COP26 Daily Briefing: 3 big things that happened on November 8

The COP26, aka the United Nations Climate Change Conference UK 2021, is under way in Glasgow. Here’s Electrek‘s daily roundup of the key happenings at the world’s most important summit ever.

Monday, November 8

Ministers from all over the world arrive in Glasgow

Ministers are arriving in Glasgow today to start very tough negotiations about issues such as deadlines, how to hold each other accountable, and international carbon markets.

Around 200 countries must reach a consensus on the rules that will govern the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Euronews points out:

No deals have been made yet on the three main goals of the UN — pledges to cut emissions in half by 2030 to keep the Paris climate deal’s 1.5C temperature rise goal alive; the need for $100 billion annually in financial help from rich countries to poor ones; and the idea that half of that money goes to adapting to global warming’s worst effects.

Barack Obama addresses the summit

Former US president Barack Obama addressed the delegates at COP26. He said that while progress has been made:

We have not done nearly enough to address this crisis, we will need to do more.

Obama criticized China and Russia for not attending COP26, and also stated that US Republicans have shown “active hostility” to climate science. He called for heads of state and activists to not give in to cynicism. (Around 100,000 protesters marched through Glasgow on Saturday.) Climate scientist Michael Mann made the point about cynicism on Friday on Twitter:

Millions of dollars for the Adaptation Fund

Globally, the people who have polluted the least are impacted the most.

On Adaptation and Loss and Damage Day, $232 million was committed to the Adaptation Fund, which was created in 2001 under the Kyoto protocol and helps developing countries build resilience and adapt to climate change. It’s the highest single mobilization to the fund and more than double the previous highest collective mobilization. 

Commitments came from from the US, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Italy, Qatar, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the Quebec and Flanders governments.

88 countries are now covered by Adaptation Communications or National Adaptation Plans to increase preparedness to climate risks, with 38 published in the last year.

Friday, November 5

Youth took to the streets

Thousands of children, parents, and teachers took to the streets to demand that global leaders ramp up and implement their pledges to slow global warming and honor the Paris Agreement. It was organized by international climate movement Fridays for Future. Further, the views of more than 40,000 young climate leaders were presented to officials at a meeting today.

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg isn’t impressed with what’s happened at COP26 this week. She called COP26 a “greenwash festival” and accused leaders of creating loopholes:

$100 billion in 2022

US climate envoy John Kerry said the $100 billion promised by wealthy nations to developed nations will be delivered in 2022. That’s a year earlier than expected, but two years late overall. Better late than never? We’ll see.

Kerry said:

That means for 2022 we now have the full $100 billion we wanted to have, and $100 billion going forward, so we take that issue off the table and that changes the dynamics.

Kerry also said today to the press:

Let me emphasise as strongly as I can: Job not done. The first part of the job of codifying the urgency will hopefully be done. But that’s just the beginning.

This is a decade-long race. We do know that we could have a critical mass of countries moving in a way that keeps [1.5 degrees] alive. This was never going to be done in one week.

Some optimism, and a reality check

If – and only if – the week’s commitments were actually delivered, then it could result in 40% of the emissions cuts needed by 2030 to keep the world on track to 1.5C of global warming, ie, the Paris Agreement goal. That’s according to an initial analysis by the Energy Transition Commission.

However, global emissions are on track to rise by 13.7% by 2030, according to an updated UN analysis. Damien Carrington of the Guardian pointed out:

The glimmer of good news is that the projected rise in 2030 emissions is down from 16% two weeks ago, after 14 new national pledges were included.

As former US vice president Al Gore rightly stated, “Much remains to be done,” but “much has been achieved already, some of it in the form of pledges,” and that it was job of COP26 officials to ensure the pledges were carried out.

Thursday, November 4

COP26 country pledges could limit global temperature rise to 1.8C

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), announced on Twitter today that, according to IEA analysis, if all the new COP26 pledges by countries to cut emissions are implemented, along with 90 countries’ plans to reduce methane emissions 30% by 2030, then global temperature rise could be limited to 1.8C. (The goal is 1.5C.)

Stress the word could. It’s based on actual implementation, and time will tell. Because, as expected, global emissions have shot back up to record levels before the pandemic.

Some good news about coal

28 countries today made new commitments to join the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) in order to phase out coal power, bringing the total number of members to 165.

Ukraine committed to end coal power by 2035, and that’s a really big deal, because it has the third-largest coal fleet in Europe after Germany and Poland. Singapore became the first country in Asia to join the PPCA, and Chile also joined.

20 new countries, including Vietnam, Poland, and Morocco, committed to building no new coal-fired power plants. You can read PPCA’s full announcement here.

20 countries pledge to stop financing all fossil fuel projects abroad

Canada, the US, and 18 other countries today pledged to stop public financing for all fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of 2022, and invest in clean energy instead. So that means not only coal, but also gas and oil.

Reuters notes:

Countries that signed the pledge together invested nearly $18 billion on average each year in international fossil fuel projects from 2016-2020, according to analysis by nonprofit Oil Change International.

Enormous investment in green technologies is needed for the task. Bernstein analysts estimate the required low-carbon investments at roughly $2-4 trillion per year until 2050.

China, Japan, and South Korea committed to stop overseas funding for coal in a pledge earlier this year made by all G20 countries, but the three Asian countries were not part of the group of 20 who pledged today to stop financing for oil and gas as well.

Wednesday, November 3

World’s financial players pledge trillions of dollars

The world’s largest banks and pension funds – over 450 financial firms across 45 countries responsible for assets of over $130 trillion – committed to a pledge known as the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). The pledge states that by 2050, all assets managed by the institutions will be aligned with net zero emissions. 

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak today announced new requirements for firms to publish net zero transition plans setting out how they will decarbonize through 2050. (Not sure how he’s going to enforce that.)

