WW0 x COP26: Daily Dispatch #3

WW0 x COP26: Daily Dispatch #3

GLASGOW, Nov 3. -- Wednesday was "finance day" at COP26, and announcements could be heard over every corner of the sprawling Scottish Events Center from government leaders and financial industry executives claiming they are ready to put their money where their mouths are.

To keep global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees Celsius we will need an estimated $100 - $150 trillion invested over the next three decades in renewable energy technology and infrastructure. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Larry Fink of Blackrock, and many other philanthropists and bankers were buzzing around the building. On Wednesday, a coalition of 450 of the world's largest financial banks, investors, and insurers -- together controlling $130 trillion in global assets -- joined forces in the Glasgow Alliance for Net Zero.

The world is waiting to see exactly where and how this potentially staggering sum of money will be spent. The question is: will these investors pull their money out of fossil fuels and put it into renewables? Hundreds of protesters, including activists with Extinction Rebellion, protested here in Glasgow, condemning corporate greenwashing. Many remain wary of any commitment made by the same financial institutions who continue to invest trilions in fossil fuel projects. Blackrock for instance, as of last year, still held a 6.7% stake in Exxon Mobil, 6.9% in Chevron, and 6% in mining company Glencore.

Though it's clear the divestment movement is gaining traction at the highest levels. Twenty countries and financial institutions committed Wednesday to halt investments in overseas fossil projects and divert some $8 billion a year towards funding clean energy. The US, UK, Denmark, and the European Investment Bank joined this commitment, while China and Japan, two of the biggest investors in mega fossil fuel projects across the Global South, declined to join. See our story here for a deeper dive on this.

Forests are to receive a bulk of these new climate-forward investments. Special Envoy John Kerry announced more details on how the US Government will work with financial institutions to meet Biden's deforestation pledge. The Plan to Conserve Global Forests: Critical Carbon Sinks is the first time the US Government has brought together its full diplomatic tools to conserve global forests and ecosystems. "The plan to preserve the global forests recognizes ecosystems are at the core of this fight, said Kerry. Ecologists have modeled that natural climate solutions -- protecting, managing and restoring forests across the world -- could provide a significant pathway to staying below 2 degrees warming, if implemented at scale.

The US Center: COP26 - US Efforts to Conserve Global Forests and Other Critical Carbon Sinks, November 3, 2021.

USAID: US Plans to Conserve Global Forests and Other Critical Carbon Sinks, November 3, 2021.

The plan, in part, fulfills the forest protection commitments made in President Biden's January Executive Order on Climate. It includes a USAID commitment to reforesting 100 million hectares (almost 250 million acres) by 2030 -- an area twice the size of California that could sequester the carbon equivalent of taking one billion cars off road for a year. The plan also announces a new Forest Investment Club, including groups like Apple, Goldman Sachs, and The Nature Conservancy with the intention to fill the large financing gap on forests and land use, which has so far received only 3% of overall climate finance.

Some indigenous leaders however, are warning that focusing on forests can be a distraction from the real issue: oil and gas combustion. "We need real solutions to keep fossil fuels in the ground," Tom B. K. Goldtooth warned a crowd at a protest outside the venue Wednesday morning. "Carbon offsets perpetuate the theft of our land, Indigenous peoples' territories."

Thursday will be "energy day" here at COP26. Let's see if any countries are bold enough to make fossil free promises that can move us closer to a 1.5 degree warming reality.


See our coverage of the previous days at COP26:

Dispatch #2 - November 2

Dispatch #1 - November 1