Opinion

Summaries of COP26

The stage at COP26

JB’s highlights from COP26

JB joined the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow for 2 weeks, both in the green zone – the public area where we hosted our in person and online event Culture: The Missing Link – and in the blue zone, where the key negotiations took place. And arts and culture activists showed up where they could for COP26. Mostly that was outside in the city and surrounds, where talks, exhibitions, art works, murals, light shows and pop-ups were everywhere. Occasionally a different negotiating tactic was spotted: art and culture, with works by Cornelia Parker, Jamaican artist Kintyre Don Dada’s Tropical Storms and Hurricanes, and the beautiful Vela Mola and Bamboo Ark, by Indigenous people from the Gunayala islands off north-east Panama. Another of our highlights of COP was hearing from Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley, introducing what it’s like to live on the frontline of the 2.7 degrees warming pathway we’re on – reminding us that “Loss and Damage is measured in lives and livelihoods”.

Now that the dust has settled on COP26, it’s time to reflect on what was achieved, and what remains to be done in order to achieve the urgent change that we need to transform our economies and societies to a cleaner, greener future, and to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. There are a variety of perspectives on the good, the bad and the ugly of COP26, so we’ve rounded up a few of our go-to wash-up resources to help navigate through the hits and misses of the critical Glasgow summit on Climate Change.


Science and climate policy perspectives

Chatham House

Chatham House is an independent policy institute, undertaking research and providing a forum for debate and dialogue on key issues for societies and governments. They focus on issues of sustainable and equitable growth, peaceful and thriving societies, and accountable and inclusive governance. Their summary highlights the promises and pledges that if acted upon, will determine the success of The Glasgow Pact. This includes: the request for countries to revisit and strengthen their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC’s – explained here) before 2022 to bring them in line with the 1.5 degree goal set out in the Paris Agreement; the pact urges developed countries to ‘fully’ deliver on the $100 billion annual climate finance pledge through to 2025, make up for shortfalls between 2020 and 2025, and to double their adaptation finance by 2025. They highlight that the deals that focused on phasing out of fossil fuels and ending deforestation were made outside the UNFCCC process and should be included in nationally determined contributions (NDC’s), and monitored for accountability.

“Raising the ambition of national emission reduction targets (nationally determined contributions – NDCs) was a critical task for COP26. On this front, governments fell short: although over 120 parties have submitted new or updated NDCs, the new targets only narrow the gap to 1.5°C by 15–17 per cent, and are, if fully implemented (and this is far from certain), projected to result in warming of 2.4°C by the end of the century” – Chatham House Key Findings

Among various areas of movement and challenge, Chatham House highlighted some progress on carbon trading in reaching agreement on Article 6 (explained here), which develops an international carbon market framework, but with caveats relating to enabling ‘greenwashing’. They note limited progress on Loss and Damage in agreeing the form and function of the Santiago Network technical assistance mechanism, but failing to agree how to fund Loss and Damage, and rejecting a dedicated finance facility for this. They highlight some increased finance for Adaptation – pledges of $356 million for the Adaptation Fund, and $413 million for the Least Developed Countries Fund – and the agreement to set up a two-year work programme to operationalize and implement the Paris Agreement’s ‘global goal on adaptation’. Until now, it had been unclear how the implementation of this global goal would work.

The briefing covers key achievements as well as necessary further actions in navigable sections topic by topic, covering: Mitigation targets; Campaigns, sector deals and initiatives; Finance; Adaptation; Loss and Damage; the Paris Rulebook, and; Inclusion and Equity. Read more here

CHATHAM HOUSE: READ THE REPORT

Carbon Brief

Carbon Brief is a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy. They provide data-driven articles and graphics to help improve the understanding of climate change, both in terms of the science and the policy response. Their COP26 analysis provides a detailed guide of the in’s and out’s of the COP26 conference including data, and delegate quotes that covers similar topics, including both formal and ‘around the sidelines’ agreements and discussions.

CARBON BRIEF: READ THE REPORT

Climate Change Committee

On the emissions side, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008. The CCC advises the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets, reports on the progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and provides advice on adapting to the impacts of climate change. Their reflections focus on the increased ambitions set out by countries at COP26 as well as achievements in finalising the rules for reporting emissions and carbon trading. But they warn that the UK must now focus on delivering on its ambitions, develop policies to deliver on the UK’s net-zero strategy and ‘considerably strengthen’ policies on adaptation. The briefing includes areas of necessary change in the UK, highlighting existing gaps in addressing behaviour change, the need for actions to address consumption emissions and to review the role of tax policy in delivering Net Zero. Adaptation policies need a clearer vision, backed by targets with robust monitoring and evaluation plans. Ultimately whether emissions reductions are successful (or not) will depend on how the government acts on these ambitions over the next year and beyond.

“If all the ambition in all announced national 2030 and Net Zero targets is delivered (and applied to all greenhouse gases not just CO2) an expected warming of just under 2°C might be achieved. However, current climate policies would not deliver close to these targets.” – Climate Change Committee, Key Outcomes

CLIMATE CHANGE COMMITTEE: READ THE REPORT


Climate justice perspectives

The New Humanitarian

The New Humanitarian provides independent journalism that reports on humanitarian issues. Their COP26 round-up delivers a perspective focused on the needs of developing nations, emphasising the urgency of action on climate change, the importance of adaptation and need to address – and finance – impacts already being felt by communities in the developing world. They contextualise the call for action in terms of existing humanitarian capacities, and the human impacts – raising issues around the gaps between what is needed, and what was delivered at COP26 and where some of the blockages are for countries agreeing to action.

