After Wednesday delivered some major surprises in Glasgow – including a rare joint statement issued by the United States and China detailing commitments from the world’s two largest emitters to cooperate on climate action, Thursday was a much more focused affair, with negotiators progressing uncontroversial matters in preparation for some marathon sessions as the end of COP26 rapidly approaches.
“Time is running out”
COP president Alok Sharma has pleaded with negotiators on the need for the COP26 conference to finish on time – scheduled for Friday evening in Glasgow – but as experience suggests, the conference will almost certainly run overtime.
That didn’t stop Sharma from trying to get negotiators to stick to the deadline.
“There is still a lot more work to be done. And COP26 is scheduled to close at the end of tomorrow. So time is running out,” Sharma told a media briefing.
“As I speak, my Ministerial co-facilitators, other Ministers and negotiators are rolling up their sleeves and working hard to find solutions to some of the most intractable issues. Solutions which have so far evaded us for six years.”
“We still have a monumental challenge ahead of us. Collectively we have no choice but to rise to that challenge. And strain every sinew to achieve a timely outcome that we can all be proud of, because ultimately this outcome, whatever it is, will belong to all of us.”
The chief negotiator for Mexico, Camila Zepeda, has promised Sharma a bottle of tequila if he can finish the talks on time.
That is correct!
— Camila Zepeda (@CamilaZepedaL) November 11, 2021
Potential outcomes of COP26 becoming clearer, but not guaranteed
A fresh batch of draft decision texts was considered by negotiators on Thursday, including potential agreements on adaptation measures, loss and damage, financial commitments, international emissions trading mechanisms, and avoiding the double counting of emissions reduction.
It is yet to be seen how countries have reacted to drafts of the high level “cover” decisions proposed to be made in Glasgow – which propose to commit countries to phase out the use of coal, ending fossil fuel subsidies and compelling countries that did not bring updated 2030 targets to Glasgow (such as Australia) to do so at the next round of talks in 2022.
While the inclusion of these commitments in an international agreement would represent a significant step forward for global efforts to tackle climate change, they are almost certain to be met with vocal opposition from some countries, including Australia. It is not yet known whether they will make it into the final text, with negotiations ongoing behind closed doors.
Developing countries are also pushing for new commitments for financial support for adaptation measures – with particularly vulnerable countries facing potentially devastating impacts from continued global warming – but wealthy countries have pushed back on calls to provide more financial support.
It appears likely that there will be no carryover of surplus Kyoto Protocol units – that Australia had previously advocated for – but countries may be able to retain and use units leftover from the ‘Clean Development Mechanism’ for their Paris Agreement targets. The Clean Development Mechanism was established under the Kyoto Protocol and allowed countries to effectively claim offsets from certain development projects undertaken in other countries.
Negotiators progress areas of agreement
Thursday marked the beginning of the end for COP26, with negotiators starting the process of convening ‘closing’ plenaries for the conference. During these plenaries, negotiators formally settled a range of decisions on uncontroversial areas. For the most part, these consist of more procedural and administrative matters – with discussions on more contentious issues to continue.
It’s a process of getting the easy stuff out of the way so that negotiators can concentrate on areas that require further engagement, discussion and compromise, such as the future of coal and fossil fuel subsidies, whether countries will be asked to bring updated 2030 targets to next year’s talks – with all of these talks set to continue into Friday.
Egypt confirmed as the host of COP27
Egypt has been formally endorsed as the host of next year’s climate talks, COP27. The talks will be held in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai peninsula.
The United Arab Emirates has also been picked as the host of COP28, to be held in 2023.
Hosting duties generally rotates through different regions of the world, with African countries last hosting the climate talks in 2016 when it was held in the city of Marrakech in Morocco. The last country within the Asian region to host the climate talks was Qatar in 2012.
Egyptian environment minister Yasmine Fouad says the "hard work" made at #COP26 "deserves to be rewarded" and her country will "carry the torch" and build on its success when they host COP27 next year.https://t.co/N5ZtrjyIw9 pic.twitter.com/ScMZI1E9jY
— Sky News (@SkyNews) November 11, 2021
UK and New Zealand share ‘fossil of the day’ awards
Generally, we like to think that the neighbours across the ditch have shown Australia up when it comes to climate leadership, and so environment groups expressed surprise when New Zealand’s climate minister, James Shaw, pushed back at suggestions countries could be compelled to bring updated 2030 targets to next year’s talks.
New Zealand announced an updated target just days before the start of COP26, committing the country to halve its emissions by 2030.
The United Kingdom shared Thursday’s ‘fossil of the day’ award – given by international environment groups – for its failure to prioritise the creation of a ‘loss and damage’ compensation mechanism for countries impacted by climate change, while serving as the host of COP26.