There was a lot of information and new pledges made last week at COP26. This week we’ll see ministers picking up where negotiators couldn’t resolve, as well as providing clarity on a range of technical issues relating to the Paris agreements. As we head into the second week, here’s all the key information you need to know from week 1:
A criticism of many pledges, and a point to bear in mind, is that many are voluntary. They will need independent assurance to oversee the actions taken and report on them in public.
Glasgow is hosting COP26 amid ongoing controversy that Cambo oil field, near Shetland and owned by Shell and Siccar Point Energy, could be approved. If successful, 170 million barrels of oil will be extracted in the first phase alone. As a result there are lots of protests taking place in Glasgow led by Polluters Out, Make Polluters Pay, Stop Cambo and Extinction Rebellion.
Boris Johnson addressed world leaders by saying that the focus is on “coal, cars, cash and trees” and that the climate is at “one minute to midnight”. He set the context of the UK’s Green Industrial Revolution and its road to decarbonising. However, a criticism is that whilst Boris has said he does not support a planned new coal mine in Cumbria, planning permission is still currently being sought. He also unveiled the new CGI, which will include a £200m Climate Innovation Facility. David Attenborough, the People’s Advocate for COP26, addressed world leaders and reminded us that we’re at 414 ppm currently, up from around 280ppm before the Industrial Revolution. WeThe15, a human rights movement that aims to transform the lives of the 15% of the global population with disabilities, also addressed world leaders. However on the same day Israeli minister Karine Elharrar was unable to access the summit as it was not accessible by wheelchair. Whilst she could access the following day, this was still met with criticism that there is a lack of disability inclusion at COP26.
India pledged a net-zero target for 2070, which is 20 years later than the summit target. They are updating their NDC with a commitment to hosting 500GW of renewable generation by 2030 – accounting for 50% of the country’s energy supply. This is expected to reduce India’s emissions by 1bn tonnes by 2030. Both China and Saudi Arabia are targeting net-zero by 2060 and Brazil has promised to improve their target from a 43% reduction to a 50% reduction by 2030. Some green groups have argued that the update is not an increase, as Brazil committed to 50% at COP21 and then regressed.
A major outcome was the promise to end deforestation by 2030. Through the Global Forest Finance Pledge (GFFP), 12 nations have pledged to mobilise £12bn to halt and reverse deforestation, including £1.5bn from the UK Government. Funding will be given to developing nations as a priority and will ensure that Indigenous Peoples’ rights are protected as 80% of the world’s biodiversity is within indigenous regions. It is notable that Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela did not agree to the pledge and Indonesia has since said that they can’t promise to do it as they need to focus on development. Additionally, 11 donor countries will work with the Bezos Earth Fund to provide £1bn of support to the Congo Basin forests, which is home to the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest and the world’s largest carbon sink. In addition, a statement on Forests, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) has been signed by 28 nations representing 75% of global trade in key commodities that can threaten forests, such as palm oil, cocoa, soya and paper and pulp.
Biden blamed the leaders from China and Russia for not attending the World Leaders Summit, but whilst emphasis is continually put on China for not tackling climate change quickly enough, it’s interesting to note that China emits less per capita than the US. However China became the world’s largest emitter of CO2 in 2006 and is now responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. China’s President Xi Jinping said they would aim for emissions to reach their highest point before 2030 and for carbon neutrality before 2060, arguing that they have a right to release CO2 in the process of developing their economy and reducing poverty. The country relies heavily on coal and whilst they plan to not build new coal-fired projects internationally, they are still building them domestically. The country is in the process of switching to green energy, and actually leads the world in solar power production. They state that the proportion of their energy generated from non-fossil fuel sources should be 25% by 2030.
The new Global Methane Pledge was signed by more than 80 countries who pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, compared with 2020 levels. This is the first key pledge for methane, which is a greenhouse gas that can have more than 80 times the warming power of CO2 over the first 20 years. Although CO2 has a longer-lasting effect, the higher impact of methane in the short term makes it important to tackle. Major emitters like Russia, China and India are not part of the voluntary pledge.
Water is typically siloed from other issues, but this time nature and climate are being framed as twin crises. A new group called the Water and Climate Coalition, headed by UN Water and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) will bring together stakeholders to deliver a joined-up approach across governance, finance, data and information, and to highlight the interconnections between water systems and climate.
