COP26: DAY 1

Full coverage from Claudia Moray GBM’s Specialist in Legal Environmental Law at COP26 in Glasgow

“Paris promised, now Glasgow must deliver”

Alok Sharma

With that message Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for International Development officially assumed the position of President of the Cop26 and calls for ‘ever-greater ambition’ over the next decade. He warned that “the lights are flashing red on the climate board” and that “the window to keep 1.5 ° C within reach is closing” as he promised to provide transparency and inclusiveness for all nations at the conference.
For her part, Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, proclaimed today that “success is entirely possible because we have the platform for action” as described by the historic Paris Agreement negotiated six years ago as “a pact of hope with humanity.” However, with current national climate action plans heading the planet towards potentially catastrophic warming of 2.7 ° C this century, Espinosa also made clear what was at stake during the talks, noting that “Greater ambition is now essential”. “We are at a crucial point in history,” she added. “Either we choose to achieve rapid and large-scale emission reductions to maintain the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C, or we accept that humanity faces a bleak future on this planet.”

Meanwhile, at the G20 Summit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the Glasgow Summit could end in failure and controversially suggested that the entire Paris Agreement could be at risk because “the countries most responsible for historical and current emissions are not yet doing their part of the job ”. If Glasgow fails, everything fails. The Paris agreement will have collapsed in the first reckoning”.
The closing of the G20 and the opening of COP26 came amid a flurry of new climate commitments from various countries this weekend.
• Israel became the latest nation to announce a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, following the same commitment as Thailand two days ago.
• New Zealand today established plans to cut its emissions in half by 2030, thereby strengthening its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement, as the parties were expected to do before arriving in Glasgow.
• They bemoaned the over-reliance on carbon offsets and “problematic accounting” underpinning New Zealand’s new target.
• Elsewhere, Italy, a co-host of COP26, gave a positive boost to climate finance, pledging today to nearly triple its commitment of $ 1.4 billion a year, pushing the richest nations a little closer to their collective goal of delivering $ 100 billion a year of climate finance beginning in 2020.

However, the target is not yet expected to be met until 2023 and failure to deliver on the $100 billion financing promise will be a major source of tension during the next fortnight of conversations.

COP26 started on a cautiously optimistic note amid this series of new commitments. Negotiations over the next two weeks are expected to be tense amid competing priorities from different nations, further exacerbated by fragile confidence between the richest and poorest economies over financial support for climate adaptation measures. There are also concerns about the representation of some countries in the talks due to Covid-19 restrictions and the lack of universal access to vaccines. As well as the announced absences of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In England, it has been recognized that the industrial revolution, which generated enormous wealth but also helped to warm the planet, added more responsibility to the shoulders of the United Kingdom. Hence the promises of reaching net-zero by 2050-2045 in Scotland, compared to China and Russia targeting 2060.

Claudia Moray Specialist Legal Environmental Law at COP26 in Glasgow UK

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