Steve Trent, founder and CEO of the Environmental Justice Foundation, said in an email:

Sunak’s net-zero disclosure rules for financial institutions are a first step towards turning off the tap on climate chaos, but they contain some deeply worrying loopholes.

We need rules which force financial institutions to stop funding fossil fuels completely, we can’t keep kicking the can down the road on fossil fuel divestment. It’s not enough to publish ‘net zero by 2050’ plans if those plans rely on creative carbon accounting over real decarbonization across the whole of our economies.

GFANZ says it “can deliver the estimated $100 trillion of finance needed for net zero over the next three decades.” As per usual, and rightfully so, everyone wants to see GFANZ put their money where their mouth is. Former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, who is leading GFANZ, tweeted:

But if the net zero pledges are implemented, they’ll work

Researchers at the University of Melbourne found that if COP26 emissions reduction plans are actually carried out, then it would limit global temperature rises to below 2C – the first time the world has gone in the right direction. India’s and China’s recent pledges, even though they miss the 2050 target, would actually make a huge difference. The authors wrote:

For the first time in history, the aggregate effect of the combined pledges by 194 countries might bring the world to below 2 degrees warming with more than a 50% chance.

So, COP26 delegates, doing what you say you’re gonna do thing is kind of important.

Ed Miliband, shadow business secretary for the UK’s Labour party, said [to and via the Guardian]:

Any progress is welcome but we need extreme caution about declaring success on the basis of vague and often vacuous net zero targets three or more decades hence. For example Australia has a 2050 net zero target but its 2030 plans are in line with 4 degrees of warming.

There is a reason for the focus on halving emissions this decisive decade. It reflects the urgency, clarity, and specificity we need to keep 1.5C alive. We cannot allow political leaders to shift the goalposts.

Tuesday, November 2

Global pledge to cut methane emissions

Leading an alliance of 90 countries including Brazil for the first time, US president Joe Biden unveiled a plan to cut global methane emissions 30% by 2030. The Guardian notes:

The alliance includes two-thirds of the global economy and half of the top 30 major methane emitter countries. China, India, and Russia have not joined the pact known as the Global Methane Pledge.

The pledge was first announced in September but Biden’s officials have since been working hard to increase the number of signatories and the momentum behind the pledge. The detailed US proposals may prove to be one of the lasting successes of the Cop26 climate conference being held in Glasgow.

The US also rejoined the High Ambition Coalition, the group of countries that ensured the 1.5C goal was a key part of the Paris Agreement.

World leaders say they will end deforestation

110 world leaders have unveiled a major deal that aims to stop and reverse global deforestation. That included Brazil, which has a terrible track record of Amazon deforestation in recent years.

The countries who have signed the pledge also include Canada, Russia, China, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the US and the UK. Together, that includes around 85% of the world’s forests.

The pledge includes more than $19 billion of public and private funds. The announcement was welcomed, but experts, environmental groups, and – well, pretty much everyone – want to see real action, not just talk. Here’s a profile of deforestation in Madagascar, which has lost 40% of its forest cover as the result of poverty:

African countries mobilize

African countries say they will spend at least $6 billion a year from tax revenues to adapt to the impacts of climate change. They are calling on wealthy countries to provide $2.5 billion a year for the next five years to help them to meet their goals.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest crude oil producer, pledged to reach net zero by 2060. 

Africa is responsible for just 3% of global emissions, yet is seen as the most vulnerable region to climate change. Reuters writes:

“The world promised $100 billion. The world promised more money for adaptation. The world needs to keep its promises,” Democratic Republic of Congo’s president, Felix Tshisekedi, said at a session focused on Africa’s adaptation to such climate change events as more devastating droughts and cyclones.

The prime minister of Rwanda, Édouard Ngirente, called on world leaders to “keep alive” the 1.5C target.

Read more: 5 key things to know about the do-or-die COP26 climate summit

Monday, November 1

Opening speeches

COP26 opened in Glasgow with hard-hitting speeches from UK prime minister Boris Johnson, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley, Prince Charles, and Sir David Attenborough. The Guardian rounded up highlights of those speeches in one video:

US President Joe Biden’s statement

Biden reiterated that the US will reduce carbon emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. Biden’s big Build Back Better bill, which contains climate change actions, has not yet been passed though the US Congress.

We will demonstrate to the world the United States is not only back at the table but hopefully leading by the power of our example.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s (pre-recorded) speech

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gave a pre-recorded speech (he wasn’t in attendance) in which what he said completely contradicted the country’s recent actions:

Brazil is a green powerhouse. When it comes to fighting climate change, we have always been part of the solution, not the problem.

Yet Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 9.5% in 2020, and deforestation hit a 12-year high in Brazil’s Amazon in 2020.

Brazil’s environment minister Joaquim Leite said the country would cut its emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, which is boosted from 43%. Leite also said that Brazil would formalize a commitment to become climate neutral by 2050 during COP26.

AlJazeera notes, “Advocacy group Climate Observatory said that a 50% reduction was still weaker than the 43% commitment using the pre-Bolsonaro baseline, meaning Brazil had not, in reality, increased its ambition.”

Environmentalists see Bolsonaro’s speech as a greenwash.

India: net zero by 2070

India prime minister Narendra Modi announced that India will meet a target of net zero by 2070. He also committed to India getting half of its energy from renewable resources by 2030 and increase its clean energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030. Modi wants developed countries to make $1 trillion available as climate finance.

China: no significant changes

President Xi Jinping of China, who didn’t attend COP26, called for more support for developing countries in a written statement, but made no new pledges. Xi has not left China since 2020.

Read more: China surprises with ‘net zero by 2060’ announcement

Photo: Adaptation Fund/Flickr

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