“The 1.5°C pulse remains weak.” These are the sobering words of COP26 President Alok Sharma as personalities from the private, public and third sector spheres came together to launch London’s Climate Action Week at the end of June. The opening session of Europe’s largest independent climate change event posed the question: ‘Are Glasgow’s promises kept?’ And despite understandable attempts to look at the glass half full, even the likes of Sharma have struggled to paint the reality that the half year since COP26 has been far from smooth. Progress since COP26 has been modest at best.
Money, coal, cars and trees
Ahead of the November 2021 climate conference, the UK government hammered the slogan “money, coal, cars and trees to keep the world at 1.5 degrees”, to underline the points conference focal points. However, a review of each area seven months later and it is difficult to see much progress since COP26 – even if the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine are the obvious reasons.
First, the money. It is now a well-known fact that developed countries have failed to deliver on their 2009 promise to provide $100 billion in climate finance per year to their developing counterparts by 2020. However, they will get there by 2025. , in the months following Glasgow, there was little evidence of an increase in these funding levels. At the same time, the private sector was meant to play a bigger role, as evidenced by the fanfare surrounding the launch of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero by UN climate envoy Mark Carney – but again, the evidence of progress since COP26 remains rare. In fact, investors have poured more money into the booming fossil fuel sector than into its struggling cleantech competitor.
Second, coal ‘phasing out’ was clearly central to Glasgow’s concerns – although it was eventually reduced to ‘phase-out’, much to Sharma’s dismay. However, there has since been more of a “gradual increase” in the use of coal power, first with the acceleration of the Covid recovery and more recently with the war in Ukraine which has seen the countries delay their coal phase-out — and even reopen shuttered coal plants — in a desperate attempt to replace Russian gas. According to BP’s annual energy report, coal consumption has increased over the past year in Europe and North America after nearly a decade of decline, leading to a 5.7% global increase in emissions related to coal. energy consumption.
In cars, although electric vehicle (EV) sales doubled in key markets last year, supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine sabotaged progress in 2022. Germany’s Volkswagen recently announced that it has sold EVs in the United States. and EU markets through the end of the year as manufacturers grapple with rising costs and tight supply of components such as microchips.
COP26 was also expected to be a watershed moment in the fight against deforestation, but in recent months, levels of deforestation in the Amazon – particularly in Brazil – have broken new records. Evidence of widespread illegal logging emerging from the Congo – one of the world’s largest remaining rainforests – has cast further doubt on the effectiveness of the forests deal reached in Glasgow. Meanwhile, the key UN biodiversity conference, due to be held in the Chinese city of Kunming in 2020, has been repeatedly delayed as China struggles to contain the resurgence of Covid.
glimmers of hope
On June 27, Sharma naturally strove to highlight some of the progress that has taken place since COP26. He highlighted the 13 new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), including Australia’s, which have since been presented, as well as “statements made by countries seeking to actively review their NDCs” during a Ministerial meeting on implementation in Copenhagen in May. Seven countries also pledged to review their emissions reduction targets at the recent Major Economies Virtual Forum on Energy and Climate. There are now 51 long-term strategies submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), “including a number from Glasgow”, and more than two and a half billion people are now covered by plans adaptation, Sharma said.
“If I had to sum it all up, I would say the Glasgow Climate Pact scorecard reads: some progress made but frankly there is still a lot to do,” admitted Sharma. He called on every country to review and strengthen their NDCs and submit a long-term strategy, in particular the G20 countries responsible for 80% of global emissions, “not at some vague time in the future, but before the deadline. of the UNFCCC of September 23. .”
He highlighted the urgent need for further progress in delivering the $100 billion in climate finance a year, on the commitment to double adaptation finance to $40 billion by 2025, and on the dialogue between developed and developing countries regarding loss and damage. “It might seem like quite a big work program but frankly that’s what we agreed to achieve in Glasgow. Now, looking ahead to COP27 and beyond, we need to see faster progress in the mobilizing the trillions of dollars needed to put the world on a more sustainable footing.
For Neliswa Hare, campaign manager and head of business engagement at the UN-backed Race to Resilience campaign, the main positives to come out of Glasgow were the “greater clarity that non-state actors need to pass commitments to action” as well as the fact that “we are now talking about adaptation in a broader way and on an equal footing with mitigation”. As an example of progress since COP26, she highlights AXA’s recent commitment to invest $500 million in ocean nature-based solutions aimed at improving the resilience of 250 million people in coastal areas around the world.
However, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the audience at the opening of Climate Action Week in London that financial commitments to adaptation are, in fact, “currently absent”.
“We need adaptation actions, and we need them now,” he said.
He pointed out that one of the most vulnerable groups affected by climate change are the five million smallholder farmers across the world. “They bear the brunt of climate change but lack the capacity to adapt,” he said.
The current food shortages in the Global South, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, have shown how important it is to support smallholder farmers, said Ki-moon, and if the world does not build the resilience of smallholdings agriculture now, there will likely be a 30% decline in agricultural production by 2050 – concurrent with a 50% increase in food demand. Ki-moon claimed that $1.8 billion spent on adaptation would save more than $7.1 billion in climate-related costs, “thereby preventing more poverty and hardship while increasing food security. world”.
A 2021 report by the Global Center on Adaptation suggested that by 2050, climate adaptation needs could reach $500 billion per year for developing countries. This is for a future where global temperature rise is limited to 2°C. The estimate is light years ahead of the $30 billion in funding for climate adaptation and resilience that was raised in 2018, according to data from the United Nations Environment Programme.