This review highlights some progress on mitigation targets (although insufficient to meet the 1.5 degree goal), a failure to raise or pledge to raise the finance needed for adaptation – this expected to cost between $140-300bn a year by 2030 according the the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2021 – or to deliver on the existing commitments to the $100bn a year made in Copenhagen in 2009. The New Humanitarian also raises the issue of insufficient representation and consultation of indigenous groups for forming policy or devising practical solutions.

THE NEW HUMANITARIAN: READ THE REPORT

Climate Vulnerable Forum

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) is an international partnership of countries who are the most vulnerable to a warming planet. The Forum is a South-South cooperation platform for participating governments to act together to deal with global climate change. At Glasgow their membership expanded from 48 to 55 Nations, now representing 1.4bn people. In the statement made by the CVF chair on the COP 26 outcome the forum focuses on recognising the progress made at COP26 through reflecting in its outcomes the core calls of the most vulnerable nations.

“1.5 is alive even if it remains on lifeline watch.” – CVF Chair on COP26 Outcome: COP26 Strengthens Global Climate Cooperation, 15 November 2021

They highlight the need to keep up the pace with annual ambition-raising roundtables to close the gap between current ambitions and what is actually needed to keep 1.5 degrees alive by 2030. The CVF maintains their position in calling for independent monitoring of delivery on climate finance promises of $100bn a year, to restore confidence in the pact between rich and poor nations, and highlights the agreement that urges developed nations to scale up adaptation finance in response to the climate emergency. The statement draws attention to the agreement on a carbon market mechanism for mitigation and sustainable development rules, with 5% proceeds going to countries most vulnerable to climate change adaptation efforts, which is vital to support communities on the climate frontlines.

Their COP26 summary includes many posts from international leaders statements, including Culture Ambassador, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner.

Saleemul Huq

Other voices representing some of the needs of some of the most vulnerable nations include Saleemul Huq, a Climate scientist and adviser to the group of Least Developed Countries and attendee at every COP to date, who argued that it is “immoral for polluters to be charging loans to the victims of their pollution, they should be giving them help as a matter of principle”. Saleemul was interviewed in episode three of the podcast series InsideCOP, which was hosted by JB’s Sophie Shnapp – all 10 episodes can be listened back here.

The War On Want

The War On Want is a global human rights campaign group fighting against poverty and injustice, who called attention to the exclusionary nature of the COP26 summit during the event. This summary post, although released at the start of COP, frames the urgency of the crisis, as well as outlining the demands and actions needed to tackle it. This perspective repositions climate justice at the heart of any climate action and outlines tests against which the success of the COP26 agreement should be evaluated, as:

  1. Does it keep us below 1.5C?
  2. Does it allow us to thrive within planetary boundaries?
  3. Does it undo historical injustices, inequality and power imbalances?
  4. Does it help build a society of care and repair, where everyone has the right to a dignified life?

“These tests underscore the global, unjust, and interconnected nature of the crises we face, and the importance of internationalism, equity, and systems thinking in the solutions that are put forward.” – War On Want

Global Witness

Indigenous voices remained on the sidelines of COP26, as raising the funding to attend, and the bureaucracy around accreditation needed, presented barriers to full participation in the summit. A Guardian article drawing-in perspectives from indigenous climate activists highlights that while the need to listen to indigenous communities is now recognised within the UN negotiations, there remain significant barriers to access. Indigenous activists raise the continuation of the impact of colonialism for their communities – pointing to the risks around incentives for carbon capture markets, which can incentivise land grabs, and further environmental and cultural destruction. This is linked to findings by Global Witness, which has documented that at least 1,005 environmental and land rights defenders have been murdered since the Paris accords were signed six years ago. One third of these are Indigenous people, who despite only representing approx. 5% of the global population, preserve and protect 80% of earth’s biodiversity. Their verdict on COP26 highlights the overwhelming presence of fossil fuel lobbyists and a potential to have drifted into ‘pledges, promises and propaganda’.


Sustainable development and cities perspectives

The World Resources Institute

The World Resources Institute is a global non-profit that focuses on addressing global challenges through research and data-led initiatives on topics of: Food, Forests, Water, Ocean, Cities, Energy and Climate. Their COP26 summary focuses on the take-away progress in emissions reductions, finance and loss and damage, and has a section on significant developments outside of the main negotiations. Here they cover the significant pledges on methane, deals on phasing out fossil fuels, reducing forest loss and land degradation, and solar and water management investments and initiatives. This highlights also corporate commitments to science-based targets and the alliance of financial firms aligning their portfolios with Net Zero, as well as cities joining the cities Race to Zero initiative.

THE WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE: READ THE REPORT

The Law Society

The Law Society is an independent professional body for solicitors. This perspective contains a few headlines that focus on the announcement from the newly established Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero of $130 trillion of private capital to accelerate the transition to a net-zero economy, and point to achievements in that COP26 has established a new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) to develop a global baseline for disclosure standards on climate and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters. They focus on increased scrutiny of the private sector and the need for UK companies to produce Net Zero transition plans by 2023. The round-up gives cursory coverage to the key topics of emissions and finance for adaptation but summarises 10 key announcements made at COP26, including international banks committing to ending finance for unabated coal power by the end of 2021.

THE LAW SOCIETY: READ THE REPORT

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