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Sweco takes action hashtag placed on top of COP26 Un Climate Change Conference logo

Published: November 3, 2021

AND SO, IT BEGINS!

Andreas Gyllenhammar, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sweco

Andreas Gyllenhammar, Chief Sustainability Officer

COP26 is underway at full speed and with the initial high-level segment closing last night, the meeting now goes into “work mode” – the negotiation phase. About 100 heads of state attended the high-level segment this year and we could witness a lot of fireworks. John Kerry, the US “climate boss” since the 1980’s, spoke of the preparations and the opening days of the summit as having unprecedentedly high levels of energy.

There is, also, a more mundane touch to the summit. Just imagine all the presidents, governors and politicians meeting in the same conference facility, they sort of levelise each other. Their normally impressive status is normalized as they have to sit and wait for each other on the same simple conference chairs as the rest of us. It is unusual and a bit de-dramatizing to see, for example, the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau sitting and fiddling with his mobile phone for a quarter of an hour waiting for EU’s Ursula von der Leyen who got stuck in a conversation on the way to the press conference on the methane initiative.

The outcome from the high-level segment this year was some sharpened national commitments and a number of joint initiatives.

Coalitions of the willing
This is a relatively new trend that has intensified during the climate summits in recent years, where one or more countries are collecting as many signatures as possible on a more or less concrete proposal that in some way aims to strengthen climate work. It is a smart way to “go around” complicated countries, create momentum and advance issues without taking the cumbersome route through the negotiating table. The disadvantage is that it does not reach full support. This year, though, the methane initiative that the US and EU brought together, managed to cover about half of the world’s methane emissions and thereby achieve common promises of emission reductions in a climate important issue. The fact that, for example, Russia did not sign does not mean that the more progressive countries are prevented from stepping ahead.

Summary of climate initiatives

The Global Methane Pledge
Going for methane emissions is a smart priority as, from a 20-year perspective, methane has about 80 times as high a climate impact as carbon dioxide. Methane comes from leaks in natural gas pipelines, landfills, livestock animals and agriculture. The US and the EU brought together 100 countries with the commitment to reduce methane emissions 30 percent by 2030. Notably absent from those signing on, where some major methane polluters such as China, Russia and India. Researchers estimate that the temperature effect can be up to 0.3 degrees reduced heating, which is a good step towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The pledges are voluntary and non-binding but are still considered to be useful and have definitely given a boost to the Glasgow meeting.

End Deforestation by 2030
Within the framework of the “Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use”, more than 100 countries, corresponding to 85 percent of the world’s forests, commit to stop and “reverse” deforestation, including more than USD 19 billion. It is interesting that Brazil is on the train and that the declaration also brings together 28 large companies that have pledged to stop deforestation activities.

The Green Grids Initiative
More than 80 countries, where India and the UK have pulled the load, are accelerating access to clean energy. Funding and technology transfer are offered.

The Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda
More than half of the world’s GDP (40+ countries including the EU, USA, China, India) is represented in this initiative which focuses on green energy, industry and cleantech. The goal is to make cleantech the most affordable, accessible and attractive option in all markets. Some of the most striking objectives are “Affordable renewable and low carbon hydrogen is globally available by 2030” and “Zero emission vehicles are the new normal and accessible, affordable, and sustainable in all regions by 2030”. If this initiative collects large funding, it has good potential to scale up and speed up climate change.

Focus turns to the money!
Many countries, among them Japan, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Spain, New Zealand, EU, USA, are boosting the climate accounts during the high-level segment. There is still a lack of funding but the gap is starting to close.

It is quite clear that focus turns to money at the climate summit for the rest of the week. Note also that while the firm focus is on securing the 100 billion dollars annually, there is still no plan for how they will be spent. This, too, must of course be addressed during COP26.

Stay tuned!

/Andreas

Sweco takes action hashtag placed on top of COP26 Un Climate Change Conference logo

Published: November 29, 2021

Key outcomes and final insights from COP26

Andreas Gyllenhammar, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sweco

Andreas Gyllenhammar, Chief Sustainability Officer

Now that the dust begins to settle, after two intense weeks at the Glasgow Climate summit, it is time to summarise the key outcomes and to touch upon some final insights. The Glasgow Climate Pact is signed but there’s are a lot more to it than the words on the paper.

