August 31, 2021

COP 26: A Five Point Plan for Tackling Climate Change

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The destruction left on public infrastructure across Rwanda during last year’s rainy season

Success At November’s UN Climate Summit Hinges On The Wealthy World’s Ability To Foster Solidarity, Fairness And Prosperity With Poor Countries, Which Have Been Battered By The Climate Crisis, Covid-19 And Mounting Debt, According To A New Five-Point Plan Backed By More Than 100 Developing Countries.

The COP26 summit in Glasgow comes at a time of maximum need as well as maximum opportunity to deliver on the Paris Agreement’s promise of a fair, equitable and robust response to climate change.

The pandemic has devastated developing countries, on top of continuing climate change impacts such as extreme heat, droughts, floods and tropical storms. Support in the form of vaccines and debt relief would send a signal that the countries least responsible for causing climate change are not alone in fighting it.

“Covid can only be beaten as a global community. The same goes for climate,” the report states.

The paper is based on more than a year of collaboration and workshops among think tanks, research groups and government officials across the Global South, and is backed by influential blocs of developing countries including the Africa Group, the Climate Vulnerable Forum and Least Developed Countries.

Cut emissions

The science is clear: for our best chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world needs to halve greenhouse gas emissions between 2020 and 2030 and regenerate nature at the same time. But the window of opportunity is closing.

To take on their fair share of mitigating the crisis, rich countries should at least halve their collective emissions within the 2020s, aim for net zero emissions well before 2050 and back their targets with “demonstrably commensurate” policies. Specifically, the report calls on:

  • The US to cut emissions by 195 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels (up from a new goal of 50-52 percent) and channel $80 billion per year in aid to developing countries.
  • The EU to aim for a reduction of at least 65 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels (up from 55 percent), and raise its annual climate finance to $33-36 billion.
  • The UK to cut emissions by at least 75 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels (up from 68 percent now), and raise its annual finance to an average of $46 billion.
  • Canada to aim for a 140 percent reduction by 2030 compared to 2005 levels (from 40-45 percent now), and provide at least $4 billion a year in finance.
  • Australia to cut emissions by at least 65-80 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels (from 26-28 percent) and provide at least $2.5 billion in finance per year.
  • Japan to aim for a reduction of at least 45-50 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels (from 46 percent compared to 2013 levels). It should raise its climate finance to at least $9-10 billion a year.

Accelerate adaptation to climate change

The Paris Agreement’s goal to mitigate climate change is well understood. What is less talked about is the agreement’s call to enhance climate adaptation capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.

COP26 is a time for countries to establish a global goal for adaptation and to split climate finance evenly between adaptation and mitigation – as United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for) – with regular reviews, the report says. At least 5 percent of proceeds from the global carbon market system set up under the Paris Agreement should go to the UN’s Adaptation Fund, which finances projects and programmes in developing countries.

Stronger adaptation will help mitigate climate change and advance sustainable development. Without it, climate change could push more than 100 million people in developing countries below the poverty line by 2030, according to the Global Commission on Adaptation. On the other hand, investing $1.8 trillion between 2020 and 2030 in early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, dryland agriculture, mangrove protection and water management would generate $7.1 trillion in net benefits.

The five-point plan calls on the UK COP26 presidency to create the political and technical space in which countries can form a plan to boost adaptation.

Face the reality of loss and damage

Adaptation can only go so far – the world has already sustained irreversible loss and damage as a result of climate change. For example, even if warming is limited to 1.5 degrees, 90 percent of coral reefs will be lost by 2050, posing disastrous consequences for livelihoods, food security and ecological integrity of oceans, the report says, citing UN climate science.

Developing countries are disproportionately harmed by this loss and damage; developed countries are disproportionately responsible for it. Progress in implementing the UN system for addressing loss and damage – the Warsaw International Mechanism – has been stifled by climate negotiations and opposition from wealthy countries.

For COP26 to succeed, governments need to accelerate the mechanism’s implementation, the report says. They need to strengthen its governance, including with a requirement to report annually; devote permanent, focused technical and political attention to loss and damage in UN climate talks; and elevate loss and damage funding to the level of mitigation and adaptation finance. The UK should also appoint a champion for loss and damage and recommend that future COP hosts do the same.

Pay up

Wealthy countries pledged in 2009 to shore up $100 billion per year in public and private climate mitigation and adaptation finance by 2020 – but have yet to meet the target, or specify how they will scale it up after 2025.

Detailing how countries plan to fulfill their promise and increase finance to match the need will go a long way to building trust with developing countries, the paper says. Africa, for example, is estimated to need $3 trillion per year to achieve its Paris commitments by 2030. This should include an enhanced reporting and accounting framework for finance, to assuage concerns that donors are overstating their numbers.

Beyond meeting the existing target, the COP26 should create a process to address the barriers for poor countries to access climate finance, which increasingly comes in the form of loans rather than grants. Limiting finance to loans adds to the burden of debt on developing countries, which is already growing due to Covid-19.

Countries should therefore commit to increasing the provision of grants rather than loans, and to scale up finance every year from 2021 to 2025, from a minimum of $100 billion per year.

Put the Paris Agreement into action

The COP26 needs to finalise a few key issues in the rulebook underpinning the Paris Agreement so that the work can turn to actually achieving its goals, the report says.

It needs to do this in a way that promotes genuine emissions reductions, recognises the different abilities of countries to contribute to the Paris goals and allocates at least 5 percent of market mechanism proceeds to adaptation.

The rules need to prevent double-counting of emissions and clarify how governments will report their progress on mitigation, financial support, technology transfer and other areas. And they need to agree on a five-year rolling timeframe for national commitments under the agreement, with support for developing countries to put their commitments into action.

By Power Shift Africa, a Nairobi-based think tank

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