COP26 – day five and six: Over 130 countries have committed to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030

    07 Nov 2021

    Let’s get through the fifth and sixth days of COP26the UN climate summit in Glasgow.

    First, let’s check a summary of the main developments on the fifth day of Cop26 by The Guardian.

    November 5 at Cop26 was marked by a piece of news that an initial analysis found that commitments and initiatives proposed over the first week only amount to 40% of what is required. 

    Several thousand protesters marched into central Glasgow for a youth protest. Children took to the streets with their parents, classmates, and teachers. They demanded that world leaders do more to stop polluters and save the planet from catastrophic rising temperatures.

    Climate activist Greta Thunberg slammed Cop26 as a “failure” and a “PR event.” “The leaders are not doing nothing, they are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves and to continue profiting from this destructive system,” she said.

    Scientists revealed that the carbon dioxide emissions of the wealthiest 1% of humanity are on track to be 30 times greater than the level compatible with keeping global heating below 1.5° C.

    An updated UN analysis found that global carbon emissions are on track to rise by 13.7% by 2030. That is in stark contrast to the 50% cut that is needed by then to retain the possibility of keeping the global temperature rise to 1.5C and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

    However, initial analysis by the Energy Transition Commission showed that commitments and initiatives seen in the first week of Cop26 – if fully delivered by nations – would amount to 40% of the emissions cuts needed by 2030 to keep the world on track to a maximum of 1.5° C of global heating.

     

     

    The US climate envoy, John Kerry, said the $100bn promised by rich nations to poor nations can now be delivered in 2022, a year earlier than previously thought. It would still be two years later than its initial target.

    Over 130 countries, covering 90% of the world’s forests, have now committed to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. “To have any chance of keeping below 1.5°C of global warming, we must halt deforestation” — Sir David Attenborough

    The Guardian view on climate progress: now for the detail

    Pledges made during Cop26’s first week were encouraging. But without adequate finance and monitoring, they don’t mean much, said British journalists.

    If week one of the climate conference in Glasgow sets out a strong outline, the task for next week is to fill in as many details as possible. The long-term ambition of the global environmental policy now being negotiated would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago. While it is not yet clear exactly where the various pledges will get us to in terms of limiting temperature rises, the new agreement on methane spearheaded by President Joe Biden and a commitment by India to get half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 are highly significant.

    Also encouraging is the more integrated approach to the many environmental challenges humanity faces. Previously, conservation and biodiversity were to some extent viewed as separate issues from the changing atmospheric chemistry that drives global heating. Now, with a promise to reverse deforestation and provide funding directly to indigenous people to help them protect their lands, there is greater recognition of the vital part that nature plays in regulating the climate.

    The pledges made so far are far from sufficient, and must be viewed as part of a continuing process. The decisions by China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin to stay away inevitably undermine confidence in the overall project. Their refusal, along with India, to join the methane agreement is worrying. The possibility of a return to office by Donald Trump, or the election of a Republican in a similar mould, must be regarded as a severe threat. But there is a sense of momentum in Glasgow. Many climate scientists are relieved that the goal (a net-zero planet) is increasingly accepted, even as arguments about getting there continue to rage.

    Investment in new technologies such as “clean” aviation fuel should be encouraged, as subsidies for fossil fuels are cut off. The pace of development in the wind and solar industries has been astonishing. There are some grounds for optimism about the private sector’s role in the transition ahead. But nonexistent technology, and the hopes invested in it, played an oversized role in the UK government’s recently launched net-zero strategy. One of the challenges of the coming days is to ensure that the plans put forward by governments, known as nationally determined contributions, are not built on wishful thinking. Years of delays mean that the timetable is incredibly tight. Leaders cannot afford to be passive.

    Once commitments have been made, mechanisms must be developed to measure and report on progress. This is an enormous task that will not be completed at the first attempt. With regard to the $100bn (£70bn) of climate finance that is supposed to be provided annually by rich countries to poorer ones, for example, more transparency is needed. Poor countries cannot be expected to choose green energy over fossil fuels unless they are supported. Calls from India and African countries for massively increased sums (Narendra Modi has suggested $1tn annually) make the establishment of a trusted carbon accounting system all the more urgent.