I have been taking an active part in the negotiation process as an observer in the Business and Industry NGO group. We have followed the negotiations, contributed with our knowledge in side-events and interacted with other delegates. Sweco’s interest is also in analysing the process, positions and outcome in order to provide us with valuable insights to our clients and for our future strategies.

ACTION ALONG THE PREDICTED LINES?
These were my predictions of the topics that I thought was going to set the agenda in Glasgow: Climate finance, raised ambitions, sector deals, non-state actors action, completion of the Paris rulebook, just transition, climate justice and COP logistics. Let’s decode them and see what happened. And we’ll start with ‘the easy one’.

THE PARIS RULEBOOK
If you google that phrase you will not find a specific document, it is just a term to describe all technical documents that constitutes the output of the CMA (Conference of the Members of the Agreement) part of Glasgow. Although there are outstanding issues, I think we can say that the rulebook is basically settled. Progress was also made on the notorious Article 6 which governs the setup of carbon markets and trading mechanisms. All in all, it translates into a more rapid and transparent implementation of the Paris Agreement than it was expected.

MONEY – DIFFUSE AND DIVERSE, AND MUCH MORE!
Climate finance has become increasingly important over the recent COP negotiations. It can be traced back to the principle of CBDR (common but differentiated responsibility) which in a climate context means that we have agreed that developed nations have caused the bulk of climate impact and have more financial capacity to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. Already at COP15 in 2009, the ‘climate bank’ was started but the funds for it (100 billion USD yearly), although it is increasing, is partly still missing.

In a COP context, this has developed into a matter of trust. In the eyes of the developing nations it translates into: ‘Before that money is on the table, how can we expect you to deliver on other things that you have agree on?’ This year, the fund has collected more money from various stakeholders, still falling short of the 100 billion USD mark. However, in the final document there is a commitment to double the financial goal to 2025. Zooming out, though, this is still peanuts compared to what will be needed for climate adaptation. Financial resources were pouring into the summit from various sources. Many of them through the voluntary commitments made by nations, the private sector and local/regional governments gathering around various issues. These pledges, commitments and alliances have been formed at previous COP meetings but not to the extent as seen in Glasgow. You should take a closer look into, for example:

The Methane Pledge:
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-59137828

Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use:
https://ukcop26.org/glasgow-leaders-declaration-on-forests-and-land-use/

The Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda
https://ukcop26.org/cop26-world-leaders-summit-statement-on-the-breakthrough-agenda/

The Mission Innovation:
http://mission-innovation.net/event/cop26/

The Missions, announced by Ministers from the U.S., India, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, Austria, the Netherlands, and European Commission, will accelerate technologies to facilitate urban transitions, eliminate emissions from industry, enable carbon dioxide removal, and produce renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials.

The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment
https://worldgbc.org/thecommitment

The Green Grids Initiative
https://ukcop26.org/one-sun-declaration-green-grids-initiative-one-sun-one-world-one-grid/

The First Movers Coalition
https://europeansting.com/2021/11/04/cop26-what-is-the-first-movers-coalition/

And of course, the colossal financial power within the GFANZ, aiming to align its 130 trillion USD with the max 1.5°C climate target.
https://assets.bbhub.io/company/sites/63/2021/11/GFANZ-Progress-Report.pdf

It will take more than a week to unfold the details, importance, and climate impact of all these commitments. To me, they represent the biggest trend during the COP meetings in recent years. From being a technical and consensus driven negotiation engine, designed to produce agreements and rules for climate cooperation between nations, the COP meetings have evolved into a meeting place where all stakeholders gather to share, learn, and commit to climate action.

THE AMBITION GAP – WE’RE CLOSING IN
One of the major goals that the UK COP Presidency had was to keep the 1.5°C climate goal alive. It was a bold statement, considering that we are already at 1.1°C warming, compared to pre-industrial temperature levels, and the emissions are not yet clearly on a downward trajectory. However, COP26 kicked off with the high-level segment where world leaders came together and all committed, in an unusual strong language, to the tougher end of the Paris Agreement. The following days, we saw the launch of initiatives (described above) and ramped up targets, most notably India’s pledge to reach net-zero by 2070 and more significantly, to ramp up renewables to 50% to 2030.

