The state of play
The sunny skies prevailing during the first week of COP26 gave way to a deluge of rain as negotiators struggled to complete a first draft of an outcome document. There was no clear indication of where talks will lead or how ambitious countries will be in tackling the climate emergency. Ministers arriving early next week will seek to resolve points of contention, with COP26 President Alok Sharma calling this “where the rubber hits the road”. The aim is to conclude with agreement on greater emission cuts, stronger efforts on adaptation and resilience, and more climate finance.
Many issues must still be worked out. With progress so far being insufficient to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, there is a strong call for countries to update nation climate plans more regularly, even annually. Many countries are pushing for eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and phasing out coal-fired power plants.
Negotiations are proceeding on boosting measures for climate adaptation and resilience as well as “loss and damage” compensation for those harmed by climate change. Also under negotiation are contentious provisions on finance, trade and transparency.
Finding solutions in nature
Discussions on Day 7 focused on so-called nature-based solutions that could reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by about a third, particularly through sustainable agriculture and halting deforestation. “Nature-based solutions are absolutely critical,” said UN Environment Programme Chief Inger Andersen. “When we protect nature, nature provides security for us. It gives us the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe.”
The convergence of solutions that cover both the climate and biodiversity crises caused the chief of the Global Environment Facility, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, to tweet that “I no longer know whether I am at a @UNBiodiversity or @UNFCCC COP, so we need to be extremely happy about what is happening at this COP."
The COP26 Presidency announced that 45 governments, led by the United Kingdom, will ramp up efforts to protect nature and shift to more sustainable farming. Over $4 billion in new public sector investment was pledged for agricultural innovation, including climate-resilient crops and regenerative solutions to improve soil health. This would help make such techniques affordable for hundreds of millions of farmers.
Canada announced CDN$1 billion in international support for nature-based solutions, a fifth of its climate finance. It supports an international target to protect 30 per cent of lands and oceans by 2030, and earlier this week announced it would back a fund for coral reefs.
More sustainable food systems
“The conversation around food needs to be really amplified,” said Idris Elba, a Goodwill Ambassador for the International Fund for Agricultural Development. “Small-scale farmers deliver 80 per cent of the food that we eat,” he added “And every year, the crops are lower because the rain is different, and the soil is different.” Climate change, population growth and poverty are increasing global food insecurity.
Vanessa Nakata, a climate justice activist from Uganda, recounted how “the climate crisis means hunger and death for many people in my country and across Africa.” Droughts, floods and landslides have taken many lives and destroyed homes and businesses. Farms have been washed away, and crops have been devastated by a scorching sun and invasions of locusts.
“We cannot fix climate change unless we fix our food systems,” warned Agnes Kalibata, UN Food Systems Summit Special Envoy. Accounting for over one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, the modern food system needs to be transformed to be greener, fairer and more sustainable.