    After a dip during the pandemic, global emissions have jumped alarmingly. Unless they start to fall dramatically over the next two years, Cop26 will have been a failure. Overshadowing all the technical details is the overwhelming injustice of a situation in which the countries that have contributed least to global heating are already suffering most from its effects. This is a moral point, but also a practical and political one. Eliminating carbon emissions is a collective endeavor in which our civilization must succeed if it is to continue to thrive. Questions of environmental justice, engaging the past as well as the future, must be confronted head-on in the days ahead.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/05/the-guardian-view-on-climate-progress-now-for-the-detail

    ‘It’s our lives on the line’, young marchers tell UN climate talks

    Thousands of young campaigners marched through the streets of Glasgow on Friday, demanding urgent action from world leaders at the U.N. climate conference to stave off catastrophic climate change, Reuters reports.

    A week of government speeches and pledges at the two-week gathering has included promises to phase out coal, slash emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane and reduce deforestation.

    But campaigners and pressure groups have been underwhelmed by the commitments made so far, many of which are voluntary, exclude the biggest polluters, or set deadlines decades away.

    “We are in a disaster that is happening every day,” activist Vanessa Nakate said of life in her home country Uganda, which has one of the fastest changing climates in the world. “We cannot keep quiet about climate injustice.”

    Some of the marchers and community leaders who addressed the crowd demanded deep-rooted change to the status quo.

    “This is a message from indigenous women in the Amazon to keep oil in the ground, to stop mining. That is good for all of us, for indigenous people and for the world,” one speaker said.

    Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg said leaders of the global north appeared to be fighting to prevent real change.

    “They are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves and to continue profiting from this destruction,” she said. “We need immediate annual drastic annual emission cuts unlike anything the world has ever seen.”

    Sixteen-year-old protester Hannah McInnes said climate change was the most universally devastating problem: “It’s our lives and our futures that are on the line.”

    Inside the COP26 conference venue in the Scottish city, civil society leaders took over discussions.

    “We must not declare victory here,” said former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work informing the world about climate change. “We know that we have made progress, but we are far from the goals that we need to reach.”

     

     

    Promises

    The talks aim to secure enough national promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions – mainly from fossil fuels – to keep the rise in the average global temperature to 1.5° C.

    Scientists say this is the point at which the already intense storms, heatwaves, droughts and floods that the Earth is experiencing could become catastrophic and irreversible.

    To that end, the United Nations wants countries to halve their emissions from 1990 levels by 2030, on their way to net-zero emissions by 2050. That would mean the world would release no more climate-warming gases than the amount it is simultaneously recapturing from the atmosphere.

    The summit on Thursday saw 23 additional countries pledge to try to phase out coal – albeit over the next three decades, and without the world’s biggest consumer, China.

    A pledge to reduce deforestation brought a hasty about-turn from Indonesia, home to vast and endangered tropical forests.

    But a plan to curb emissions of methane by 30% did appear to strike a blow against greenhouse gases that should produce rapid results.

    And city mayors have been working out what they can do to advance climate action more quickly and nimbly than governments.

    The Glasgow talks also have showcased a jumble of financial pledges, buoying hopes that national commitments to bring down emissions can actually be implemented.

    But COP26 President Alok Sharma warned time was running short, with too many issues still unresolved.

    Efforts to set a global pricing framework for carbon, as a way to make polluters pay fairly for their emissions and ideally finance efforts to offset them, are likely to continue to the very end of the two-week conference.

     

     

    The new normal

    U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said a deal at the summit could be reached to settle the final details of the rulebook for how to interpret the 2015 Paris Agreement.

    The United States favoured “the most frequent possible” assessments of whether countries were meeting their goals to reduce emissions, he said.

    But President Joe Biden’s mammoth “Build Back Better” package, including $555 billion of measures aimed at hitting the 2030 target and adapting to climate change ran into snags on Friday as the House of Representatives was due to vote on it. read more

    The placards and chants of the crowd in Glasgow suggested people’s patience was running out.

