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Week 1 at COP26: Top 5 Talking points

COP26 has seen world-leaders from over 190 countries come together in Glasgow to negotiate and collaborate on how to take action on climate change and carbon emissions.

On Monday 1st November 2021 Boris Johnson took to the stage to set the scene for world leaders with a ‘cautiously optimistic’ approach to the two-week summit. He kickstarted the summit with a new UK-based Clean Green Initiative (CGI), that aims to scale up private investment in low-carbon and sustainable infrastructure globally, delivering over £3 billion in climate financing over the next five years to developing nations.

The summit has been overshadowed by a report by the Global Carbon Project which shows that fossil fields are surging in a post-pandemic recovery with scientists warning the 1.5°C limit could be exceeded in the next 11 years. The last year has already consisted of alarming climate events through severe floods, record heatwaves, wildfires and a surface temperature rise of 1.1°C (in relation to pre-industrial levels).

  1. Near-global pledge to end deforestation

World leaders from over 100 nations, including Jair Bolsanaro, Xi Jinping, and Joe Biden, have agreed to a deal to end deforestation by 2030. Jair Bolsanaro, President of Brazil, has been criticised for not attending COP26 and the seriousness of this pledge by Brazil has come into question.

The commitment is to halt deforestation and land degradation to enter a period of restoration if possible. The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use has pledged £14 million of public and private sector funds towards the effort, with the UK government providing £1.5 billion to the initiative.

The funding will be provided to developing nations as a priority to support projects and restore land degraded by agriculture, other commercial activities, flooding, drought, and wildfires.

In addition, a total of 12 countries have pledged to mobilise £12 billion towards assisting reforestation, restoration, and protection of global rainforests.

  1. India target net zero emissions by 2070

India, the world’s third largest polluter of carbon emissions, has announced a 2070 net-zero target and will commit to hosting ~500GW of renewable generation by 2030, accounting for ~50% of the country’s energy supply.

The announcement came from the nation’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the pledge has been heavily criticised as it is well behind the common 2050 reference point other countries have used for net-zero targets.

  1. Methane emissions in key nations to be cut 30% by 2030

In September 2021, the EU and the UK headed a new Global Methane Pledge, intending to slash methane emissions by 30% by 2030, against a 2020 baseline. The pledge went global at COP26 this week with over 100 of the UN’s 193 member states backing the pledge.

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas (GHG) with a high heat trapping potential that breaks down faster than CO2. Methane sources include natural gas production and is seen as the main GHG after CO2.

  1. Pledges made by countries at COP26 would limit global temperature rise to below 1.8°C

At the start of the week pledges were made by the nations at COP26 which, if implemented on time, would limit global temperature rise to below 2°C. The first time the world has been on such a trajectory.

As of Thursday 4th November 2021, country pledges would now limit this to 1.8°C. However, despite this significant milestone UN Special Adviser Selwin Hart warned we are still on a 2.7°C catastrophic pathway based off the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted by nations.

  1. Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero (GFANZ) reaches $130 trillion in assets

Former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed the GFANZ, which launched in April 2021, now represented $130 trillion in assets.

The alliance, made up of global banks and pension funds, was created to unite the global financial sector in transitioning all assets managed by those institutions to net-zero.

There are currently 450 organisations across 45 countries signed up to GFANZ which accounts for around 40% of global private assets.

Other key headlines:

  • Only 2% of the Great Barrier Reef has escaped coral bleaching since 1998.
  • Half of the world’s fossil fuel assets could become worthless by 2036 under a net zero transition.
  • Several thousand protestors on Day 5: Youth and Empowerment Day at COP26 have taken to the streets of Glasgow demanding that world leaders do more to stop polluters and save the planet from rising temperatures.
  • ScotRail have announced over 50,000 people are expected in Glasgow on Saturday to demand action from world leaders on the climate crisis.
  • Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda was set up with more than 40 leaders which aims to deliver clean and affordable technology solutions across the globe by 2030.

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