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Keeping 1.5C alive – are Glasgow preparations on track?

At the closing event of last week’s London Climate Action Week (LCAW), representatives from UK and global civil society delivered a resounding call for more loss and damage finance for climate-vulnerable countries and called on the COP Presidency to deliver on its promises for an inclusive COP.

With only four months to go until COP26 in Glasgow, UK, the ‘What does a COP26 package that keeps 1.5C alive look like?’ event considered how to build the political will for an ambitious, balanced package at COP26 that keeps 1.5˚C alive.

Opening the event, moderator Nick Mabey, CEO of climate think-tank E3G and Chair of LCAW, cited widespread concerns that the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable countries are being side-lined due to geopolitics surrounding COP. Guest speakers Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of UK-based Christian Aid, and Renato (Ren) Redentor Constantino, CEO of Philippines-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, firmly stressed that the negotiations need to both involve representatives from these countries, and commit to addressing the loss and damage and climate finance issues that continue to plague them.

Making COP26 truly inclusive

“Those that have done the least to cause this crisis but suffer the most from it must have a seat at the table and must be able to shape the outcome of the COP,” Amanda commented, exhorting the COP26 Presidency to make good on its promises to make COP26 the most inclusive COP yet.

She urged leaders, however, to recognise that this COP is meeting in the ‘shadow’ of the Covid-19 pandemic, and stressed that we cannot talk about the outcome and the content of the COP without recognising how the pandemic could affect in-person attendance by those most critical to the negotiations.

“The world is in a state of vaccine apartheid due to inadequate global supply, the hoarding of doses by rich countries and lack of universal healthcare,” she commented.

“Simply put, we cannot keep 1.5 degrees alive unless the people on the frontline of this crisis are in the room, and they cannot be in the room unless we urgently [address] vaccine inequity.”

Raising ambition on pledges

Ms Khozi Mukwashi made clear that ‘unprecedented action’ is needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

She welcomed the ambitious targets set by the UK, and COP26 President Designate Alok Sharma’s pressure on other nations to go further with their pledges, but made it clear that ambition must be stepped up. The pledges add up to 2.4C according to Global Update: Climate Summit Momentum | Climate Action Tracker; and current policies add up to 2.9C. 

“Issues at stake at COP like reporting frameworks and carbon markets hold the risk of creating huge loopholes that threaten to undermine even this inadequate ambition further.” (For more on these issues, read the CASA blog.)

Mr Constantino echoed this call for greater ambition. He noted most countries have not yet updated their NDCs and called on the COP Presidency to mandate new ambition-raising platforms and timeframes to encourage countries to do more before now and 2025, when the next round of NDC enhancements is due.

“If we wait for 2025 and then see the same dismal result as in 2020, we are literally cooked,” he warned.

Fossil fuels: putting your own house in order

Ms Khozi Mukwashi praised the UK’s leadership in ending most of its public finance support for fossil fuels overseas, but warned it needs to “put its own house in order…and draw down its own fossil fuels industry, with a managed and just transition for its workers.”

Mr Constantino also pushed for stronger efforts to reform finance and leverage new opportunities, citing it as critical that multinational development banks stop funding fossil fuels: “Why do we expect developing countries to push for more ambition when regional and global development banks are still trying to sell them new fossil projects, while disdaining renewable energy?”

A step-change in financial support

Ms Khozi Mukwashi identified financial support for communities on the frontline of the climate crisis as critical to the COP26 preparations. She noted it’s been over 10 years since richer countries agreed to deliver USD 100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020.

“They are currently around 20 billion off that target, so my question is: how can developing countries have any faith in the COP process when developed countries fail to honour their promises?

“In that time, countries on the frontline on the climate crisis have seen their debt burdens increase. The climate impacts that countries face have also increased, leading countries to have to take out expensive loans when they are clobbered by the changing climate.”

Mr Constantino echoed this need to transform the way that climate finance is delivered: “We expect developing countries to upgrade the ambition of their NDCs, yet the climate finance house is in chaos.

“The missing 20 billion [in climate finance]…is a collective commitment of all developed countries to deliver.”

He issued a challenge to the COP26 Presidency: “Put out a clear statement on how individual countries will lift their finance to plug the gap, or face failure in Glasgow.”

New funding streams for climate-vulnerable countries could be agreed too, he suggested, including via the arrangements for post-2020 global carbon markets.

Putting loss and damage on the Glasgow agenda

Both Ms Khozi Mukwashi and Mr Constantino issued a call to put additional sources of finance to cover the costs of irreversible loss and damage from extreme weather and climate events at the centre of Glasgow discussions.

“At the moment, this is not even on the table in the UNFCCC. The UK, as COP President, needs to rectify this,” Ms Khozi Mukwashi commented.

“Politics does not excuse the failure to address, with ambition, these losses and damages that are already affecting people’s lives.”

Mr Constantino echoed this: “Loss and damage must be stamped on the agenda for COP26. In the name of climate justice, we expect the COP President will make this happen and build the diplomatic alliances that will deliver a common, good future for our planet and for the poor and vulnerable.”

Can Glasgow rise to the challenge?

Alok Sharma’s keynote address set out the Presidency’s priorities ahead of and at COP26.

He outlined how, to achieve the 1.5 goal, the UK COP26 Presidency is pushing for action in four key areas:

  • Urging all countries to make net zero commitments and pushing for action in key areas like clean energy, clean transport, halting deforestation, and supporting the clean energy transition in developing countries.
  • Protecting people and nature from the effects of our changing climate – delivering for the most climate vulnerable by raising the political status of adaptation and increasing the finance available for adaptation, as well as taking action on loss and damage.
  • Get finance flowing to climate action.
  • Working collaboratively and encouraging cross-border collaboration to keep the 1.5 degree target in reach.

He called for donors to publish a collective plan for delivering the $100bn a year commitment between now and 2025, citing G20 ministerials in July and the UN General Assembly in September as key moments for new pledges.

He also cited his commitment to an in-person COP and flagged the UK’s offer, working with the UN, to vaccinate all COP26 accredited delegates, who would not otherwise be able to get hold of vaccines.

He stressed the Presidency is committed to an inclusive COP26 “where all voices are heard, including the voices of developing countries, of women, of young people and indigenous peoples.”

It was less clear how the above building blocks would add up to a ‘Glasgow Package’ that accelerates ambition and action to close the remaining gaps to reaching the 1.5C goal.

Ms Khozi Mukwashi welcomed more detail from the Presidency on how we are actually going to get to 1.5 degrees, noting “If we say that current pledges are not taking us to 1.5, then what we have on the table is not good enough.”

Mr Constantino concluded by challenging the President-designate: “What we want is not a plan, but the completion of the $100 billion .”

Moderator Nick Mabey closed the event by reminding audiences and leaders alike that “The COP can’t be seen in a bubble of climate negotiations set in train four or five years ago, it needs to live in the reality of a Covid-constrained world,  an economic crisis, and the climate impacts we’re seeing in rich and poor countries.”

You can view a full recording of the event here. COP26 President-designate Alok Sharma’s keynote speech, delivered as part of the event, is available here.

Image: via Flickr: bankofengland

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