WW0 x COP26: Daily Dispatch #9

WW0 x COP26: Daily Dispatch #9

Glasgow, Nov 10. -- As COP26 is heading towards a close, negotiators are working tirelessly to secure the very best deal possible. A draft text of what will go on to be known as The Glasgow Agreement came out this morning. The communique demonstrated stronger language about climate action than we have ever seen before, quelling fears that Glasgow would be another Copenhagen -- the COP that famously failed to meet all expectations. Just how much progress and momentum is to be secured will be decided in the closing hours. And in all, today was a day to be hopeful.

For example:

  • The draft text "calls upon Parties to accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels," marking the first time this language has appeared in a COP decision.
  • The text pressures countries to ramp up national commitments to reduce "carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around mid-century."
  • The text also acknowledges that rapid decarbonization is needed in order to keep global temperatures from warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius. Read our deeper analysis on the draft.
  • Nature-based solutions also made their way into the draft text under sections on mitigation and adaptation. "We'd like to keep it like that," Dr. Cécile Girardin told us, taking a quick break from painting her COP26 mural, which evolves daily as new text comes out. Check out our interview with her here, where she gives us a sneak peek, and discusses the importance of nature-based solutions for reaching climate targets.

WW0 COP26 Talks: Dr. Cécile Girardin, Science Lead, Oxford Biodiversity Network, November 10, 2021.

COP26 Mural (in the Blue Zone), Cécile Girardin PhD

Still, questions still remain. Will all 197 parties agree to these statements before the end of Friday? Will the draft get stronger or weaker? Even if countries sign the agreement, will they keep their promises?

If delegates needed extra motivation, they found it Wednesday morning, when a large group of young climate activists staged a protest just outside the doors of the plenary hall. "Keep it in the text, let's keep it in the text," the activists chanted with "1.5°" painted on the palms of their upheld hands. Inside the hall, COP President Alok Sharma heard statements from negotiating leads on the remaining contentious issues. "Everyone must come armed with the currency of compromise," Sharma pleaded to the assembled delegates. "In very human terms what we agree in Glasgow will set the future for our children and grandchildren, and I know that no world leader or country will want to fail them."

The Independent: COP26 president Alok Sharma holds news conference, November 10, 2021.

Ultimately, what matters is what countries do, not what they pledge to do. The nonpartisan IEA says the new commitments so far put us on a much more optimistic track to hold global temperature rise to 1.8 degrees Celsius. But one measure, counting just current policies, suggests we are still on track for 2.7 degrees of warming, according to the Climate Action Tracker. Given the catastrophic damage that 1.1 degrees of warming has already caused, 2.7 seems hard to fathom. And just breaching 1.5 degrees would set in motion positive feedback loops of melting permafrost, disappearing sea ice, and burning forests that would make the world unrecognizable if not uninhabitable. This is why accountability, not just ambition, will be so important.

The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 30, 2021.

How and when nations break their addiction to fossil fuels will serve as indicators of whether leaders are actually walking the walk. So far, only some countries have been willing to do what it takes. Denmark and Costa Rica are leading the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, which is expected to announce another 10 to 16 new country members on Thursday. The UK refused to set a timeline for phasing out oil and gas -- a disappointing position given their responsibilities as host of this year's negotiations. However, California -- the seventh-largest oil producing state in the US -- is set to join. See our COP26 interview with California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot for more on California's climate ambitions.

Outside of the negotiations, Wednesday was "Transport Day" here at COP26, and many side events celebrated the momentum of electric vehicles, and looked at reducing emissions in shipping and aviation, which together account for 24% of global emissions. The UK pledged for zero-emission heavy goods vehicles (HGV) by 2040, which will complement their planned phase-out of gas and diesel cars by 2030. Canada and India also committed to zero-emissions vehicles, along with a handful of other countries who have already pledged full phase outs of gas-powered cars. The US declined to join the international pledge to phase out gasoline cars, with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg saying, "We have to do what's right for the United States and also support international action. That's the balance, I think, that we're striking."

Later, on Wednesday night, a surprise announcement came from China and the US, who agreed to cooperate over the next decade on emissions reductions. The fate of the world's climate trajectory largely lies in the hands of these two economic superpowers, who are by far the two largest greenhouse gas polluters. China's top negotiator Xie Zhenhua held successful bilateral meetings Wednesday with SPEC John Kerry, who noted the two countries "have no shortage of differences, but on climate, cooperation is the only way to get this job done." For a deeper dive see our piece on this story.

Carbon Brief: Which countries are historically responsible for climate change?, October 4, 2021.


See our coverage of the previous days at COP26:

Dispatch #8 - November 9

Dispatch #7 - November 8

Dispatch #5 & #6 - November 7

Dispatch #4 - November 4

Dispatch #3 - November 3

Dispatch #2 - November 2

Dispatch #1 - November 1