The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) was launched, recognising that while developing nations are currently responsible for just a fraction of global emissions, emissions could grow exponentially without support to reduce their reliance on coal and use clean energy instead. They aim to mobilise £74bn for renewable energy, other low-carbon technologies and green jobs at scale. Members currently include: the Bezos Earth Fund, Ikea Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation; as well as central investment banks and governments.
The ‘Breakthrough agenda’ for clean technology got the support of 40 nations and aims to scale up attractive and affordable clean technologies with applications in high-emitting sectors, such as transport and steel manufacturing, across the globe by 2030. It’s been backed by nations representing around 70% of the world’s economy, including US, India and China. Technologies include low-carbon hydrogen, sustainable agricultural systems and low-carbon transport and there were calls to be realistic about the solution and technologies and the capacity of scale. The Green Grids Initiative was launched, aiming to accelerate the construction of new renewable energy infrastructure. The Initiative will primarily focus on international energy trading, helping to overcome the intermittency of renewable energy generation, particularly solar.
These climate stripes are being used as hard-hitting graphics an were developed by the University of Reading, show how global temperatures have risen since the 1800s. Each stripe represents the average temperature for a single year, relative to the average temperature over the period as a whole.
Climate stripes for GLOBE 1850-2020
Climate stripes for UK 1884-2020
A key agenda point is the long standing commitment to deliver $100bn of climate finance to developing nations annually. The maximum provided in a single year to date has been $80bn. Sunak said that the full $100bn will be provided in 2023.
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and Shell CEO Ben van Beurden both claimed that the transition to net zero by 2050 can be made, but that investment in fossil fuel is needed to create the funds for clean energy. Shell is under scrutiny as it plans to spend four times as much on oil and gas development as on renewables in 2022 and is currently appealing against a Dutch court who required them to halve their net emissions by 2030.
Rishi Sunak pledged to make the UK the ‘world’s first net-zero financial centre’, which includes a new mandate for most big companies, especially those in high-emitting sectors, to show by 2023 how they will hit net-zero by 2050. This is in line with the publication of the Roadmap to Sustainable Investing. A science-based ‘gold-standard’ verification scheme for the plans has been developed.
There was an update on the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero (GFANZ) which aims to unite the global financial sector in transitioning to net-zero by 2050, following 1.5°C rather than 2°C. It represents more than $130trn of assets under management, around 40% of the world’s total financial assets. Green groups have criticised that only a fraction of GFANZ’s collective assets are being aligned with net-zero by 2050. The UN has promised to establish a group of experts analysing the credibility of net-zero commitments from non-state actors, but it is not operating yet.
A timber-built eco-house which is both energy and carbon efficient from the day building starts was showcased. The project is championed by modern homes specialists SNRG and energy efficiency company, Electric Corby. One of the timber homes was displayed at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre in Glasgow.
The UK issued a boost for two packages of sovereign green bonds of £10bn and £6bn. This forms part of the national Covid-19 recovery plan and it was pledged that all returns from the UK’s contributions to Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) will be used for the issuance of further green bonds, potentially £22-51bn.
The WBCSD launched the ‘Business Manifesto for Climate Recovery’ and called on the development of Corporate Determined Contributions (CDCs) to capture private sector progress. The IRFS (International Financial Reporting Standards) Foundation trustees have launched an International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) to create a global baseline for corporate sustainability disclosures that meet investor demands.
At the start of COP the latest analysis from the UN suggested a rise of 2.7°C, and an update shows that if all targets set during COP26 are met in full and on time, this would lead to a rise of 1.8°C – marking the first time that global warming is projected to come under the upper 2°C threshold.
The focus for energy day was around a ‘just and inclusive energy transition’. An International Just Transition Declaration was signed by 12 nations, ensuring that they move away from coal and high-carbon industries to create new green jobs and opportunities for society. The UK, Germany and the US agreed to provide South Africa with £6bn to remove their reliance on coal, which is a good step in the right direction for financing climate aid.
A major outcome from energy day was the commitment to phase out coal by 2030 for major economies and by 2040 for the rest of the world. Membership of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) is now at 40 countries and of those that are heavily reliant on coal, Chile, Vietnam and Poland, all signed up whilst China, Australia, India and the US didn’t. Linked to this, major international banks committed to end all international public financing of new unabated coal power by the end of 2021.
