With climate impacts worsening, there is massive pressure on organizers and delegates to get results in the upcoming UN climate negotiations. Here's what to expect.
The clock is turning. The United Nations climate conference, COP 26 , will kick off in Scotland in November. Hyperbolic language is often used to describe climate conferences, but COP26 is expected to be one of the biggest ever. Scientists, governments and the public know that we are running out of time to ensure a liveable future. What happens at COP26 will determine whether we succeed or fail.
COP 26 comes six years after the UN Paris Agreement , the legally binding treaty aimed at limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5 degrees, from pre-industrial levels. Although Paris received international acclaim when it was signed, the years that followed have been a stark reality check on the difficulties of turning paper deals into decisive action and sustaining international climate momentum. Climate denier Donald Trump not only withdrew the United States from the deal, but his victory also emboldened other rogue climate actors, such as Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro.
Although Trump is off the table, the world continues to invest in fossil fuels. Sixty banks alone have invested $ 3.8 trillion in fossil fuels since the deal was signed. In the years since Paris, at least 200 additional gigatonnes of greenhouse gases were emitted. The hottest five years on record have also occurred since 2015. Although 1.5 degrees remains the target, without radical action, we are currently on track to reach 3 degrees, according to the 2020 UN report. on the emissions gap.
Every day our climate emergency worsens. The latest report by world scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been described as a "code red" for humanity. Recent flooding in Europe, forest fires and soaring temperatures in the Arctic and Pacific Northwest are a deadly reminder of the need for urgent action. No one is immune to our world 's rapid warming. Federal disaster declarations indicate that nearly one in three Americans experienced an extreme weather disaster this summer.
The coronavirus crisis has also overwhelmed and preoccupied most of the world's governments, delaying climate action. But what COVID-19 has also done is demonstrate how quickly governments can act in a crisis if they really need to. From this crisis and its economic fallout, we also have a generational chance to rebuild greener with a clean and just transformative transition.
In the midst of our climate and COVID crises comes the crucial summit of COP 26, already delayed by a year due to the pandemic. The conference is shrouded in controversy, with more than 1,500 civil society groups calling for a postponement due to what they say is "vaccine apartheid." Indigenous environment and climate groups have also called for the talks to be postponed.
Everything indicates that the COP will move forward, however, with intense pressure on delegates to build on what was agreed in 2015. The Paris Agreement underscored that every five years, the countries must review their promises and increase their emissions reduction ambitions. Paris was also the first step in decisive action, but it did not include the legal or logistical mechanisms needed to transform national and global policies. There is therefore a huge gulf between the commitments made by countries to achieve carbon neutrality and the detailed and legally binding plans to achieve it.
Some officials have already conceded that the COP may not deliver the necessary emission reductions.
On the official COP website , the UK government has set four key objectives for the conference:
- Guarantee global net emissions to zero by mid-century, keeping 1.5 degrees close at hand, with countries urged to meet ambitious future emission reduction targets in 2030 that align with l '' achieve net zero emissions by 2050;
- Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats;
- Mobilize funding, with developed countries keeping their pledge to contribute $ 100 billion per year by 2020;
- Work together "to bring about the right project".
Many experts point to the number of major polluting countries that not only pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, but come with detailed plans, as well as equally detailed plans on how to end. the exploration of fossil fuels and accelerate the energy transition. Finance will also be essential with strict commitments on the liquidity of richer countries. Countries like Indonesia and Brazil have said their emissions reductions should be explicitly linked to financing richer countries.
Over the past few days, there have been some positive signs of action, including China announcing it will end its funding of overseas coal-fired power plants, although it has not made a commitment to stop their construction in his country. Seven other countries signed a "No New Coal" agreement to stop building new coal-fired power plants. In September, Denmark and Costa Rica launched the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, which aims to end oil and gas extraction by mid-century.
At the United Nations General Assembly, US President Joe Biden confirmed that his country would become the world's largest provider of climate finance, announcing that the United States would provide $ 11 billion by 2024. It's a step forward towards the $ 100 billion rich countries should provide per year, but less than the $ 40 billion climate activists think the United States should pay. Biden must also pass the expenses through Congress.
Those who invest in clean technology are likely to win, while those who invest in fossil fuels are on the point of losing.
Meanwhile, the US and the EU have also launched a global methane pledge that aims for a voluntary 30% reduction of the “other” potent greenhouse gas by the end of the decade. This has been described by Bloomberg as potentially the “biggest victory” for the COP.
Meanwhile, many leading climatologists around the world are calling on Biden to completely stop federally authorized fossil fuel expansion by banning the issuance of new site concessions and the drilling of federal fossil fuels on public lands, end fossil fuel exports and subsidies, and more.
Whatever happens at the COP, there will be winners and losers from a business perspective: as the global energy transition accelerates, huge opportunities exist in fuels like green hydrogen, in driving the electrification of vehicles and the decarbonization of the global real estate stock.
Some of the biggest financial losers will be the biggest oil companies, which still don't line up to 1.5 degrees unless they forecast major production cuts. Some are heading for cuts of 50% or more by the 2030s, according to a recent report from Carbon Tracker .
As Mike Coffin, co-author of the report, said: “If the world is to avert a climate catastrophe, demand for fossil fuels must drop sharply. Businesses and investors need to prepare for a world of long-term declining fossil fuel prices and a smaller oil and gas industry and now recognize the risk of stranded assets this creates.
- Climate and Capital.
- Mr Andy Rowell -contributing editor to Priceofoil.org.