UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlined priorities for the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 26) during a briefing at UN Headquarters. The briefing was hosted by the UK, which will be assuming the COP 26 presidency in partnership with Italy. COP 26 is scheduled to convene from 9-20 November 2020, in Glasgow, UK.
In his remarks on 6 March 2020, Guterres said limiting warming to 1.5°C requires that strategies be drawn up during 2020 in order to achieve emission reductions of 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
He highlighted four priorities for COP 26:
- New nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that show increased ambition, and set clear targets for 2025 or 2030 to keep temperature rise to 1.5°C;
- Ensuring that all countries, particularly the largest emitters, get on board to develop strategies to reach net‑zero emissions by 2050;
- Adopting a robust package of programmes, projects, and initiatives to help adapt to climate disruption and build resilience against future impacts; and
- Mobilisation by developed countries of USD 100 billion per year by 2020 through both public and private investments.
Guterres said his Special Envoy on Climate Action and Climate Finance, Mark Carney, will engage with finance leaders on carbon neutrality, carbon pricing, climate risk disclosure, scaling up green financial instruments, embedding climate into economic and financial priorities, and enhancing NDCs. He noted the need to transform how the financial sector works, including increased investments in renewables and green technologies and ending fossil fuel subsidies, putting a price on carbon, and halting the construction of new coal power plants. He urged “bottom up” ambition that depends on all partners and actors, including cities, the private sector, finance institutions, the philanthropic community, and civil society committing to meaningful climate action.
Finally, the Secretary-General acknowledged increased difficulties in the lead-up to COP 26 due to the postponement of many meetings as a result of the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak.
Incoming COP 26 President Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, UK, said the upcoming COP is an opportunity to accelerate a fair and inclusive transition, and to agree on a package to advance the Paris Agreement. Sharma highlighted a number of areas requiring particular attention, namely:
- Adaptation and resilience, and access to adaptation finance;
- Safeguarding ecosystems, protecting natural habitats, environmental regulation around supply chains, channelling finance to invest in nature, and ensuring global climate and biodiversity processes complement and support each other;
- Opportunities of cheaper renewables and storage, investing in innovation to help the transition to clean energy, and helping developing countries leapfrog to cleaner technologies;
- Accelerating the transition to zero carbon road transport by bringing forward the date when zero emission vehicles will be cheaper and cleaner; and
- Unleashing finance to power the shift to a zero-carbon economy, with USD 7 trillion needed up to 2030 to achieve the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.
Sharma also pointed to the launch of the COP 26 Private Finance Agenda, in which private finance is increasingly focused on the opportunities and risks of transitioning to a decarbonised economy, and committed to climate-related financial disclosure.
Mariangela Zappia, Permanent Representative of Italy, reiterated calls to increase ambition by: enhancing NDCs and setting clear timelines for achieving climate neutrality; increasing capacity to deal with the consequences of climate change, especially for the most vulnerable; and promoting a shift towards financial strategies and investments consistent with the Paris Agreement, among both public and private decision-makers. Zappia said that in addition to co-hosting the Pre-COP in October 2020 in Milan, Italy, the government also will convene Youth4Climate2020 from 28-30 September, as well as a high-level ministerial event on environmental and climate challenges in Africa, taking place from 20-21 October, in Rome.
Belize, speaking for the small island developing States (SIDS), lamented that the UNFCCC process has become clouded with mistrust and disunity, and said ambitious NDCs are necessary to reverse this trend. Stressing environmental integrity, she said that new rules and guidance on markets must deliver real emission reductions, go beyond the narrative of offsetting, and not just be a “grandiose accounting scheme.” She also highlighted the need for: a robust transparency mechanism; long-term adaptation for SIDS, which is intrinsically linked to the new finance goal; and addressing governance of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM) prior to COP 26. She said Belize will host an Ambition Forum from 20-21 April 2020.
France stressed that COP 26 must demonstrate increased ambition in NDCs and long-term strategies (LTS), and said major emitters must commit to a zero-emissions trajectory. In addition, France supported putting nature at the centre of COP 26, and underlined: meeting financial commitments to ensure a just transition for all; reaffirming confidence in the multilateral system; and solidarity with the most vulnerable countries.
The EU urged engaging as much as possible before COP 26 to avoid “unnecessary combustion in Glasgow.” He highlighted EU efforts, including a climate law proposal that will enshrine in binding legislation the 2050 climate neutrality target, and initiatives on industrial policy, biodiversity strategy, and a strategy for sustainable food systems.
[This article originally appeared on IISD/SDG Knowledge Hub.]