COP26 Week Two Round Up: negotiations and decisions made on nature and climate

COP26 Week Two Round Up: negotiations and decisions made on nature and climate
Week 2 sees the summit negotiations and talks coming together into new commitments for climate and nature.

Week two of COP26 saw a shift from the headline sectorial announcements and pledges of week one, and a move to work on implementation and intense negotiations between ministers, heads of delegations, and supporting ‘issue leads’. Under the Paris Climate Agreement every five years countries must strengthen their climate commitments, giving this year’s COP its crucial role in negotiating items within the new “Glasgow Package,” and assessment of the updates to countries’ ‘nationally determined contributions’ (NDCs). The language of any final statements within the COP26 decision text face a delicate balance between ambition for limiting warming to 1.5C and preserving biodiversity, and pressure from the many competing interests of nations. The danger is that with such compromise, any final decision text will be weakened, as outlined below.

Announcements from governments and the public and private sector have also continued this week, with plenty from ourselves, including:

Adaptation and Loss and Damage Day on 8th November saw a range of announcements on adaptation, including 70 endorsements made to the Principles for Locally Led Adaptation and more than $450 million mobilised for initiatives and programmes enhancing locally-led approaches. $232 million was committed to the Adaptation Fund, the highest single mobilisation to the Fund and more than double the previous highest collective mobilisation. The UK has announced £290 million in new funding for adaptation, and 88 countries are now covered by Adaptation Communications or National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) to increase preparedness to climate risks.

Gender, Science and Innovation Day on 9th November included commitments by 22 Governments and the European Commission, through Mission Innovation, to four new ‘Missions’ to invest in technologies to facilitate urban transitions, eliminate emissions from industry, enable carbon dioxide removal and produce renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials. 47 countries also committed to building health systems that are able to withstand the impacts of climate change and which are low carbon and sustainable. These include 42 countries, representing over a third of global health care emissions, which have committed to developing a sustainable, low-carbon health system. 12 of these 42 countries have set a deadline of 2050 or earlier, by which their health system will reach net zero. There were also a range of gender-focused announcements, including the UK setting out how £165 million in funding will address the dual challenges of gender inequality and climate change, and new pledges and strategies from Bolivia, Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Nigeria, Sweden and the USA

Transport Day on 10th November saw the first draft cover decision text released, with a range of encouraging statements, such as “recognizing the global interlinked crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, and the critical role of nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches in delivering benefits for climate adaptation and mitigation,”. It also retains the resolve to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C as under the Paris Agreement. The draft also highlights that emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and “to net-zero around mid-century” to reach the 1.5C goal. In a first-time inclusion within a COP decision text, the draft also “calls upon parties to accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels”, progressing from under the Paris accord where there was no mention of fossil fuels. There were also a host of announcements, with the UK contributing £4m to the World Bank’s new Global Facility to support transport decarbonisation in developing countries over 10 years. Eighteen states representing over 40% of global aviation emissions also committed a new aviation decarbonisation target through the International Civil Aviation Organization, as part of a new International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition. In the renewables realm, 28 offshore wind industry stakeholders have committed to work to zero emission operations and maintenance vessels in the North Sea by 2025.

Cities, Regions and Built Environment day on 11th November saw the launch by the UK government of a new £27.5m Urban Climate Action programme to support the cities and regions in developing countries most impacted by climate change to accelerate their transition to net zero. The programme will support cities across Africa, Asia and Latin America to take action to tackle climate change, become carbon neutral by 2050 and to prepare low-carbon infrastructure projects. The UK government is also investing £3.9 billion through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, Home Upgrade Grant scheme, Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, Boiler Upgrade Scheme and Heat Network Transformation Programme. 1,049 cities and local governments representing 722 million people have now joined the UN Race to Zero, with potential to reduce global emissions by at least 1.4 gigatonnes per year by 2030. Additionally, 260 governments representing 50% of the economy and 1.75 billion people now aim to reach net zero emissions by 2050, as part of the Under2 Coalition.

The final day of COP on 12th November saw changes to the decision text draft. We greatly welcome that the text recognises “the interlinked global crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, and the critical role of protecting, conserving and restoring nature and ecosystems in delivering benefits for climate adaptation and mitigation, while ensuring social and environmental safeguards.” However, although the inclusion of social and environmental safeguards is important, it is disappointing to see the term nature-based solutions (NbS) removed entirely. NbS, when community-led and biodiversity-based, play a critical role in helping us meet the 1.5 temperature goal and are vital in protecting us from climate change impacts and supporting local livelihoods. They are clearly defined, there is a Global Standard, and clear guidelines on integrity, and so if included in the decision text they would give Parties some oversight on how NbS are being funded and implemented.

Commitment to doubling adaptation finance and stronger language on emissions reduction are extremely important additions to the new draft. It now recognises the need for accelerated action on emissions reductions in this critical decade more explicitly and clearly and the call for further action is more detailed. However, there are troubling new qualifiers around mitigation. In particular, there has been a very worrying shift of language on fossil fuels, with a draft decision to “accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels” subsequently weakened to “accelerating the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels”. However, any inclusion of a commitment on fossil fuels in the final deal would be a COP first (incredibly!) and a landmark moment.

The ‘Friends of COP’, of which NbSI Director Nathalie Seddon is one, penned a letter of support and challenge to COP26 President Alok Sharma, with a statement of views on the draft Presidency texts, including support for the government efforts to include actions on coal and other fossil fuels for the first time, as well as the inclusion of loss and damage within the text. The letter also includes suggestions as to where text needs strengthening on areas such as adaptation finance, loss and damage, mitigation, and implementation, including the call to include nature-based solutions and commit to limiting warming to 1.5C with no or limited overshoot. Today, leading philanthropies including the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the European Climate Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and the Global Green Grants Fund also stated a wish to support the signatories of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change by providing kick-start finance for a prospective new Facility (currently being negotiated at COP26) to support vulnerable countries most hit by the losses and damages resulting from climate change.

We hope to see COP26 conclude with measurable acceleration of action for climate and nature, to realise the ambition and commitment shown by the state delegations, organisations and communities over the past two weeks.

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