• BDO on COP26

BDO COP26 Digest #1 - Sunday 31 October 2021

Welcome to our first COP26 daily digest, capturing ‘the best of’ the most significant sessions plus interesting quotes, themes and observations from technical groups, business discussions, civil society meetings and other ‘big tent’ events.

Sunday served as a preamble for the Monday kick-off of the real COP26 negotiations and sessions. It was also World Cities Day, with this year’s theme being ‘Adapting Cities for Climate Resilience.’

The main message came from the G20 (an international forum that brings together the world’s major economies. Its members account for more than 80% of world GDP, 75% of global trade, 60% of the world’s population and 75% of global emissions). This group met in Rome ahead of the COP26 summit to clarify the position that their negotiators (‘Sherpas’ in COP parlance) would take in Glasgow.

Their final communique was perceived as being watered-down in comparison to previous commitments.  References to global net zero by 2050 were missing, along with a clear anchoring of the 1.5°C target for all states. The G20 communique states:

‘We recognise that the impacts of climate change at 1.5°C are much lower than at 2°C. Keeping 1.5°C within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries, taking into account different approaches…We acknowledge the efforts made to date, including net zero and carbon neutrality commitments…’

On a more positive note, the G20 countries officially backed calls to cut global methane emissions as a matter of extreme urgency, stating that

‘We acknowledge that methane emissions represent a significant contribution to climate change and recognise, according to national circumstances, that its reduction can be one of the quickest, most feasible and most cost-effective ways to limit climate change and its impacts.’

Methane is over 80 times more potent than CO2 and is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas and oil. Methane emissions are also created by livestock, agricultural practices and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.

The 2015 Paris Climate Accord specifically referenced 1.5°C as the focal point for future COP discussions.  This raised hopes that Glasgow will finally implement and embed this warming target in the more binding commitments via Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) or national plans highlighting climate actions, climate related targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, and policies/measures to be implemented by governments.

From the 25 main sessions on day 1 (Sunday 31st October) these are our highlights:

COP26 President Alok Sharma's opening speech:

“The IPCC report in August was a wake-up call for all of us. It made clear that the lights are flashing red on the climate dashboard. That report, agreed by 195 Governments, makes clear that human activity is unequivocally the cause of global warming. And we know that the window to keep 1.5 degrees within reach is closing. Together, we can seize the enormous opportunities for green growth, for good green jobs, for cheaper, cleaner power. But we need to hit the ground running to develop the solutions that we need. And that work starts today. And we will succeed. Or fail. As one.”

World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) session: State of the Climate in 2021

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres opened the session: “The door is open; the solutions are there. COP26 must be a turning point. We must act now – with ambition and solidarity – to safeguard our future and save humanity.”

WMO General Secretary Petteri Talaas went through a number of scientific observations including:

  • We are not on track to meet the 1.5°C degree target by 2050 and are looking at 2.7°C based on the latest modelling
  • The last seven years have been the hottest on record – with sea levels rising to new highs and climate-related destructive weather extremes in 2021
  • Conflict, extreme weather and economic shocks, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, led to increases in people facing food crises, starvation and the collapse of livelihoods
  • Rapid attribution studies have shown that events such as the heat wave in north America and the flooding in western Europe were made more likely by human-induced climate change
  • Major GHG emissions have risen, despite Covid-19 dampening economic activity in 2020/2021 including N2O (Nitrous Oxide) CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and CH4 (methane)

Comment

The G20 communique fell short of the efforts made by many participants of the global business community towards securing net zero by 2050 and temperature increases of no higher than 1.5°C against pre-industrial levels.

It can be argued that the G20’s watered down final statement will provide more room for Glasgow ‘Sherpas’ to secure stronger language and binding commitments, particularly from major GHG emitting nations who have set 2060 as their goal for Net Zero (China and Russia) or who have yet to commit to a firm net zero date (India).

The WMO presentation was sobering, with almost all climate related performance indicators pointing in the wrong direction. Hopefully this will serve to encourage serious and impactful negotiations to take place in Glasgow.

There were no COP26 business or industry sessions happening in Glasgow on the opening day, but over the next 12 days there will be plenty of discussions, commentary and industry specific deliberations taking place, which our team of experts will report on.  Watch this space daily for details!