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Nothing about the Real Zero: the first week of COP26

The first week of the UN international climate talks in Glasgow began with the World Leaders Summit, which brought together more than 120 heads of state — a record number since the Paris conference in 2015. This is unusual for a conference of parties to a UN climate convention — traditionally, heads of state arrive in the second week of negotiations, when the marathon turns into a sprint, high-level events follow one after another, and final negotiating decisions must be made.

This year’s climate conference can be divided into two parts: the Summit, with its loud statements by heads of state, and the negotiation process itself.

Фото: UNFCCC

Big Statements

During the Summit, countries signed several declarations and made many promises.

For example, another declaration on forests and land use was signed to stop deforestation by 2030. The document was signed by 110 countries in all major ecosystems, including the Global South countries.

About 100 countries also signed the methane declaration, pledging to reduce global methane emissions from the energy, livestock, and land-use sectors by 20% below 2020 levels in 10 years. This is an ambitious promise, and at the same time very necessary — previously in the negotiation process, and in general at the international level, the main focus was on carbon dioxide. Russia did not join this declaration, justifying it by the desire to focus on established areas: forest fires, reforestation, and energy efficiency. Although speaking at the Summit of World Leaders in the first week, the President of the Russian Federation stressed that methane emissions are an important problem.

Overall, this is good news, but with some caveats. Many of the promises made by countries at the World Leaders Summit are not included in the nationally determined contributions (or commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) of countries under the Paris Agreement. This means that big promises can remain words without being translated into real action — countries are not obliged to confirm their promises with actions and report on the results within the framework of the signed declarations. There have already been statements from a number of countries about the need to incorporate the goals announced in declarations into the national goals of countries in the Paris Agreement. There is a probability that during the second week of negotiations attempts will be made to update the NDCs of countries to include the goals of the “forest” and “methane” declarations.

Experts of the International Energy Agency considered that with all promises given within the framework of the Paris agreement and declarations, mankind still will not be able to limit the growth of global temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius from the industrial level till 2100. If all countries successfully fulfill their promises, the global temperature increase will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius and reach 1.8 degrees Celsius.

Фото: UNFCCC

Negotiations

This year’s COP26 program is extremely full, in part because the negotiations had to be postponed a year later because of the pandemic. COP25 was held in Madrid in 2019 and left many unresolved issues. And the next round of negotiations took place already in 2021 in Glasgow.

The negotiation process focuses on several important topics: finance, carbon markets (Article 6 of the Paris Agreement), loss&damage, adaptation. The situation is not made easier by the fact that the biggest “delegation” at the COP26 is the fossil fuel lobbyists. They have more representatives at the negotiations than any party to the agreement.

Financial negotiations have traditionally focused on the amount of money that can be raised in funds. It is support from developed countries that are directed to developing countries for measures to combat the effects of climate change. For the first time, a report describing the specific needs of developing countries: what is needed to support countries' needs for mitigation and adaptation has been released for these negotiations. Available finance from donor countries must match the needs of recipient countries, especially those vulnerable to the climate crisis. The climate fund is expected to raise $100 billion annually, but there is still the question of how private investment can be built into it, to which there are as yet no restrictions on the sectors to which the money can be channeled.

For the first time, a global goal on adaptation to the effects of climate change is being negotiated. Along with reducing the impact of human activity on the climate, adaptation is an important process, especially needed for vulnerable developing countries that are already feeling the negative effects. It is expected that the goals can be adopted by the end of the second week of negotiations.

Sustainable development mechanisms (Article 6 of the Paris Agreement) should be adopted by the end of COP26. Countries have been unable to agree on this article for several years, but there is hope that the Mechanisms will be adopted in Glasgow. The main political question is whether the mechanisms of clean development (carbon units, which countries still have from the Kyoto Protocol) will be transferred to the sixth article. Brazil and India are now in favor of the transfer, but this is largely a political issue since under the new agreement the old units will not be in demand. Principles of cross-country and cross-project transfer of carbon units and non-market mechanisms — a wide range of climate actions whose results are not measured in units of emission reductions — must also be adopted. For now, we should not expect large-scale international trade. However, it is necessary to ensure rules that do not allow double counting. For example, when one country counts reduction units and then sells them, and another country buys them and also accounts for them. The same rules should apply to the inter-project sector of the Sustainable Development Mechanisms.

Russia in the negotiation process on Article 6 makes sure that it does not prescribe restrictions on trade in carbon units. To a greater extent, this applies to large hydropower plants and nuclear power, which in the official position of Russia are considered climate-friendly low-carbon solutions, as well as forests, on which a lot of hope for the absorption of greenhouse gases.

Фото: Tatiana Shauro

 

Russian non-governmental organizations insist that Article 6 should adopt a universal taxonomy based on uniform principles that exclude projects for Article 6 purposes based on fossil fuel, nuclear and large river dam hydropower technologies, and solid municipal waste (MSW) incineration.

In the negotiations we also call for:

  • Ending direct and hidden subsidies for non-renewable energy, while protecting the most vulnerable social groups and economic activities from possible increases in energy prices. Ensure that fossil fuel and energy producers take full responsibility for the damage they do to the planet's environment and climate system.

  • Redirecting fossil fuel subsidies to support renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and to reorient economies toward a green course — especially in the countries most dependent on fossil fuels.

  • Strengthening GHG reduction goals for 2030-35, develop internationally coordinated, comprehensive plans to achieve them, taking into account all sources of anthropogenic emissions. These goals and plans must lead to the achievement of PA goals.

  • Ensuring the phase-out of coal by 2030. By the same time to take all necessary measures to reach a plateau with a subsequent decline in oil and gas production.

Russian non-governmental organizations continue to follow the international climate talks in Glasgow. Follow the news on the website of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union, the pages of VKontakte and Facebook.

 

Written by Victoriia Rudenko, RSEU Climate Secretariat, Friends of the Baltic
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