Good COP, bad COP?

The much awaited 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) annual UN climate change conference has come and gone with much debate but what are the final takeaways?

‘The following summary of the outcomes of the two-week summit are based upon the general consensus being reported within the world’s media and with our own SME’s within NETZERO.

The outcomes and announcements from COP26 are listed as either being a negative or a positive towards the end goal of the summit – that being to keep planet aligned to the goals of the Paris Agreement and hold the rise in global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Here is a list of the ‘good’ and the ‘not so good’ aspects to come out of Glasgow.

The ‘good’:

Methane reduction

US president Joe Biden unveiled a multinational plan to control methane, leading an alliance of 90 countries, including for the first time Brazil, and with new regulatory measures to limit global methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by the end of the decade. 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.

Mention of coal

The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first time the outcome of an international climate summit has explicitly mentioned fossil fuels and a call to countries to accelerate their efforts to cut down on coal and to speed an end to fossil fuel subsidies.

China-US Declaration

In a surprise announcement an agreement on climate goals between China and the USA resulted in the China-US Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s. Under the declaration they will address clean energy, coal, methane and deforestation.

Deforestation

Leaders of more than 100 countries, including Brazil, China, Russia and the United States, vowed to end deforestation by 2030. The agreement covers about 85 percent of the world’s forests, which are crucial to absorbing carbon dioxide and slowing the pace of global warming. Given similar efforts on the past, the eyes of the world will be watching how the agreement proceeds over the next 12 months.

The ‘not so good’:

‘Phase-out’ versus ‘phase down’…

What you’ll hear talked about the most in the days and weeks ahead is most likely to be the last gasp deal that India struck to water down the language on coal i.e. instead of sticking to the earlier (12th November – Overarching Decision) agreement language of ‘rapidly scaling up clean power generation and accelerating the phase-out of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels’ we now have the language of ‘phase down’.

The EU and various other countries expressed their disappointment about this last minute change and the manner in which it had been decided. Indeed the U.K.’s COP26 President Alok Sharma was almost moved to tears whilst apologising for the change in language in his wrap up speech at the end of the conference.

“Neither China nor the United States nor India—all major coal producers and consumers—signed on. Without these nations, this week’s pledges lack enforcement measures. Given how quickly nations have stepped up coal production to meet electricity demand which is unmet by natural gas, and to relieve high electricity prices, it doesn’t seem like coal is going away anytime soon. It cannot be the alternative when the wind doesn’t blow, the sun isn’t shining, and when natural gas supplies are disrupted.” – Ellen Wald, a non-resident fellow at the Council’s Global Energy Center

Loss and damage

Whilst the agreement promises more money to small and developing countries for mitigation and adaptation, developed nations have already missed the deadline for providing $100 billion annually to these countries by 2020. The agreement does not lay the groundwork for establishing a loss and damage fund required to help pay for immediate damage caused by the climate crisis. Essentially low-income nations believe they have a moral right to this money – some call it compensation or reparations. Rich parties such as the US and EU are very reluctant to comply, fearing exposure to unlimited financial liabilities.

The following three points have received positive and negative reviews since their announcement during COP26:

Net-zero India

India announce that the country would go net-zero by 2070. Whilst the 2070 net-zero target may have disappointed activists in Glasgow, some experts say it’s an ambitious and meaningful commitment by one of the world’s fastest-developing nations.

GFANZ

Former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney outlined the goals of the U.N.’s Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, or GFANZ – i.e. to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, highlighting the rapid increase in the amount of money being managed with net-zero targets – now $130 trillion today. “With GFANZ, we have all the money needed for the transition. Our job is to find the plumbing to make it work,” Carney said.

 

However, backlash has ensued with many saying those that have signed up to GFANZ were ‘missing the point’ on fossil fuels and that GFANZ had failed to mandate a halt to investments in fossil fuel expansion — a red line drawn by the International Energy Agency if global heating is to stay under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Carbon Market Rules

The final deal will implement Article 6 of the 2015 Paris Agreement, allowing countries to partially meet their climate targets by buying offset credits representing emission cuts by others.

  • One of the most contentious points had been on the question of whether credits could be claimed by both the country selling them and the country buying. A proposal by Japan resolved the issue and gained backing from both Brazil and the United States. Brazil’s past insistence on allowing double counting had torpedoed an Article 6 deal in the past. Under the deal, the country that generates a credit will decide whether to authorise it for sale to other nations or to count towards their climate targets. If authorised and sold, the seller country will add an emission unit to its national tally and the buyer country will deduct one, to ensure the emissions cut is counted only once between countries. The same rules apply to credits used more broadly toward ‘other international mitigation purposes’ – wording that some experts said could include a global scheme for offsetting aviation emissions, ensuring double counting does not happen there too.
  • Previously, there was disagreement over a tax on certain carbon trades intended to fund climate adaptation in poorer nations. The deal addressed this with a compromise that had a two-track approach. Bilateral trades of offsets between countries will not face the tax. In a separate centralised system for issuing offsets, 5% of proceeds from offsets will be collected to go toward an adaptation fund for developing countries. Also in that system, 2% of the offset credits will be cancelled. That aims to increase overall emissions cuts by stopping other countries using those credits as offsets to reach their climate targets.
  • Another provision resolved was how to carry forward carbon credits created under the old Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement’s predecessor, into the new offset market system. Negotiators reached a compromise that sets a cut-off date, with credits issued before that date not being carried forward. The final accord carries over any offsets registered since 2013. That will allow 320 million offsets, each representing a tonne of CO2, to enter the new market, according to an analysis by the NewClimate Institute and Oko-Institut non-profit organisations. Campaigners had warned against flooding the new market with old credits, and raised doubts about the climate benefits of some – By Jake Spring and Kate Abnett of Reuters on 14th November 2021. 

So, has it been a good COP or bad COP?

Perhaps the following quotes can help sum up the perceptions of COP26;

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – “look back on COP26 in Glasgow as the beginning of the end of climate change… today’s agreement is a big step forward and, critically, we have the first ever international agreement to phase down coal and a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres – COP26 climate agreement leaves us “knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. The approved texts are a compromise. They reflect the interests, the conditions, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today. They take important steps, but unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions.”

Greta Thunberg – “It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place”. She added that the event could be considered a “two-week-long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah.”

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