    “The Earth’s climate is changing!” a schoolchild’s sign read, under a hand-painted picture of a globe on fire. “Why aren’t we?”

    U.S. sets goal to drive down cost of removing CO2 from atmosphere

    U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on November 5 set a goal for driving down the cost of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as part of a U.S. plan to decarbonize the economy by 2050.

    The Department of Energy’s Carbon Negative Earthshot seeks to slash the cost of carbon removal to $100 a tonne by the end of the decade, either through Direct Air Capture (DAC) or helping forests and other natural systems capture and store the gas, Reuters states.

     

     

    It is the department’s third “Earthshot”, meant to help achieve Biden’s climate goals, by driving innovations in the toughest technologies to crack. The first two set goals on lowering costs of green hydrogen and long-term utility scale battery storage of energy from renewables.

    “We have already poisoned the atmosphere, we have to repair and heal the Earth and the only way to do that is to remove carbon dioxide permanently,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said while introducing the initiative at the COP26 U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland.

    In Iceland, Swiss startup Climeworks AG in September opened the world’s largest plant to suck carbon dioxide from the air and pump it underground where it eventually becomes rock, one of 15 global DAC plants. But costs can hit $600 a tonne and the plants now only remove an amount of carbon equivalent to that emitted by 2,000 cars.

    Fatih Birol, head of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, praised the initiative as an example of how governments can help push down technology costs that energy markets cannot do alone. “We need governments to push the magic button of innovation,” he said.

     

     

    Jennifer Wilcox, head of the DOE’s office of fossil energy and carbon management, said using natural systems to remove carbon must surpass hurdles, such as making sure forest fires or future farming do not simply return carbon back to the atmosphere. “Part of this work will be defining what metrics (are) in order to monitor and verify storage on a long term scale” for nature-based approaches, Wilcox said.

    The carbon negative initiative will be funded through the Energy Department’s annual appropriations. In addition, the bipartisan infrastructure bill has about $3.5 billion in incentives for DAC demonstration projects. That bill has already passed the U.S. Senate and that the House of Representatives could vote on it as soon as Friday.

    Carbon Engineering, a Canada-based company, plans to open a DAC plant in West Texas in 2024.

    Microsoft, Occidental and billionaires Elon Musk and Bill Gates have all invested in DAC.

    Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s first chief environmental officer, said carbon removal markets need to mature significantly and the new U.S. price target can lead to “learning by doing”.

    Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund nonprofit said, “We don’t know which technology will work, frankly we don’t know if any of them will work, but we damn well should be investing and trying to get the price under $100.”

    Analysis: Glimmers of hope seen for global carbon market deal at COP26

    Cautious optimism has emerged that COP26 in Glasgow can clinch a global carbon market deal unlocking trillions of dollars of green investment, with even hold-out nation Brazil signalling a desire for compromise, Reuters states.

     

     

    With world leaders having left the UN climate summit after a flurry of speeches and announcements early this week, diplomats at COP26 are in the midst of two weeks of negotiations on how exactly to implement key parts of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

    Among the many details left open by the Paris deal six years ago, one of the most important and trickiest items still to be settled is how to fix rules on carbon markets under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

    Article 6 aims to set the byzantine rules needed to govern global carbon markets and creates a new mechanism for offsetting carbon emissions. Settling the rules could help unleash trillions of dollars in investment.

    Many fear that if bad rules are agreed, carbon trading could amount to “greenwashing” – the appearance of action without actually reducing global emissions.

    Article 6 envisages linking the emissions trading schemes globally, allows for the international transfer of carbon credits and aims to establish a new mechanism to trade carbon credits from emissions reductions generated from low-carbon projects.

    Brazil is seen by some carbon market experts as the most outspoken hold-out on certain issues under Article 6 viewed by many nations as an impediment to a deal, notably on a specific rule for accounting for trades and honouring credits from an older emissions trading scheme.

