‘Phase down’ rather than ‘phase out’ coal
Everything you need to know from week 2 of COP26
Now that COP26 has drawn to a close, we reflect on the outcomes from week two and the agreement of the Glasgow Climate Pact. This is the deal that’s come out of COP26, and it’s been met with mixed reaction. It’s the first ever climate deal to explicitly plan to reduce coal, but the agreement to only ‘phase down’ rather than ‘phase out’ coal has led to criticism.
Here’s all the key information you need to know from week 2:
Barack Obama addressed COP26, urging nations to understand the urgency of the situation, and for individuals to continue to put pressure on policymakers and businesses. During the day, giving up meat and dairy, and moving to a plant based diet was raised as good practice and corporate tree planting was discussed because mass planting the same type of tree can be dangerous to biodiversity.
It was calculated that there were more delegates at COP26 associated with the fossil fuel industry than from any single country, with around 1% of attendees being either part of a delegation of a fossil fuel trade association or a member of a group that represents the interests of oil and gas companies.
The UN’s Race to Resilience campaign is a follow on from the Race to Zero campaign and aims to bring together initiatives that strengthen the urban, coastal, and rural resilience of two billion people worldwide; the goal is to reach four billion people. So far, the programme has improved more than 100 natural systems including mangroves and forests. The programme released a metrics framework to enable businesses, cities, and regions to measure their climate resilience and assess the strength of their plans for improvement. Additionally, a Global Resilience Index has launched, which aims to improve how the finance sector measures the resiliency of nations, corporates, and supply chains.
The Principles for Locally Led Adaptation was signed by over seventy governments and bodies, agreeing to fund over $450m to support initiatives and programmes to enhance locally led approaches to adaptation. This will include a dedicated taskforce aimed at improving access to climate-related finance. Also, eighty-eight countries have now published their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) to increase preparedness to climate risks, with thirty-eight published in the last year.
Many other schemes and pledges were made to climate related adaptation finance including:
However, developing nations have been vocal in their disappointment in developed nations to deliver against their pledge to provide $100bn of annual climate finance. They argue that rich countries are responsible for most of today’s climate change impacts because they started emitting carbon much earlier than the rest of the world. The UK has never fully delivered against its pledged contribution and the UN’s Adaptation Gap Report states that the levels of financing needed from developed countries must increase at least fivefold, and as much as tenfold, by 2030.
The UN’s Fashion Charter for Climate Action includes signatories such as Primark, Zara and H&M, and was updated from a 30% emission reduction to 50% by 2050 and to be carbon neutral by 2050. It also requires signatories to procure 100% renewable electricity and to deliver coal-free supply chains by 2030.
The purpose of this session was to address the ways in which women, girls and marginalised people are disproportionately impacted by climate change, as well as the importance of their leadership and participation in delivering solutions. Women have not been properly represented in governments and businesses present at international climate talks and the She Changes Climate campaign continues to call on all parties to provide a 50/50 delegation of women at leadership levels.
Countries have committed to tackle gender inequality and climate change in a variety of ways, including:
These announcements help to drive implementation of the Gender Action Plan agreed at COP25, ahead of the next Commission on the Status of Women session (CSW66) in March 2022, which will focus on gender equality in the context of climate change.
The purpose of this session was to improve international collaboration to use science and innovation to achieve the Paris Agreement.
Through the Mission Innovation Platform, four missions to catalyse clean technology investment in cities were launched.
China, India, UK, US and EU are among a cohort of 23 governments that account for 90% of global public investment in low-carbon energy innovations made in the last year. The missions are:
Through the Industrial Deep Decarbonisation Initiative (IDDI) nations have committed to disclose the embodied carbon in major public construction projects by 2025, at the latest. This will provide a baseline for developing a 2030 reduction target for embodied carbon and the UK, UAE, India, Germany, and Canada are participating. Additionally, 15 large businesses in the concrete value chain have launched a ConcreteZero buyers’ club, whereby members will pledge to ensure a percentage of the concrete they produce is net zero by 2030. Finally, the UK announced £7m of funding for space innovation linked to climate change; projects that will receive funding include using satellites to thermally identify energy inefficiency from buildings as well as forest health management.
Thirty countries pledged to make zero emission vehicles accessible and affordable by 2035 for leading markets and 2040 for all other markets. However, China and Germany are absent, along with Volkswagen, Toyota, Renault-Nissan and Hyundai-Kia. Whilst the USA did not sign up as a whole, New York and LA did. Conversely, Ford, General Motors, and Jaguar Land Rover all signed up, along with fleet owners such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco. This goal is guiding the Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council (ZEVTC), which will launch its first annual Action Plan in 2022, setting out areas for cooperation to accelerate the transition. The UK also committed to phasing out new, non-zero emission HGVs weighing 26 tonnes and under by 2035, with all new HGVs sold in the UK to be zero emission by 2040.
