Johnson Arrives to Contention Over Fossil Fuels: COP26 Update

(Bloomberg) -- The endgame of COP26 has begun. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the U.K. hosts published a draft text that urged countries to improve their climate targets by next year. Now the other 196 nations are digesting its contents and starting to push back.Most Read from BloombergWhy Hong Kong Is Building Apartments the Size of Parking SpacesDo Prisons Deserve a Second Chance?COP26 Protests: Inflatable Cows, Megaphones and a RainbowOne of the most contentious clauses is a commitm Read More...

(Bloomberg) — The endgame of COP26 has begun. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the U.K. hosts published a draft text that urged countries to improve their climate targets by next year. Now the other 196 nations are digesting its contents and starting to push back.

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One of the most contentious clauses is a commitment to accelerate the phase out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels. The draft also seeks to boost cash for poor countries to cope with the worst impacts of climate change.

Already, India has said it won’t agree to the fossil fuel language, while former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed said the draft “fails on key asks of the most vulnerable nations.” Saudi Arabia rejected accusations that it’s blocking progress.

Key developments:

  • Draft calls for countries to rewrite national blueprints by end-2022

  • Boris Johnson, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke…

  • …before Johnson appeared in Glasgow to prod negotiations along

  • India says it needs $1 trillion and is holding back its action plan as leverage

  • China signaled it’s not joining the global pledge to cut methane

  • Shares of shipping companies fell after a plan to decarbonize routes was unveiled

(All timestamps Glasgow, Scotland)

Global Legal Impact Seen of Fossil-Fuel Reference (3:44 p.m.)

The language on an accelerated phaseout of coal use and fossil fuel subsidies could have future implications for the U.S. and international climate litigation.

If it remains in the summit communique, the reference suggests that the COP26 outcome could strengthen arguments for an international law requiring fossil fuels to remain in the ground, Catherine Higham, coordinator for the Climate Change Laws of the World Project at the Grantham Research Institute in London, said in an interview.

Sharma Insists He’s Not Trying to Rewrite Paris Agreement (3:15 p.m.)

The U.K. Presidency has always said its goal at COP is to “keep 1.5 degrees alive.” The problem in negotiations is that some parties interpret that as trying to rewrite the Paris Agreement, which after careful diplomacy back in 2015 produced an ambiguous goal of “well below 2” but with efforts to pursue 1.5 degrees.

COP26 President Alok Sharma defended his ambition to focus on 1.5 degrees — which scientists say will produce much less catastrophic outcomes than warming of just half a degree more.

“We are not seeking to reopen the Paris Agreement,” he told reporters. But he said 1.5 has been “our lode star,” because 2 degrees is a “death sentence” to some island nations.

African Nations See Article 6 as ‘Last Door’ for Climate Finance (3:15 p.m.)

The Paris Agreement’s Article 6, dealing with the creation of global carbon markets, is the major piece of unfinished business from those talks in 2015. Completing that task is the only way to ensure developing countries receive enough cash in order to adapt to climate change, according to the chair of the African Group of Negotiators.

“Article 6 is the only way, the last door open, for us,” Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale, from Gabon, said in an interview. “The position is clear now — it’s how developed countries can give clear, predictable funding flow for developing nations to support them on their adaptation action.”

Pledge on Low-Carbon Steel, Cement Aims to Spur Demand: BNEF (2:48 p.m.)

The governments of India, the U.K., Germany and Canada unveiled plans at COP26 to stoke demand for low-carbon steel, cement and concrete. Greenhouse-gas emissions from industry rose 53% over 2000-18 but many of these sectors will be hard to decarbonize, partly due to the high temperatures required in their processes and the use of CO2 for feedstock, according to BloombergNEF.

Sharma Calls for Compromise (1:30 p.m.)

Delegates are meeting to dissect the draft text published this morning, and COP President Alok Sharma urged them to get down to work fast.

“My big, big ask is to come armed with the currency of compromise,” he told delegates.

“What we agree in Glasgow will set the future for our children and grandchildren.”

He hopes near-final texts will be ready overnight.

India Objects to Fossil Fuel Language in Draft (1 p.m.)

India opposes a reference to fossil fuels that’s made it into the draft summit conclusions, Environment Secretary Rameshwar Prasad Gupta told Bloomberg News in an interview.