     

     

    But Brazil’s top negotiator Leonardo Cleaver de Athayde told Reuters the country had come to COP with a desire to compromise.

    “We’re willing to make significant concessions, as long as, of course, our flexibility is also reciprocated by other delegations,” Athayde said, adding it would be a bad negotiating tactic to reveal what those concessions could be.

    “We can allow ourselves to be more optimistic this time around in respect of the Article 6 negotiations,” he said.

    Old credits

    Brazil disagrees with most of the world on how to account for trades between two countries, said Pedro Martins Barata, a carbon markets expert at Environmental Defense Fund and former negotiator from Portugal.

     

     

    The EU and other countries want to ensure there is no double counting, whereby the emission reduction is counted both by the country that has bought the credit and the selling country where the emission reduction took place.

    But Brazil argues that not allowing the credit to be counted by the selling country unfairly penalizes it.

    Brazil also argues that old credits under the Kyoto Protocol, which preceded the Paris Agreement, should be carried forward and honoured under the new system.

    While India and China have made the same argument in the past, most countries say the huge number of Kyoto credits would flood the new market. Countries could then buy cheap credits rather than taking action to limit their emissions.

    “We’re willing to consider a partial carryover,” Athayde said.

    Brazil’s offer to possibly compromise on these issues means a deal could be reached if other countries meet it in the middle, said Yamide Dagnet, a former EU negotiator.

    “If Brazil truly comes with a view to compromise to get the deal, then there is hope,” Dagnet said.

    Lukewarm

     

    https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg/status/1456990082624262147/photo/1

     

    To be sure, Brazil’s issues are only a few of a laundry list of concerns held by all of the countries involved, with every word and turn of phrase in the agreement under intense scrutiny.

    Overall reaction to a first draft of the Article 6 rules issued on Monday was “overwhelmingly lukewarm,” Barata said, who observed some of the open proceedings.

    “But they were willing to work on the basis of that. At this stage of the negotiations that’s the best you can hope for,” he said.

    A second draft of the deal text, taking into account initial feedback from countries, was issued on Friday for delegations to pore over.

    Another disputed item is that the Paris Agreement stipulates that a share of the proceeds from the carbon market should be diverted to a fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change, the former negotiators said.

    The question about what percentage should be taken is more political than scientific, however, so progress can only be made next week when environment ministers arrive with the aim of closing a deal.

    “The progress we’ll see this week is narrowing and clarifying the options a bit further and making sure that those options are expressed as clearly as possible, and negotiating text so that the work of the ministers is easy,” said Jacob Werksman, a top EU negotiator.

    Negotiators also must settle how to deal with a demand from countries like New Zealand and Canada to address human rights issues in Article 6, according to carbon markets expert Brad Schallert with non-profit World Wildlife Fund.

    That could draw objections from countries including Iran, China and Egypt, Schallert said.

    All countries will have to make concessions for a deal to be possible, Athayde said.

    “The best compromise solution or solutions, in my opinion, would be those that would leave the largest number of delegations possible dissatisfied,” he said. “You need to make sure everyone is walking away somewhat unhappy.”

     

     

    Environmentalists question Indonesia’s commitment to fighting climate change

    Hundreds of activists gathered in the streets of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta on Friday, questioning the government’s commitment to tackle global warming after it appeared to back away from pledges made at an ongoing UN climate conference, Reuters reports.

    The protest came days after Indonesia’s environment minister criticised a global plan to end deforestation by 2030 and cut carbon emissions as unfair and at odds with the country’s development plans.

    Environment groups said the government of Indonesia, home to a third of the world’s rainforests, did not appear to be serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

    Wahyu Perdana, an activist with local environment group WALHI, said Jakarta was “paying lip-service” to tackling climate change while raising production of coal, the dirtiest of the fuels causing global temperatures to rise.

    The government had raised its 2021 target of coal output to a record 625 million tonnes from an initial target of 550 million tonnes, he said.

    Indonesia, the eighth biggest emitter of greenhouse gas in the world, plans to phase out coal for electricity by 2056, as part of a plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2060 or earlier.

