Posted on 18 November 2021
Inevitably, no sooner than COP26 ends than the work of implementation resumes and COP27 starts. And, with 1.5°C still just within reach, governments, business and civil society need to close the looming gaps that Glasgow left open, writes Manuel Pulgar-Vidal.
By Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Climate & Energy Lead.
The UN climate talks are a process – a journey, not a destination. So, as we leave Glasgow after COP26, we already start out on the road to COP27, at Sharm el-Sheikh, in Egypt. Even as we recover from Glasgow, we must set out what we will need to achieve over the coming year and at COP27.
We went to Glasgow knowing that we would struggle to close the gap between the world’s collective climate ambition, as set out in governments’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and what the science is telling us, and the gap between the rich world’s climate finance commitments, and the US$100 billion a year promised in Copenhagen in 2009. We also saw another gap gain prominence in Glasgow, between the promises and pledges made by private sector actors, and their credibility and accountability to the wider society.
It is those three gaps – ambition, finance and credibility – that we must close by this time next year.
Parsing the Glasgow Climate Pact
Certainly, for all the disappointments – not least the success of China and India in watering down the call to phase out coal power – the Glasgow Climate Pact does, just barely, keep alive hopes of holding warming to no more than 1.5°C.
The Pact holds not only hopes, but concrete elements that can help to close the ambition gap. It requests that governments strengthen the 2030 targets in their NDCs, to align them with the Paris Agreement temperature goal, in 2022. It also establishes a 2-year work program on the Global Goal on Adaptation.
Furthermore, it mandates the secretariat to prepare annual synthesis reports on the collective ambition of NDCs, as well as producing a similar report on long-term emission reduction strategies. These will bring valuable transparency to the NDC process and will help bring pressure to bear on recalcitrant governments.
The Climate Pact’s statement on coal and fossil fuel subsidies, while weaker than we would like, clearly signals the beginning of the end for the dirtiest sources of energy.
On finance, despite the hopes and expectations of the poorest countries of the world, we still have work to do to create a dedicated funding stream to compensate them for loss and damage caused by climate change – a crisis, we must remember, that they have contributed the least to causing. Doubling finance for adaptation, and guaranteeing an even balance between resources for adaptation and mitigation, should also happen preferably before 2025.
These are all pending tasks for COP27.
Credibility at stake
Glasgow was noteworthy for the unprecedented engagement by business and investors. They recognize the need to decarbonize, and they are indispensable partners in delivering a net-zero global economy. But what Glasgow also revealed was a need for their climate targets and pledges to be both credible and accountable. Too often, targets are not sufficiently ambitious, adequately supported by science nor linked to accountability mechanisms.
In this regard, we welcome the announcement by the UN Secretary General that he plans to convene a high-level expert group to establish clear standards to measure and analyse net-zero commitments from non-state actors.
Whether in corporate climate commitments, voluntary carbon markets or nature-based solutions, we believe that companies and investors should follow five key principles:
1) Any claims must be based on real, absolute reductions.
2) Targets must be based on science.
3) Reductions must cover the whole value chain.
4) Companies and investors should follow a rights-based approach and highest standards, putting the rights of indigenous people and local communities front and centre.
5) Any claims must be subject to rigorous monitoring, reporting and verification.
Following such principles would help to ensure that credibility is maintained around corporate claims and market-based mechanisms.
Finally, the COP recognized the outstanding role of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action. A partnership which has been instrumental in mobilizing climate action from non-state actors, including business, financial institutions, city and other sub-national governments. This agenda must now translate into strengthened national policies and actions. This can be instrumental in building from the bottom up, the climate action we will need to make the step-change that eluded us in Glasgow, but that we could yet see in Sharm el-Sheikh.
- COP27 will be hosted by Egypt from 7 to 18 November 2022.
- Egypt has not yet submitted its revised NDC, but WWF urges it to do so as soon as possible.
- See the final approved Glasgow Climate Pact
- See WWF's COP26 closing statement here
- See WWF's COP26 Ambition Red Lines Paper here
- See WWF's COP26 Expectations Paper here