climate change continues. No doubt the issues that created disappointment in Glasgow will be discussed with even more urgency next November, at COP27 in Egypt.

I am an assistant editor based in London, from where I oversee coverage of sustainability and curate the Daily Dozen newsletter. I have worked as a reporter for Newsweek and PinkNews,

Source: What The Outcome Of COP26 Means For The Fight Against Climate Change

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