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

Published: November 1, 2021

COP26 kicks off with high-level segment

Andreas Gyllenhammar, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sweco

Andreas Gyllenhammar, Chief Sustainability Officer

Yesterday marked the official start of the climate summit in Glasgow but the real action starts today, 1st November. We are in for two intensive weeks of negotiations and there’s a lot of burning issues on the agenda.

These COP meetings have of course been prepared for a very long time and the COP is certainly not the only time for collective climate action. However, there are some questions that cannot be solved without the attendance of top leaders at COP. Therefore, as a start, COP26 kicks off with a high-level segment that gathers national heads of state to attend the opening ceremony and also deliver their national statements.

In many ways, their statements will follow the usual pattern of:

1) acknowledging the importance of the issue at hand
2) (re-)assuring the national commitment to delivering on the Paris agreement
3) showcase what has been done at the national level.

That is usually a somewhat predictable exercise but what is more interesting is to what extend the heads of state reveal their priorities for the meeting, whether they present raised ambitions or if they bring new positions to the table.

Judging from the preparations and current state of climate politics, my analysis is that COP26 will mainly be about the following:

Climate finance. Will the Global Climate Fund (that was already agreed upon in 2009 at COP15 in Copenhagen) finally be fully funded? Of the promised yearly 100 billion USD there is still a gap of about 20 billions which is a big deal for developing nations. The missing money will be regarded as not honoring deals that have been made and then potentially undermine this years negotiations.

Raised ambitions. All nations under the Paris agreement have to bring updated NDCs (nationally determined contributions) with ramped up climate targets. The first NDC compilation, after COP21 in Paris, summed up to a global temperature rise by year 2100 to about 4 degrees. We enter COP26 with a lot higher goals from many countries corresponding to about 2.7 degrees warming, compared to pre-industrial times. However, it is still far from the Paris agreement that stipulated “well below 2 degrees, aiming for 1.5”. The G20 meeting that ended yesterday reassured that 1.5 degrees is the goal to aim for but how far can COP26 take us on this?

Sector deals. UK Prime minister Boris Johnson is hosting COP26 and during the runup to Glasgow he’s been advocating focus on “coal, cars, cash and trees”. This is a smart move, trying to complement current focus on national positions and traditional trenches between countries. By cutting the pollution cake differently he might manage to overcome national interests and strike deals between non-state actors. But COP meetings are primarily built around negotiations between nations, so will he succeed in shifting COP26’s focus?

The Paris Rulebook. There are still more than a few technicalities around the Paris agreement to sort out. This includes how to interpret, measure, share information and follow up on progress. Most pressingly the “Article 6” that addresses how emission reductions can be transferred between countries. The amount of work left “to do” in the Paris rulebook will affect the quality and speed in which the Paris agreement can be implemented.

Just transition and climate justice. When I attended COP24 In Katowice, Poland, it became clear to the COP negotiations that the climate transition is not only a matter of technically lowering emissions from different countries and sectors. It is very much about whether we manage to propose climate plans that include people from all nations and sectors. If the negative consequences are too big, on prices or employment, too many will oppose opting out of coal mines or increased petrol taxes and this will stop or severely slow the climate transition. In what way can the outcomes of COP26 support a just transition and also aid the most vulnerable countries to both climate adaptation and loss and damage?

There is a lot of high expectations and all of them will clearly not be delivered on. This is a meeting. Climate action is increasingly taking place outside the discussions of UNFCCC and perhaps the most important signals have already been sent. By agreeing in Paris the world knows that we will pursue the track towards a decarbonized world economy.

The train has already been put on the track and the journey has begun. Let’s see the two coming weeks what the COP26 can do to make that journey faster and better.

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.

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’.

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.

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:

Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use:

The Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda

The Mission Innovation:

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

The Green Grids Initiative

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.

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.

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.

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 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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