     

     

    An environment ministry spokesperson did not respond to the environment groups’ criticism.

    World leaders gathered in Glasgow this week for talks to secure promises from countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep the rise in the average global temperature to 1.5° C. Crossing that threshold could trigger a cascading climate crisis, scientists say.

    Greenpeace Indonesia’s forestry campaigner Iqbal Damanik said at the protest that Indonesia’s current policies enable deforestation that favours big companies and hurts local communities living off the forests.

    Class action: children around the world get a lesson in peanut butter and turtles

    “Type your favourite crunchiness of peanut butter into the chat thread,” says Matthew Shribman to a global classroom of children, as the scientist and teacher kicks off the Great Big Lesson for Nature at Cop26 in Glasgow, The Guardian states.

    Thousands of schoolchildren from across the world have joined the virtual lesson broadcast live from the nature pavilion in the blue zone, right next to where world leaders make decisions that affect these young people’s future.

     

     

    At the classroom entrance, a sign reads: “Chairs have been fashioned for kings and queens and leaders for millennia. The chairs you are sitting on today have been used by schoolchildren. It’s time to put yourself in their shoes – as well as their seats.”

    We’re making rock stars out of young change makers, getting them in front of thousands, telling the truth in a way that is engaging and powerful

    Matthew Shribman, teacher

    Four thousand schools from countries including the UK, Ukraine, Brazil and Peru, registered for the one-hour lesson broadcast on YouTube. It is hosted by AimHi Earth, a climate education organisation, and backed by the Potsdam Institute in Germany and Cambridge University in England. Educators from India, Peru, Malaysia, Indonesia and Qatar all contribute to the lesson, which is delivered in partnership with World’s Largest Lesson, Nature4Climate and Youthtopia.

    There are the usual glitches – the internet drops out, teachers forget they are on mute – but it doesn’t stop the message getting across. Shribman, the lead teacher, says: “I think it’s really important we’re making rock stars out of these young change makers, getting them in front of thousands of people telling the truth in a way that is engaging and powerful. To have these people from around the world teaching young people through this stage of Cop26 is so powerful.”

     

     

    After the peanut butter ice-breaker question, the young crowd discuss a range of environmental issues including how the sex of sea turtles is determined by heat – the hotter the temperatures, the more likely they are to be female; in some parts of the world the ratio of male to female turtles is one to 100. Teachers talk about geoengineering, carbon capture and storage, “sponge cities”, what healthy soils look like, as well as offsetting and why we should eat less meat.

    Friday’s youth day event is for young people over the age of 11. “It’s amazing to think of hundreds of thousands of kids watching this live from Cop26,” says Sarah Humphrys, co-founder of AimHi Earth. “It’s about us bringing the conversation to them. The blue zone feels very exclusive, especially for young people, so this was a chance to bring them into this space.”

    The team also runs adult classes, and has been working with members from the UK’s House of Lords. “The response has been fantastic. It has enabled people to link these ideas together. People at the top of the leadership don’t understand the crisis, through no fault of their own. It’s because the education system is not giving people the information they need,” says Shribman.

    Organisers hope that the population will be better able to drive change if they understand the issues, and they are campaigning for more education on the environment in schools. The government is considering whether to introduce a GCSE in natural history.

    “Cop26 is sadly not a meeting of people coming together to try to work to stop the climate and nature crisis,” says Shribman. “It’s a meeting of people coming together trying to hold on to as much as they possibly can. And in some ways there are many inspiring people here doing all they can to build a healthy, more verdant future that we all want, but there is a lot of work to do while leaders still make selfish decisions.”

    The online lesson focuses on nature, because Shribman believes it is at the centre of the climate crisis. “The scariest thing about Cop26 is that people think we can control the climate crisis just thinking about carbon. Imagine the world we will get to if that’s all we think about? There will be no nature, and the world will be an unhealthy place, but at least we’ve got to net zero,” he says.

