According to a draft working text released this morning, negotiators at the global climate talks in Scotland tentatively agreed to accelerate the timetable by which countries must reinforce their CO2 reduction pledges.
The text reflects growing concern among nations that global goals to slow climate change are being missed. It urges countries to “rethink and strengthen” their climate targets for 2030 by next year, a move that would drastically accelerate the five-year deadline for new commitments.
“That is a crucial language,” said David Waskow, director of the international climate initiative at the World Resources Institute.
The text catapults the United Nations climate negotiations, known as COP 26, into their final phase. A key outcome of the talks is the decision to accelerate the pace at which countries are making new pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
The next three days of negotiation will determine whether this language survives.
The text pushes the envelope, and observers suspect pushback. That begs the question of where the US and the EU stand – and no one has publicly stated their position.
“You will have to work hard on this language to keep it there,” said Waskow.
According to the Paris Agreement, nations must submit updated emission reduction targets every five years. But that schedule threatens to be exceeded by the rate of global warming, warn leaders of nations prone to rising sea levels, droughts, and scorching heat waves.
Tina Stege, the Marshall Islands’ climate ambassador and member of the High-Ambition Coalition, said yesterday that countries should come up with new goals next year. A statement issued last week by the coalition of which the United States is a member reflects this timeframe.
“The decade of action is now, and for these things to make an impact and make sense and actually do what we need to, you need to start next year,” she said.
The new timeline outlined in the text published this morning marked a shift from previous drafts. The language negotiated over the weekend was missing and observers expressed concern that neither the US nor the European Union had pointed out any gaps in a common timeframe in the recent consultations.
“This silence shows that these parties – the US and the EU – are not really pushing this ambitious front forward as it is currently necessary,” Waskow said yesterday.
The draft text shows a shift in urgency.
“I think the main thing that happened is that many of the vulnerable countries pushed very hard for such language with a clear time frame,” Waskow said this morning.
The negotiators with some developing countries have also strongly advocated clearer language to prevent warming over 1.5 degrees Celsius. These changes are not included in the text.
There is also a push to add clearer language that distinguishes large emitters who need to take more action – some of which have resisted – from smaller, climate-vulnerable countries that are emitting small amounts of greenhouse gases.
The draft text covers the full range of topics that will be the focus of the conversations – from science to adaptation and mitigation to finance. Tricky carbon-related issues will have to be resolved or postponed when talks conclude on Friday.
Observers expect a backlash from countries that have resisted stepping up their climate protection efforts. Russia and Saudi Arabia have been particularly open, and that runs the risk of watering down the final text.
This year’s climate talks follow a meeting of the 20-person group that failed to get countries to commit on a set date to end fossil fuel subsidies or to phase out coal within their limits .
Today’s draft text reflects much of that language.
Areas in which the G-20 has made progress have been reflected in announcements made in Glasgow, such as the commitment of more than 20 countries last week to end public funding for international fossil fuel development.
According to a new report released yesterday by Climate Action Tracker, the world is headed for a warming of at least 2.4 ° C based on pledges alone. Taking the current guidelines into account, this target increases to 2.7 ° C.
Marshall Islands’ Stege said this loophole shows why nations need to step up their carbon commitments faster. These commitments are referred to in UN parlance as nationally determined contributions or NDCs.
“We have to come back to make sure NDCs are aligned at 1.5 and if they are not aligned now we have to create something that will bring us back to the table until these are delivered,” she said.
Countries are also being urged to fund climate projects more, especially for adaptation and losses and damage related to climate impacts that are irreversible and cannot be avoided through adaptation.
“This is what the vulnerable countries really need as part of this package so that they can stand up to China, the Saudis and other hardliners in the developing countries group who are saying, ‘We shouldn’t make commitments to increase our ambitions.’ because the industrialized countries are not keeping their financial promises, ‘”said Alden Meyer, senior associate at the climate think tank E3G.
In his opinion, this year’s climate talks could lead to two results. This would lead to a standstill on key issues and a lack of higher ambition. The other leads to faster action.
“No matter what we get, there will not be a moment of mission fulfillment,” said Meyer, referring to the outcome of the talks.
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.