In the lead-up to Cop26 in GlasgowNovember Alok SharmaThe UK president of this event, David Cameron, described himself to be the shepherd-in chief for a global agreement on global warming.
The role of the president was to guide the disparate coalition to make progress together – and it worked, as 190 nations signed on to pledges to extend and complete the 2015 Paris Agreement that committed the world to limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C is higher than the pre-industrial norm.
Six weeks after the meetings ended, Mr Sharma spoke out to say that the mission had been accomplished because all countries have accepted the Glasgow conclusions.
“Ultimately, if we are going to succeed in what the science tells us we need to do, which is to effectually cut global emissions in half by 2030, it will require all countries to act in concert,” he said.
Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, delivers a speech at the opening ceremony for the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. AP
Describing his continuing Cop26 role – the position runs up until the next conference opens in Sharm El Sheikh in 2022 – Mr Sharma said he was shifting to the task of auditor-in-chief, examining the progress towards meeting the commitments made at the meeting.
But the biggest miss was the failure to fulfill financial commitments. Rich countries failed to meet the $110 Billion annual funding target in Paris to subvention developing nations’ efforts to transition to carbon neutrality.
Sharma highlighted the significant mobilisation of private sector capital to create momentum where governments have been slow.
“I would just say is that the $100bn, of course, is a totemic figure, and we absolutely have to deliver on that,” he said. “But if we are going to make real progress in terms of energy transition around the world, getting countries off fossil fuels on to renewables, it will need the private sector involved, it will need trillions mobilised.”
It’s a point that is in line with the organisers promise that the priorities in Glasgow will be Coal, cash, cars, trees – and the moves around cash as well as coal ended up being the dominant outcomes of the meeting.
“An institutional investor alliance”
Abyd Karmali (client adviser on Cop26) spoke at a Bank of America panel and pointed out how asset management firms with $130 billion under management attended the conference. Many joined the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, which is led by Mike Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, and UN climate finance envoy Mark Carney.
“You have the beginnings of an institutional investor coalition,” said Mr Kamali. “The critical point is that $130tn that is sending an unbelievably strong signal to all the different stakeholders out there that this is unmistakably the direction of travel.”
There was much talk of some types of investments becoming “stranded assets” with no recourse to market financing as climate deadlines come closer.
Julian Mylchreest (executive vice chairman of Bank of America) believes that the weight of finance is driving much faster progress towards net zero.
“My hope is, post-Cop, the conversation gets more sophisticated now and a bit more nuanced,” he said. “Because I think that once you got to a position where climate change is an accepted truth and net zero the undebatable target now, it’s all about the what and the how and the pace of the how and who pays for it and I think we’ll make a lot more progress now.
“It’s not a case of them and us, and I’ll give you some examples. Hydrogen is one of the topics that I have often spoken about with my colleagues. I don’t see a path to getting to net zero and dealing with the hard-to-abate sectors without seeing hydrogen playing a very big role.”
The Cop process is still built on the countries.
“We now have 90 per cent of the world covered by a net-zero target. These combined do not take us on the path to 1.5, but it is important.°C, so more needs to be done,” Archie Young, the UK’s chief negotiator, said.
“One of Glasgow’s key achievements was, I think, putting in place the expectation that countries will revisit and strengthen their [Nationally Determined Contributions]Their 2030 numbers are expected to be released next year.
“So, if we hadn’t got that the global stock take in 2023 and then the ratchet in 2025, we would have only looked at the numbers beyond 2030.”
People gather in the Action Zone at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. AP Photo
Jake Werskmen is an international climate adviser for the EU Commission. He told a panel that Glasgow had set the bar high by requiring detailed commitments from all participants.
“Much more specific in terms of the science requires of us 1.5°C, net zero by the middle of the century,” he said. “Much more specific in terms of the kinds of types of policies that we have to put in place. More specific in terms of where we have to make those cuts, particularly with regard to methane and near term CO2 by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030.”
However, consumers are now being caught up by policymakers and business.
A survey by consulting firm Simon-Kucher & Partners last month found that 85 per cent of global consumers polled had actively chosen more sustainable purchase choices over the past five years.
Six out of ten buyers identified sustainability as a major factor in their purchases. Just a third said that they are happy to pay more for these goods or services.
These findings revealed that millennial shoppers are most supportive of sustainable options. Respondents were eager to see green initiatives from utilities and energy firms.
Rishi Sunak, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, holds his green box at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, before a meeting a group of finance ministers. PA
The key clash is coal’s future
The most intense moment of Cop26 came on the final afternoon, when China and India joined forces to replace “phase out” with the more ambiguous “phase down” in the final communique on coal.
Mr Young stated that India (with about three billion people) and China (with roughly three billion each, could not be excluded by virtue of their population.
“They were not prepared to accept the pact as it was – that needed to be taken seriously” he said. “There is still the phase down of coal — that’s not phase out but it’s still phase down. It sets a bar for future cuts and you still have a phase out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”
Bernice Lee from Chatham House is the director of sustainability research. She said that Glasgow was a good example of the balance China was achieving in managing its economy while also participating in the global climate change process. She sees a difference in the organisers’ priorities regarding achieving carbon reductions and setting targets.
“Throughout the whole Cop, China has time and again reminded everybody the important thing is delivery,” she said. “There are good and bad things about that. Delivering the goods is important, but that is the good news. The bad thing is that I think ambition and target-setting is also important.”
The importance of Glasgow was a signal for the private sector about the future direction of innovation, and the shift towards renewables. India set a net-zero date for 2070, while many states, including Mena, are looking to 2020.
Cop26 was set against a backdrop that saw Europe hit by a severe winter, which created an energy crisis. Many European countries were forced to look for alternatives after transferring so much of their energy capacity to renewables over the past decades. The mercury dropped and the wind stopped blowing.
Germany’s government has shifted away from nuclear power. In Germany, coal was the main energy source in the third quarter. The fuel accounted for 32 percent of the electricity supplied to the grid, an increase from 22.5 percentage.
But the shift away has become a stampede. S&P Global Platts Analytics estimates that the global pipeline for new coal plants has been collapsing since the Paris Agreement, from 1,175 gigawatts in 2015 down to 313GW of future capacity in the pipeline.
“What I thought was most interesting about Glasgow was a perceptual shift, exemplified by South Africa’s announcement that it had struck a deal to basically get a bunch of countries to collectively to pony up $8.5bn to support a just transition away from coal,” said Navroz Dubash of the Centre for Policy Research.
“And in India, there was some reports of India talking to the World Bank directly about an even larger sum aimed at supporting a soft landing on coal.
“I think we are going to see much more of these kind of financing packages that go beyond public money.”
Updated December 28th, 2021 at 3:29 PM