Stockholm (NordSIP) – As the COP26 talks moved into their second week, the sentiment was slightly less upbeat. Hundreds of thousands defied the heavy Glasgow rain during the weekend and joined demonstrations to demand more action on the climate crisis. The protest was the biggest so far during the COP26 summit and took place alongside hundreds of similar events around the world. Greta Thunberg joined the march alongside activists such as Vanessa Nakate. Police arrested 21 scientists who chained themselves together and blocked a road bridge over the River Clyde.
The middle Saturday at COP26 saw a focus on nature and land use. The UK and 44 other governments pledged more than GBP 3 billion to make farming in the developing world greener and more resilient to climate change and help protect valuable land from agricultural development. 20% of its climate funding to tackle biodiversity loss.
Ahead of the second COP26 week, as talks inside the conference area were about to start in earnest, with negotiators bracing for all-night sessions, the speculations went ripe about what was on top of the agenda. Most observers agreed that among the topics to prioritise were how to create a global carbon market and who will pay for the ravages of rising temperatures.
On Monday, all eyes were on former US president Barack Obama who arrived at the summit to call on world leaders to “step up”. “We are nowhere near where we need to be at,” he said. “Obama’s beautiful, pointless speech showed up COP26 for the farce it really is,” commented the Independent, contrary to most other news outlets that competed in lavishing praise on the ex-president’s speech.
A focus on gender equality at COP26 on Tuesday saw Indigenous women and politicians, including Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon and speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, demand increased investment to tackle the uneven impact climate change has on women and girls
The overshadowing news that day was, however, about a Climate Action Tracker (CAT) report claiming that COP26 “has a massive credibility, action and commitment gap”. Despite pledges made at the climate summit, the world is still nowhere near its goals on limiting global temperature rise, their new analysis shows. They calculate that the world is heading for 2.4C of warming, far more than the 1.5C limit nations committed to. Moreover, when governments’ actual policies rather than pledges are analysed, the world’s projected warming will be 2.7C by 2100, suggests CAT. The Tracker is backed by several organisations, including the prestigious Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
The good news coming out of the conference on Wednesday, November 10, was that six significant carmakers have committed to phasing out the production of fossil-fuel vehicles around the world by 2040. Volvo, Ford, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz were among the signatories as the climate talks entered their transport-themed day. However, other major carmakers, such as Toyota, Volkswagen, and the Nissan-Renault alliance, did not join the pledge.
In more transport news, the US declared that they are setting a goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the US aviation sector by 2050. Meanwhile, in the UK, the sale of diesel-fuelled lorries will be banned by 2040, with only specialist vehicles such as military or emergency services vehicles exempt.
Late on Wednesday night, the news spread quickly that the world’s two biggest emitters, China and the USA, have reached an agreement to both do more to cut fossil fuel pollution this decade. Although the joined statement contains little about new emissions commitments, other than China stating that it would start to address methane emissions, it is important. The fine print of the joint statement suggests the two sides have found agreement on some of the outstanding issues in the negotiations, such as setting five-year climate targets rather than 10-year ones.
The summit is now entering its closing stage. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson appealed to other leaders not to sit on their hands as the world asks for action on climate change at the COP26 talks. He pleaded with officials and negotiators on Wednesday to seize the opportunity to strike an ambitious agreement that would avert the worst effects of climate change.
Let us see whether they will heed Johnson’s advice.