A growing green hydrogen market – The WBCSD and the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) confirmed that 28 organisations from the mining, manufacturing and financial sectors have pledged to grow the green hydrogen market. Hydrogen produces zero emissions at the point of use, but currently more than 90% of the world’s production is ‘grey’ hydrogen which is produced via fossil fuels. Moving away from grey hydrogen to green hydrogen, which is produced via renewable energy, could significantly reduce global carbon emissions. The UK’s Hydrogen Strategy aims to host at least 5GW of ‘low-carbon’ hydrogen production by 2030 and to attract £4bn of private investment. However, this covers both green and blue hydrogen (which is natural gas based with carbon capture and storage methods involved) and there is criticism that there isn’t enough focus on green hydrogen.
The US and China released a joint declaration that they will convene a joint working group, to deliver action on clean energy, coal, methane reduction and banning deforestation in the 2020s. The first meeting is set for early 2022 and there is an expectation that both countries show greater commitments and hard actions.
Green shipping corridors have been established and will consist of zero-emission shipping routes between two ports. This will involve deploying zero-emission vessel technologies and putting alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, ammonia, and electric charging infrastructure in place. Through the Clydebank Declaration, nineteen governments have agreed to set up six short-haul corridors by the mid-2020s, with long-haul routes by 2030.
Nations representing 40% of global aviation emissions have committed to developing a new 1.5°C aligned joint emissions target. There are eighteen signatories currently, and targets will be adopted once they’re developed. Aviation firms have also released plans to increase the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) within supply chains through the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA). SAFs produced from renewable sources or waste feedstocks account for less than 0.1% of aviation fuels, but they can be used as drop-in fuels to reduce carbon emissions associated with traditional jet fuel. However, some have argued that bodies are over-emphasising SAFs to under invest in electric and hydrogen solutions, and to avoid difficult conversations on capping growth in the sector.
The UN estimates that urban buildings account for 40% of global emissions each year, and that 800 million people living in cities will be vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding by 2050. The focus for this session therefore was to accelerate the mitigation and adaptation efforts of cities and to improve nature and wellbeing in urban areas.
The UK Government confirmed it will develop a Local Net-Zero Forum to engage and support councils on the road to net-zero. This is after concerns were raised that the Government isn’t doing enough to support councils after the Heat and Building Strategy, the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme and the Future Homes Standard were all updated last year.
The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) released its Whole Life Carbon Roadmap, which is a tool to help businesses across the built environment sector measure and cut carbon from materials, processes, operation, and demolition. The roadmap plots a pathway to net zero that includes a sharp decrease in operational and embodied carbon through to 2035 and a more gradual decrease on to 2050. A summary for policymakers and a technical report, with more detail, support the pathway tool.
The Race to Zero campaign now includes 60% of the UK’s largest businesses. To achieve the goal of race to zero emissions by 2050, ‘2030 Breakthroughs’ were established, to pinpoint specific tipping points for high-emitting sectors. The Retail 2030 Breakthrough was launched in 2021, in recognition that only 5% of retail businesses by global industry revenues have committed to reducing their carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance was launched at COP26 by Denmark and Costa Rica, requiring nations to set an end date for new oil and gas licensing and plans to phase out existing capacity. The Alliance includes Wales, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Greenland, California and Quebec. Countries that are not oil and gas producers that signed up did so to keep undrilled fields undrilled but many of the world’s largest producers did not sign up, including the UK.
The Glasgow Climate Pact deal was supposed to be released on Friday, but negotiations took longer than anticipated so the deal was finally released publicly on Saturday 13th November. The major criticism of the deal is that it ‘waters down’ fossil fuel commitments. A commitment to phase out coal was first included, but China and India opposed it, and some nations such as Saudi Arabia lobbied for the reference of fossil fuels to be removed from altogether. In the end the deal was confirmed to phase down unabated coal and inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels, meaning that fossil fuel use can be exempt if combined with certain technologies, like carbon capture and storage.
All countries must provide an update to NDCs by the end of 2022, in line with a 1.5°C pathway. Usually, countries only provide an update every 5 years, so an annual update is new. Additionally, developed nations earlier confirmed that the historic $100bn annual climate finance pledge wouldn’t be met until earliest 2023. The reference for this pledge to continue has been kept in the deal, and further urges developed countries to at least double the finance from 2019 levels by 2025.
A key output from the deal is that carbon offsetting should rely on ‘real, verified and additional’ emissions removal taking place from 2021 onwards. This has closed the worst and largest loopholes for fossil fuel use, however there is still scope for the fossil fuel industry to claim carbon offsets and carry on with business as usual. Finally, a proposed financing facility for loss and damage wasn’t included, which would have offered financial assistance to vulnerable countries when responding to damage from climate related disasters. Instead, a ‘Glasgow Dialogue’ was established, which will discuss funding arrangements in the future. This was met with criticism from the G77 and China – which represents 134 developing and emerging economies. For adaptation, there was confirmation that a new global target will enter development at COP27.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimate that if all pledges and targets from COP26 are met on time, the world will be on course for a 1.8°C global temperature rise by the end of the century. However, the Climate Action Tracker estimate it to be 2.4°C of warming. Whilst new pledges have been made at COP26, including the first ever inclusion of a specific coal commitment within a climate pact, we wait to see updates to NDCs at the end of 2022 to see whether we can comfortably say that we can limit global warming to 1.5-2°C warming.
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