UN Chief welcomes China-US declaration

The UN Secretary-General welcomed today’s blockbuster announcement by China and the United States that they would cooperate on climate. He tweeted, “Tackling the climate crisis requires international collaboration and solidarity, and this is an important step in the right direction.”

The joint China-US Glasgow Declaration states that the two countries “are intent on seizing this critical moment to engage in expanded individual and combined efforts to accelerate the transition to a global net-zero economy”. Specific activities for cooperation range from electricity generation to methane reduction to forest protection. The declaration was announced in two consecutive press conferences, first by China’s Climate Envoy Xie Zhenhua and then by US Climate Envoy John Kerry. Both countries have agreed to support an ambitious, balanced and inclusive COP26 outcome on mitigation, adaptation and support.

Talks get tough

Negotiations intensified after the COP26 President released a draft proposed outcome text as countries continued grappling over key issues that include climate finance, adaptation, and loss and damage. COP26 President Alok Sharma said discussions would go into the night and that countries would meet again tomorrow morning to determine progress. He described the text as “unapologetically high ambition” to ensure that the world does not risk exceeding 1.5°C of warming. But he added that it would continue to evolve to address Parties’ concerns.

Developing countries continued to stress frustration over gaps in finance. They contended that the initial draft was short on timelines and specifics for delivery. Guinea, representing a large group of developing countries, said it appeared that developed countries had little appetite for long-term finance, particularly given their failure to make good on their pledge to deliver $100 billion a year to developing countries. Antigua and Barbuda noted that references to “calling for”, “encouraging” or “inviting” were “not the decisive language we need”. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned to Glasgow today to check on progress, said, “The negotiations are getting tough and with just a few days left, there is still a lot to do.” He called for being more ambitious and stressed more credible plans for implementation, referring to climate finance as critical.

Companies follow the science

The UN Global Compact announced that more than 1,000 companies are setting 1.5°C-aligned science-based targets, part of a global campaign to rapidly scale up corporate climate ambition. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Companies everywhere are recognizing that sustainable business is good business; that decarbonizing operations and supply chains is not just the right thing, but the smart thing to do. Consumers expect it. Employees demand it. And our future depends on it.”

Sanda Ojiambo, who heads the UN Global Compact, commented, “We have witnessed an unprecedented increase in corporate commitments to tackle the climate emergency. Leading companies must now build trust by setting credible and independently validated emission reduction targets and report on their progress. Greenwashing and misleading commitments have no place on our path to net-zero.”

Phasing out gas guzzlers

On transport day at COP26, Climate Champion Nigel Topping described how the world is moving to greener transport. The number of zero-emission vehicles has doubled over the last two years. Over 30 percent of the vehicle market is covered by manufacturers committed to phasing out fossil-fuel models by 2040 or earlier.

No petrol and diesel cars should be sold after 2035, urged Monica Araya, a Costa Rican adviser on clean development. For buses, the transition needs to come by 2030, whereas heavy trucking has until 2040. She stated, “This is not just for advanced markets. It’s also for developing economies because we know the worst pollution is in the developing world.” 

Countries in the global South should also not become a “dumping ground” for old technologies and must challenge the idea there is no demand for zero emission technologies, Araya said. “I am very optimistic we will see a lot of champions from the global South.” Chile, as among the emerging market economies, recently announced it will only sell zero-emission vehicles from 2035. 

Decarbonizing shipping

Nineteen governments announced plans to develop green shipping corridors. These zero-emission shipping routes between two ports involve deploying zero-emission vessels and alternative fuel charging infrastructure. Accounting for around 3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the shipping industry plays a key role in reaching net zero by 2050. “If we decarbonize the shipping industry, we decarbonize every other industry because of the cargo the shipping industry carries,” said Michael Parker, Chairman of Global Shipping and Logistics, Citi Group. 

Over 200 companies and other actors signed a Call to Action urging governments to commit to decarbonizing international shipping by 2050. “The industry, shippers, banks, NGOs, countries are ready for shipping decarbonization. The technology is not the barrier. We need action, leadership and policy,” said Johannah Christensen, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Maritime Forum.