COP 26

Neil Williams

15 Nov 2021

indigo & lime graphic design of SEC centre, Glasgow

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) took place in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021. World leaders were involved in global negotiations to help determine whether humanity can drive forward the urgent action needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Addressing leaders, COP President Alok Sharma said:

“The science is clear that the window of time we have to keep the goal of 1.5℃ alive , and to avoid the worst effects of climate change, is closing fast. But with political will and commitment, we can, and must, deliver an outcome in Glasgow the world can be proud of.”

To keep 1.5 degrees of warming in reach, the world needs to halve emissions by 2030 and secure global net zero by 2050. Thus the UK COP26 Presidency called on countries to set ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets and take action to:

  • accelerate the phase-out of coal
  • speed up the move to clean electric vehicles
  • encourage investment in the green transition and help the most vulnerable countries
  • curtail deforestation

End of Coal in Sight

Male speaker on podium at COP26 Glasgow

photo credit: COP26

In effort to minimise temperature rises in line with the Paris Agreement, the rapid phase-out of coal and a just transition to clean energy has been at the heart of the COP26 Presidency.

Coal is being consigned to history as countries, banks, and organisations pledge to move away from the single biggest contributor to climate change.

A booster came as a 190-strong coalition agreed to phase out coal power and end support for new coal power plants thanks to a package of support from the UK and international partners.

  • 23 countries have made new commitments to phase out coal power, including five of the world’s top 20 coal power-using countries
  • Major international banks committed to effectively end all international public financing of new unabated coal power by the end of 2021
  • 25 countries and public finance institutions committed to ending international public support for the unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022

Zero Emission Vehicles

Dr SAITO Tetsuo on a large screen at COP 26 talking about aviation climate ambitionphoto credit: COP26

The move to zero emissions vehicles is picking up speed. Some of the largest car manufacturers are now working together to make all new car sales zero emission in leading markets by 2035 and global by 2040. 30 countries are following the lead and have agreed to work together to make zero emission vehicles the new normal by making them accessible, affordable, and sustainable in all regions by 2030 or sooner.

To support decarbonised road transport in emerging markets and developing economies, a new World Bank trust fund will inject $200 million over the next 10 years.

Furthermore, nineteen governments pledged their support in the establishment of ‘green shipping corridors’. These routes will deploy zero-emission vessel technologies and put alternative fuel and charging infrastructure in place between ports.

A declaration signed by The International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition focuses on the decarbonising of air travel. The 14 signatories including Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the USA, have agreed to work together to implement:

“ambitious actions to reduce aviation CO2 emissions at a rate consistent with efforts to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C”.

The consensus is that sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will do much of the heavy-lifting. The discussion is now about making that happen.

Mobilising Finance

Mobilising finance is considered critical if the urgent action required is to be delivered. Therefore, finance was a key focus of COP26 and ministers intensified efforts to mobilise funding for rapid, large-scale climate action. Subsequently, new commitments were made to increase finance to support developing countries dealing with the impacts of climate change, including the largest US adaptation finance commitment to date.

The benefits of public financing was demonstrated with a ground-breaking partnership to support South Africa, the world’s most carbon-intensive electricity producer, with an accelerated just energy transition of $8.5billion over the next 3-5 years.

A key focus of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero is supporting developing countries and emerging markets. They welcomed $130 trillion commitment of private finance.

Ending Deforestation

At Nature and Land Use Day new agreements were secured to protect nature and accelerate the shift to sustainable agriculture and land use practices by making them more attractive, accessible and affordable than unsustainable alternatives.

Twenty-six nations, including India, Colombia, Vietnam, Germany, Ghana, and Australia, gave new commitments to become more sustainable and less polluting, and to invest in the science needed for sustainable agriculture.

National commitments aligned with this agenda include:

  • Brazil’s plan to scale its ABC+ low carbon farming programme to 72m hectares, saving 1 billion tonnes of emissions by 2030
  • Germany’s plans to lower emissions from land use by 25m tonnes by 2030
  • The UK’s aim to engage 75% of farmers in low carbon practices by 2030

The UK also announced funding of £500m to support the implementation of the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Roadmap that was launched during the World Leaders Summit, in which 28 participating countries work together to protect forests while promoting trade.

The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use which aims to reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, is now endorsed by 134 countries covering 91% of the world’s forests.

Clean Technology

Female speaker on podium addressing large audience at COP26

photo credit: COP26

Boris Johnston, UK Prime Minister, initiated an international plan to deliver clean and affordable technology everywhere by 2030. Over 40 world leaders including the US, India, EU, China, representing more than 70% of the world’s economy have backed and signed up to the new Breakthrough Agenda.

Following the UK’s Net Zero Strategy, the Breakthrough Agenda will see countries and businesses dramatically scale and speed up the development and deployment of clean technologies.

Hydrogen

Although the costs of hydrogen production, transport and storage remain relatively high, Hydrogen’s role in creating a completely renewable energy system is being increasingly recognised. Hydrogen Roadmaps have been created by more than 30 countries and financial investment is growing.

Our associates NovAzure, are committed to playing their part in accelerating Green and Blue Hydrogen scaling. As part of COP26, NovAzure co-hosted a virtual event on hydrogen with ENGIE, Fuel Cells & Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, the European Commission, and Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland.

The talk centred around “Hydrogen as a missing piece of the puzzle for a green energy transition”. Discussion included some of the major challenges to the success of establishing and growing successful H2 start-ups in Europe.

COP26 Finalises Paris Agreement

COP26 concluded with nearly 200 countries agreeing to the Glasgow Climate Pact to keep 1.5C alive and finalise the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement.

The Glasgow Climate Pact will accelerate the speed of climate action. All countries agreed to improve their current emissions targets to 2030, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in 2022. This will be in tandem with yearly roundtables to consider a global progress report and a Leaders summit in 2023.

After six years of discussions, the Paris Rulebook was also completed. This will allow for the full delivery of the landmark accord that will hold countries to account on their targets.

Conclusion

COP26 is done and dusted.

About two years ago, at the start of the Uk’s COP26 tenure, only 30% of the world was covered by net zero targets. This figure is now at around 90%. In that time, 154 Parties have submitted new national targets, representing 80% of global emissions. Reflecting on the task ahead, COP26 President Alok Sharma said:

“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”

The breadth of commitments at COP26 signal the world is moving towards a renewable future. Glasgow delivered an outcome the world can be proud of. From here, we must move forward together and deliver on the expectations set out in the Climate Pact.