All in all, this made it possible to start to feed to climate models to see how far all this would take us. When the Paris Agreement was signed we were heading for close to 4°C. In the run up to Glasgow, we were seeing a possible track towards 2.7°C. Adding in the new commitments and pledges, we might be, in the best of worlds, reaching 1.8°C. There is a lot of ifs and buts to that number, but this clearly shows that the global temperature curve can be bent. By far, the largest IF is that everyone must deliver reductions on all the promised goals and targets. And, as the Climate Action Tracker analysis show, do that very rapidly.

We can expect that there is still work to do on the remaining ambition gap, and Glasgow revised the ratchet mechanism within the Paris Agreement to adjust to the time constraint on lowering emissions. From a previous five-year revision time frame for national ramped up ambitions this will now take place yearly. A wise and smart move to put pressure on national targets. Let’s just not underestimate the complexity in ramping up these national targets. For this to be more than a numbers exercise, it needs to be followed by new national strategies and action.

ENTER – THE IMPLEMENTATION GAP!
During the Glasgow summit, with the ambition gap starting to narrow in towards the Paris Agreement goal, the conversation started to shift towards the next and emerging gap: The Implementation Gap. This is the inevitable next step after setting the Goals. Goals are merely goals and will not lower emissions. The atmosphere only cares about actual emission reductions, not goals. The intermediate between goals and action should be strategies and roadmaps. Without credible plans for how, when and in what order climate action will take us towards the goals will not implement and deploy solutions in an efficient way.

THE FUTURE OF CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS
The discussion around implementation of climate action will influence the coming years of negotiations and will need to be captured in the COP process. Can the following COP negotiations facilitate and regulate the sharing of national climate progress in a transparent way while at the same time be the meeting place for climate action among nations, non-state actors and the very important financial sector, then, I think we are on a good track towards achieving what only a year ago seemed like an impossible task. There are many of us that need to play a constructive and active part of this task, in many dimensions and on various scales. At Sweco, we are looking forward to contributing with our full dedication and capacity.

Andreas Gyllenhammar
Chief Sustainability Officer Sweco

Sweco takes action hashtag placed on top of COP26 Un Climate Change Conference logo

Published: November 14, 2021

The Glasgow Climate Pact is adopted

Andreas Gyllenhammar, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sweco

Andreas Gyllenhammar, Chief Sustainability Officer

Late Saturday evening, one day after the appointed time, the COP26 chairman managed to steer the countries to an agreement. But it certainly had its price. New for this year’s conference was that everyone could follow the intensive final negotiation attempts via the UN live broadcast. It was jaw dropping witnessing the United States, China, India, the EU, AOSIS, G77 and others hurrying back and forth between each other, pointing at different pieces of text and gesturing over what was not acceptable. As a direct result, an amendment had to be passed by the others. Great compromises are being made in this late phase, especially the developing countries and the small island nations where climate consequences are catastrophic far earlier than for countries that can afford and / or can adapt, at least for a while longer.

For many, this is not the type of negotiation you can “win” if we do not all succeed in winning. That attitude was obviously not shared by India, which threw in an absolute last-minute change and managed to weaken the writing about coal power and to change the wording from “phase out” to “phase down”.

Many countries expressed their great disappointment over this and pointed out the unfairness of the decision process. But they were not prepared to overturn the whole agreement for it, even if they were clearly and genuinely offended. This was addressed by COP President Alok Sharma, who sincerely and with a cracked voice and watering eyes apologized to these countries.

With this, the last obstacle was removed and “The Glasgow Climate Pact” was passed through. Exactly what the final version states and how it can be interpreted, I will return to in a future post.

This Saturday, I witnessed a fascinating piece of negotiation history, especially considering the dignity of the meeting. A direct reflection is that this is about as far as it goes in a process that is designed for consensus and is as complex and pervasive as the climate crisis is. It’s certainly not enough to keep the world at 1.5 degrees warming but there are some bright spots. The temperature curve is bent downwards, not least thanks to all the voluntary initiatives that are being concluded here, and the signal from Glasgow regarding the future of coal is still clear, no matter how much India wants to change it. Coal has no future.

Andreas Gyllenhammar

Chief Sustainability Officer Sweco

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