It was energy day at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow on Thursday — and some pretty big announcements were made on the end of coal and fossil fuel financing.
Here’s what happened on the fourth day of the climate summit.
COP26 pledges could limit warming to 1.8 degrees
Scientists say global warming must be kept to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and the goal of COP26 is to keep that target in reach.
The International Energy Agency reported Thursday that warming could be limited to 1.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, if all COP26 commitments made as of Wednesday night are fulfilled on time.
It’s big news for COP26, since the UN reported in September the planet is careening toward 2.7 degrees. That analysis took into account countries’ pledges before COP26, but didn’t include the most recent developments.
“The result is extremely encouraging,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told an audience at a COP26 event. “If all the pledges on carbon neutrality and methane pledges were to be fully implemented, we would have a temperature increase trajectory which is 1.8 Celsius. This is excellent.”
Twenty countries agreed to end financing for fossil fuel projects abroad in a deal announced Thursday. Several countries had already agreed to end international financing for coal, but this agreement is the first of its kind to include oil and gas projects as well.
The strength of the agreement will depend on how many countries ultimately sign up to it, and whether it can get some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel financier nations on board.
“This is a historic breakthrough that would not have been possible just a few years ago,” Iskander Erzini Vernoit, a climate finance expert at think tank E3G, told CNN. “This leadership group of countries shows how quickly norms on energy are changing.”
Jake Schmidt, a senior strategic director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the deal “will help drive the transition to renewable energy,” but also noted that President Joe Biden still has work to do to make sure the US is fully on board.
Key players missing on coal agreement
The UK government on Thursday announced 23 new countries made commitments Thursday to phase out coal power, but some of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters have so far declined a commitment to phase out the use of coal.
COP26 President Alok Sharma said that an agreement on coal phaseout is one of the top goals of the summit.
China, India and the US did not sign on to the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement. The new commitments take the total number of signatories to 46, and includes some big coal users, including Indonesia, Ukraine and South Korea.
The targets fall short of what experts, including the IEA, say is required to achieve net-zero by 2050. Net-zero emissions can be achieved if countries reduce current greenhouse gas emissions and also remove some of what’s already in the atmosphere, so the net addition is zero.
Developing countries need more money to adapt
The UN Environment Programme reported Thursday that the gap is widening between the impacts of the climate crisis and the world’s effort to adapt to them.
In addition to promising to limit warming, governments from wealthy nations in the 2015 Paris Accord reaffirmed their commitment to contribute $100 billion a year to poorer nations to move away from fossil fuel and adapt to climate change-fueled disasters.
Developing nations, particularly those in the Global South, are most likely to endure the worst effects of the climate crisis, despite the small amount they contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions.
But wealthy countries not meeting their original pledge, and the pledge itself hasn’t kept pace with the climate crisis’s impacts.
“The Paris Accord says adaptation and mitigation funding needs to be in a degree of balance,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the UNEP, told CNN. “Those in poorer countries are going to suffer the very most, so ensuring that there’s a degree of equity and a degree of global solidarity for adaptation finance is critical.”
Activists ask police to back off
Outside the negotiations, climate activists are urging the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to intervene in what they say is a heavy police presence in Glasgow.
In a letter addressed to the First Minister, three groups — COP26 Coalition, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and the Climate Coalition — said “the disproportionately high number of officers deployed, combined with intrusive police surveillance” is creating “an atmosphere of fear and intimidation and unacceptable chilling effect on the right to protest.”
CNN reached out to Sturgeon’s office but did not immediately receive a response.
The call comes before the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on Saturday, which will attract a large numbers of protesters in Glasgow and around the world.
Activists are asking Sturgeon to ensure that Scotland police commit to protecting their right to protest and not engage in excessive use of force or “targeting organizers for arrest,” especially people of color and people with disabilities.
“As we hurtle ever closer to climate catastrophe and negotiators determine the fate of billions around the world it is absolutely vital that civil society movements from Scotland, the UK and around the world are able to make their voices heard on the streets of Glasgow,” Mary Church said in a statement on behalf of COP26 Coalition. “Yet police are using intimidatory tactics and abusing their powers to stifle the fundamental right to peaceful protest.”
EU pushes against climate reparations
The European Union is not keen on the idea of climate reparations, a big topic of the COP26 summit. Many of the world’s least developed and small island countries are pushing for “loss and damage” financing, asking to be compensated for the hardship climate change has already caused their people.
The countries say this should come on top of the $100 billion a year in climate adaptation and mitigation financing wealthy countries promised — and so far failed — to begin providing in 2020.
Asked by CNN about the EU’s position on the issue, the EU Commission’s lead climate negotiator, Jacob Werksmon, said the Paris Agreement “is not a regime about liability and compensation,” when asked if the EU was advocating for or against one of the most contentious issues at this year’s UN climate conference in Glasgow.
“It is not intended to be a means by which countries negotiate what one country should on a theory of liability, be paying in other countries on the basis of what they’re experiencing in terms of impacts,” he said, adding that the EU “recognize[d]” that the disproportionate impact of climate change on the least developed countries “is a very, very legitimate concern.”
A lot was going on in the national pavilion zone on Thursday, where many delegations put up exhibits and hosted events. In an effort to attract more visitors to their hubs, some turned to things that always work: drinks and nibbles.
Brazil’s Minister for Energy and Mines, Bento Albuquerque, was hosting drinks at the Brazilian pavilion, while the UK was set to hold an evening reception at its hub later on Thursday.
And while Australia’s climate policy is not popular among many of the delegates at COP26, the coffee served in the Aussie pavilion (sponsored by the fossil fuel company Santos) has been a hit.
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