As the busy first week of the COP26 Summit came to a close, Anouk Faure from EcoAct’s Climate Innovation & Knowledge Center (CLICK) looks at the most important announcements and what we hope to see in the final week.
States announce net-zero targets and the US reasserts itself as a climate leader
In parallel to UNFCCC negotiations, States seized the opportunity of COP26 to announce enhanced climate targets. Much anticipated targets came from China and India, who committed to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 and net-zero by 2070, respectively. Australia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria also pledged to reach net-zero by mid-century. In total, 90% of G20’s emissions are now covered under a net-zero target (only Mexico is missing), just as a third of G20 companies by revenue are covered by a net-zero target.
COP26 week 1 also welcomed the return of the USA as climate leaders. President Biden launched the First Mover Coalition, a partnership between the US Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, the World Economic Forum and over 30 global businesses to make purchasing commitments in innovative green technologies.
Voluntary multinational coalitions supersede traditional UN processes
The first week of COP26 was marked by large-scale, voluntary commitments on the side of UNFCCC negotiations. Three pledges were announced:
- A Global Methane Pledge launched by the EU & USA to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels and signed by 100+ countries. Delivering on this pledge could limit global warming by 0.2°C by 2050.
- A multinational pledge to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030 signed by over 100 world leaders, including countries covering about 85% of the worlds’ forests. The Pledge includes $19 billion of public and private funds to restore degraded forest and tackle wildfires.
- A UK-led Coal to Clean Power Statement to phase out coal power by 2030s for major economies and 2040 for the rest of the world. 77 countries and organizations have rallied it so far.
Worryingly though, the biggest emitters are missing from pledges they are most concerned with. The top three methane emitters – Russia, China and India – and top coal power producing countries – USA, China and India – did not sign the methane or Coal to Clean Power pledges which will have serious limitations on the impact of these pledges.
The private sector establishes itself as a catalyst for climate action
A bottom-up process where businesses push for more action at the State level, is developing. Following an open letter of 700+ businesses – including EcoAct’s parent company, Atos – urging G20 leaders to take action to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the whole G20 committed to end international coal financing in 2021. In the same way, 408 businesses and investors signed an open letter to President Biden supporting a more ambitious GHG emissions target. This target – a reduction of 50% below 2005 GHG emissions levels by 2030 – was taken over by the US at COP26.
This approach happens in a context where the private sector increasingly puts forward its strike force to finance the transition to a decarbonized economy. The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), launched by Mark Carney and the COP26 Private Finance Hub – in partnership with the UNFCCC Climate Action Champions and the Race to Zero campaign and the COP26 Presidency – announced that the amount of capital committed to net-zero reached over $130 trillion. According to new analysis commissioned by the UN High Level Climate Action Champions this could provide 70% of the financing required to reach net-zero.
Yet, the challenge is still to turn pledges into action
Analysis published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) last week shows that all the climate pledges announced in the first week of COP26 could help limit global warming by 1.8°C by 2100, if met fully and on time.
However, these announcements count for little if they are not translated into clear policy measures. A UNFCCC NDC synthesis report published on November 4th shows that the latest NDC submissions only allow for a slight increase in GHG emission reductions. Compared to 2010 level, the rise in global GHG emissions would be 13.7% (versus 16% in the last report), which is still inconsistent with limiting the increase in global temperatures by 1.5°C. The 1.5°C goal implies a 45% reduction of GHG emissions from 2010 by 2030 (-25% for a 2°C goal).
It is therefore essential that pledges are from now on integrated in countries’ NDCs by means of clear policy actions. Progress towards NDCs is indeed the only compass to assess the reduction of global GHG emissions.
One week left for UNFCCC negotiations
The technical negotiations have now ended and outstanding issues will be handed over to ministers for arbitrages in the second week.
The final week’s agenda includes finding an agreement on international cooperation (Article 6). Despite a constructive atmosphere, the main friction points remain open, namely the transition of the Clean Development Mechanism to the 6.4 mechanism, and the design of a Share of Proceeds (levy on Article 6 transactions). We also hope to see agreements on the new reporting framework – Enhanced Transparency Framework (article 13) – and the definition of common timeframes for NDCs (article 4.10) to be reached.
 Methane’s (CH4) global warming potential is 28 times higher than CO2. Anthropogenic methane emissions come from agriculture (livestock and rice production), extraction and transportation of fossil fuels (“fugitive emissions” from leaks) and waste treatment (from landfills when organic materials decompose).
 14 new submissions were taken into account from October 25th to November 2nd : Argentina (following up on second NDC submitted on 30 December 2020), Australia, Bahrain, Brazil (updated submission letter), Chad, China, Ghana, Iraq, Japan (full version following up on the interim version submitted on 12 October 2021), Nauru, Pakistan (full version following up on the abridged version submitted on 12 October 2021), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.