The UK has reduced its coal use in energy generation from about 25% in 2015 to around 1% today. Boris has set a target for all of the UK’s electricity to come from clean sources by 2035. Linked to this, the UK is becoming a world leader in offshore wind and the government has promised to quadruple output by 2030. In addition, Product Efficiency Call to Action was launched, which aims to double the energy efficiency of air conditioning, refrigeration, industrial motor systems and lighting by 2030.
The UK school curriculum will be updated by 2023 to include more on nature, biodiversity and net-zero. A new Climate Award will be launched in 2023 for young people to contribute to local projects whilst improving their knowledge and achieving bronze, silver and gold certificates. Also, Biodiversity and energy-efficiency will be improved across the UK’s schools, colleges, nurseries and universities, including replacing fossil fuel boilers with solar power and using smart technologies. Further announcements on both education and facilities will be made within the next six months, with a final strategy due April 2022. Additionally, new school and college buildings in Wales will have to meet net zero targets from January. Major refurbishments, extensions and new builds will have to be in line with standards aimed at achieving maximum energy efficiency. Llancarfan Primary School will be the first new school and will generate its own power and have electric car chargers.
Thousands of young people marched through Glasgow, organised by Fridays for Future Scotland. Greta Thunberg told people that COP26 had been a ‘failure’ and ‘a global north greenwash festival’. This comes as research shows that the carbon footprint of the world’s richest 1% is on track to be 30 times higher than what’s needed to limit global warming, whilst the emissions of the poorest 50% will continue to be below climate goals.
A key outcome was on forest positive and deforestation free supply chains by 2030. Forest restoration schemes will be supported over the next two years by members of the Consumer Goods Forum’s (CGF) Forest Positive Coalition of Action, including Unilever, Mars and Nestle. The coalition is calculating its baseline footprint across forest commodities, and then will determine what’s needed to achieve a net positive impact. The Coalition has selected 20 schemes across six nations (Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Russia, Indonesia and Malaysia) as part of a “learning phase” through to late 2023. Members are required to invest annually in at least one of the initiatives and learnings from this process will be used to inform the future strategy.
45 nations pledged to reform policies to support sustainable food systems and to accelerate green agriculture innovation. This includes low-carbon and deforestation-free supply chains, whilst supporting farmers to consume less water and chemicals and produce less waste. For example, Brazil plans to scale its ABC+ low carbon farming programme to 72 million hectares, claiming this could mitigate one billion tonnes of emissions by 2030, and the UK aims to engage 75% of farmers in low-carbon practices by 2030.
The Global Action Agenda on Innovation in Agriculture also launched, signed by the same 45 nations, with the aim to leverage more than $4bn of public investment in innovations such as climate-resilient crops, digital technologies and solutions that improve soil quality. Of the UK funding pledged for International Climate Finance:
Globally, asset managers representing £65trn in assets vowed to stop financing deforestation driven by agricultural commodities by 2025. Risk exposure assessments should be completed by the end of 2022, in sectors including beef, palm oil, soy, leather, pulp and paper.
In the UK, businesses signed up to the ‘Retailers’ Commitment to Nature’ pledge, managed by WWF, and committed to deliver ‘nature positive’ operations and to halve the nature and climate impacts of food systems by 2030. Participating businesses (e.g. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose) will develop targets by 2022, verify them through the Science-Based Targets for Nature initiative and report publicly annually. SBTs for corporate emissions have existed for several years now, and nature targets are expected next year.
In Scotland, the Government launched a new Nature Restoration Fund, which will provide £55m for projects domestically over a five-year period. Large-scale, multi-year, multi-partner projects will be supported, including those relating to lochs, peatlands, wetlands. Additionally, the UK Government has said that it intends to ban the sale of peat compost to the public in England by 2024. Peat bogs are a carbon sink as they absorb CO2 emissions that exacerbate global warming.
There’s been an overwhelming volume of information this week, on everything from countries’ updated NDCs and forest positive supply chains, to school curriculum changes. There’s been many pledges and key commitments made on a variety of climate related issues, from deforestation to coal and methane. This week we’ll hope that the detail is provided, answering many questions that still remain. Only if all of the targets are met in full and on time is it suggested that we’ll achieve 1.8°C, so will this week help to refute Greta’s claims of greenwashing?
A COP26 week 2 update will follow.
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