GLASGOW, Scotland – World leaders are flying home and now COP26 is deciding who pays.
Negotiations at the UN Climate Conference kicked off Wednesday to discuss details of a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions, tackle the growing climate crisis and support a global shift to cleaner technologies.
On a day to fund high prices for abatement, a consortium of charitable foundations and international development banks announced a $ 10.5 billion fund to help emerging economies move from fossil fuels to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. …
On Wednesday, leaders also announced a pledge from some of the world’s largest bankers, investors and insurers, who together control $ 130 trillion in assets, to use their money to meet their mid-century net zero emissions targets.
Despite the eye-popping pledge to donate billions of dollars, but trillions, environmental groups said the announcement was less meaningful than it seemed because it did not oblige financial giants to stop investing in fossil fuels anytime soon.
“These commitments live and die from the way they relate to fossil fuels. It’s the elephant in the room that they seem to conveniently ignore, ”said Justin Guay, a climate expert who previously worked for the Sierra Club. “Working with fossil fuels is optional; it is necessary. “
Critics said rich countries’ continued failure to fulfill their financial promises to developing countries is a more worrisome indicator of the direction of the meeting.
The early days of the conference, known as COP26, were filled with stars, with prime ministers meeting princes and movie stars. The leaders have made bold promises to cut methane emissions and end deforestation in the next decade.
Now comes a less glamorous code: at least 10 days of delicate negotiations between experts who know what a ton of carbon dioxide looks like and how to weigh the air.
Despite countless disappointments and setbacks in the early days of the conference – unclear commitments by countries to reduce emissions, the blatant absence of leaders from China and Russia, long queues and technical difficulties at the conference itself – COP26 President Alok Sharma approved the first day of formal talks.
“I am very pleased with the decisive attitude shown by the leaders,” UK Government Minister Sharma told reporters Wednesday, adding that negotiators have already “responded to this call for more acceleration” in achieving climate targets.
Sharma pointed to India’s recent pledge to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2070, which means that 90 percent of the global economy is currently on target – up from 30 percent when he became president of the COP.
Sharma acknowledged that additional commitments will not move the world closer to its ambitious goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But over the next week and a half, he said he hoped countries could strategize to get on track.
The British negotiators declared Wednesday a “financial day” as they hoped that governments and companies would come up with new pledges to fund efforts to combat warming and adapt to climate change. So far, the picture is ambiguous.
Rich countries pledged at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to commit $ 100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate change. But when the deadline came, they fell short of expectations, sparking anger among poorer countries, which had made painful commitments to climate change.
Donor countries on Wednesday tried to shake off frustration by saying that, after accounting for funding now budgeted until 2025, developing countries will get what they’ve been promised, even if donors may run short of several billion dollars this year.
“Developing countries have no reason to be seriously concerned about these numbers,” Jochen Flasbart, Germany’s secretary of state for the environment, told reporters on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, the Kremlin defended Russia’s actions on climate change in the face of harsh criticism from President Joe Biden, who rebuked President Vladimir Putin for not showing up for the conference.
“The tundra is literally burning. He has serious climate problems and is willing to do anything, ”Biden said on Tuesday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that it’s not just Siberian wildlife on fire: California’s forests are also burning as a result of global warming.
Peskov said when the two leaders meet again, “I think President Putin will have a great opportunity to tell President Biden about what we are doing about the climate.”
It was another busy day for the protesters. Extinction Rebellion activists marched in front of JP Morgan Bank, where they fired green smoke bombs. Another group of poverty fighters tried to launch a 26-foot inflatable Loch Less Debt Monster along the Clyde River, which runs by the convention center. But “Nessie” was grabbed by the police and taken away.
“It’s almost a sad reflection of what’s going on inside the COP,” said Scotsman Heidi Chow, chief executive of the Jubilee Debt Campaign. “Debt could not be put on the agenda as demanded by developing countries. Debt in the global south will prevent countries from coping with the climate crisis. ”
Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenage girl, tweeted a petition for climate leaders asking them to “end the climate betrayal during COP26.” More than 1.5 million people have signed it.
On the finance front, policymakers acknowledge that without the rich world delivering on its funding promises, pushing the developing world towards even more ambitious climate targets is difficult. Developing country leaders argue that richer countries gained their wealth from industrialization, which has set the world on its current climate path. If poorer countries want to become richer in a greener way, they need others to show some solidarity.
Politicians have reached out to the private sector to help increase funding for green efforts. Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, led by former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, has announced a $ 130 trillion effort in which more than 450 members have joined this largest private equity pledge to end operations in history. changing of the climate. According to this promise, projects and companies associated with loans from banks and other financial institutions will have a “net zero” by 2050, which means that they will not add to carbon emissions together.
Many environmental groups described the initiative as insufficient, in part because it does not include commitments by banks and finance companies to stop funding coal-fired power plants and other carbon-intensive producers.
However, leaders including Rishi Sunak, UK Treasury Secretary; David Malpass, President of the World Bank; and finance ministers of several developing countries hailed the Glasgow announcement as an important step.
“As ambitious as the public sector efforts in all our countries are, the cost of more than $ 100 trillion to tackle climate change globally is much higher,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday in Glasgow at a climate finance event. … “The private sector stands ready to provide funding to guide us towards avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
When asked if it is true that global financial institutions, which were once major investors in the fossil fuel industry, will now profit from the world’s transition to a green economy, Patricia Espinosa, head of the UN climate office, replied that it is necessary …
“There is no doubt that we need a complete transformation of the economy, including, of course, in the private sector,” said Espinosa, a Mexican diplomat.
Sharma said today’s announcements from corporations and financiers are further testament to the progress the world has made on climate change. A veteran of the London financial world, he knew how long the idea of green investments was considered a marginal one. People should welcome the fact that companies now see climate action as vital to their bottom line, he said.
“The strength of the private sector is clear,” he said. “The challenge is to provide financial flows where they are most needed.”
While national leaders were in town, bustling brisk squadrons in crowded conference rooms, negotiators have largely cooled off, in part because coronavirus concerns have limited the space they could gather for discussion. Now, however, it’s time for the bean counters to light up. They will spend most of the next 10 days locked up and working out the intricacies of an agreement that the leaders are expected to sign at the end.
Their work is less sublime than the great speeches of their leaders. Some negotiations take place in tents. Delegations spy on each other. Lawyers debate the exact timing of progress reports that measure whether countries are meeting their commitments.
The stakes are high.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the host of the conference, told parliament on Wednesday that “much more needs to be done.”
“Whether we can summon collective wisdom and will to escape preventable disaster still hangs in the balance.”
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Karla Adam from Glasgow of the Washington Post contributed to this report.