     

     

    ‘They’re killing our children’: mothers from around the world demand action on fossil fuels

    It may have been his toughest meeting yet. A delegation of mothers from all over the world, all of whom had seen their own children suffer health damage from air pollution, met the Cop26 president, Alok Sharma, on Friday morning to demand an end to fossil fuel financing.

    The delegation was led by Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who lost her nine-year-old daughter, Ella, to severe asthma that was officially linked to air pollution in London. She was joined by Dr Maria Neira, the director of public health at the World Health Organization (WHO), and other mothers from India, Brazil, South Africa, Poland and Nigeria, to present a letter to Sharma.

    “Lots of words and no action – and toxic pollution on our streets – is fuelling a public health crisis that is making our kids sick and threatening their futures,” said Kissi-Debrah. “We need urgent action now.”

    “We put Alok Sharma on the spot and played him a soundscape of children fighting to breathe,” she said. “He genuinely looked moved – we think he shed a tear or two.” Sharma was joined by his wife and daughter at the meeting.

    The delegation represented almost 500 parent groups from 44 countries and may be the biggest parent mobilisation on any issue in history.

    More than 90% of children around the world breathe toxic air today, with fossil-fuel burning largely responsible. Coal, oil and gas are responsible for 8.7 million premature deaths a year, one in five of all deaths.

    The parents’ letter said: “There are already more than enough fossil fuels to dangerously heat our planet beyond 1.5° C and keep poisoning our children’s air.” It calls on the world’s leaders to listen to the International Energy Agency, which warned in May that there should be no new oil or gas exploration or coal-fired power stations.

    “We make decisions every day for our children’s long-term future, and here at Cop26, so do you,” the letter said. “You have a unique responsibility and opportunity to protect all children, present and future.”

     

     

    The women in the delegation have all seen their own children suffer as a result of air pollution caused by fossil fuels. Bhavreen Khandhari, from Warrior Moms, a group of mothers fighting air pollution in India, lives in Delhi, which has some of the dirtiest air in the world. “For children to have the lungs of a smoker by their teens, through no fault of their own, just by breathing air is absolutely unacceptable,” she said.

    The delegation represented almost 500 parent groups from 44 countries and may be the biggest parent mobilisation on any issue in history. Photograph: Handout

    Xoli Fuyani, from Our Kids’ Climate in South Africa, said: “I implore Cop delegates to think of a child they know, and act in their interests. Children in the global south are already feeling the brunt of the climate crisis. Why are governments still subsidising the search for more fossil fuels with public money every year?”

    Kamila Kadzidlowska, from Rodzice Dla Klimatu in Poland, said: “My children cough and suffer respiratory diseases because of toxic coal pollution. I can’t stop them getting sick unless our leaders make bold choices. This Cop26 needs to consign new fossil fuels to history.”

     

     

    Maria Neira of the WHO said: “The day I joined the movement of mothers for clean air, I knew we would be able to turn the tide on climate change, as there is nothing stronger than the love of a mother for her children. Air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is killing our children, and there is nothing, and I mean nothing, we won’t do to protect our children. So join us, or get out of our way, as we end the era of fossil fuels.”

    More than 40 nations at Cop26 have pledged to end the burning of coal, though campaigners said the timescales for the phase out were too long and some of the world’s biggest coal-dependent economies were missing from the deal, including Australia, China, India and the US.

    A group of 20 nations also pledged to stop all funding of fossil fuel projects abroad and divert about $8bn of spending to green energy instead from next year. However, China and Japan, two big funders of fossil fuel development around the world, shunned the initiative.

     

     

    After handing over the letter, the group joined the Fridays for Future demonstration through the centre of Glasgow. Thousands of young people were expected to attend, with activists including Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg due to speak during the afternoon.

    About 10,000 protesters walked through the city to coincide with Youth and Public Empowerment Day at Cop26. Children were on the streets with their parents, classmates, and teachers, demanding world leaders do more to stop polluters and save the planet from catastrophic rising temperatures.

    A larger crowd is expected on November 6 for the global day of action for climate justice, with protests expected in about 200 cities worldwide.

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    Read about COP26 – day four: 23 countries are consigning coal to history, making new commitments to phase out coal power.

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