The draft that landed early Wednesday morning calls on countries “to accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.” It’s a first for a COP statement, though G20 declarations have included similar language.

India is also calling for $1 trillion of public funds from rich countries to allow it to invest in clean energy and respond to the worst impacts of climate change. It won’t submit a new climate plan until those funds have been promised.

“It will include mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage,” he said.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, who was meeting the Indian delegation at Glasgow, said he “won’t promise” $1 trillion for India, and still needs to look at the details.

Progress Made on Carbon-Market Talks (12:36 p.m.)

Negotiators made some headway toward a deal on international carbon markets under a new proposal published on Wednesday. They narrowed down the number of options on the three biggest sticking points: how to account for carbon credits, whether to allow old units from the Kyoto-Protocol era and how to use the cash from emissions trading.

While the 2015 Paris Agreement paved the way for countries and companies to use markets as a tool to ease the burden of pollution cuts, talks on the complicated provisions to implement its Article 6 have been deadlocked since. Under the new negotiating document, countries will consider limits on transfer of the old credits, introduce provisions to avoid double-counting of emission cuts, and ensure part of revenues from trading are funneled to developing countries for climate adaptation.

Island States Seek More Climate Finance (12:20 p.m.)

COP26 will fall short on the ambition to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees if climate finance isn’t scaled up, according to the Alliance of Small Island States. They called for a separate provision for addressing loss and damage caused by climate change. “We have limited time left in the COP to get this right and send a clear message to our children, and the most vulnerable communities, that we hear you and we are taking this crisis seriously,” said Aubrey Webson, the AOSIS Chair, in a statement.

Academics Say Tougher Stance on Warming Needed (12:19 p.m.)

Experts are weighing in on the draft text, and several aren’t impressed by what they’ve seen on the language to limit global warming.

“The current text shows that the world’s governments are yet again incapable of addressing this issue. Politics is getting in the way,” Neil Harris, professor of atmospheric informatics at Cranfield University in England, said in an emailed statement. “They seem to be happy if they can get a reduction in warming from 2.7 to 2.4 Celsius agreed at this COP and to leave further decisions for the future.”

“It is important that this agreement recognizes the importance of the 1.5 degree goal, and also that the latest science from the IPCC shows that deep cuts (45%) in emissions are needed in the next nine years,” said William Collins, professor of meteorology at the University of Reading. “The current pledges in Glasgow are not even close to meeting these cuts by 2030.”

Airlines Pledge More Green Fuel Use…. (11:54 a.m.)

Airlines, criticized for promoting a questionable carbon offset program to address greenhouse gas emissions, are now pledging to scale up use of sustainable aviation fuels.

Carriers from United Airlines Holdings Inc. to British Airways owner IAG SA are showcasing their commitments during Transport Day Wednesday in Glasgow. Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. have added their weight to a U.S. buyers’ cooperative.

Yet there are issues with SAF, a substitute for fossil-based kerosene powering today’s jet engines. First, there’s a chicken-and-egg challenge. The fuel is incredibly expensive, and as a result, there’s very little of it being produced. Without volumes, the price won’t come down. And there’s no guarantee it’ll be effective. Read more in today’s Green Insight newsletter.

….But Ticket Prices May Go Up (11:54 a.m.)

Increasing the use of sustainable aviation fuels is likely to raise airline ticket prices, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said on a COP26 panel.

“That’s the way it should be,” he said. “The ticket prices should be a little higher to offset the impact on the environment.” While the fuel should eventually become cheaper, in the medium-term the cost will be high.

Zero-Emission Shipping Routes to Focus on Two Corridors (11:34 a.m.)

The pledge by almost 20 countries to establish zero-emission shipping corridors will initially focus on two cargo flows, one carrying iron ore from Australia to Japan and the other containerized goods from Asia to Europe.

The routes were chosen based on emission levels and ease of access to zero-carbon fuels such as ‘green’ ammonia and methanol, according to Faustine Delasalle, co-executive director of the Mission Possible Partnership.

‘Fossil Fuels’ Make Their First Appearance in a COP Document (11:16 a.m.)

Historically, “fossil fuels” don’t get a mention in the big statements that countries sign on to at the end of COP meetings. The first draft of COP26’s final statement includes language that “calls upon” countries to accelerate phasing out coal and subsidies for fossil fuels. The draft will go through revisions up until the very end of the meeting. While small island nations want the mention to stay, large fossil-fuel producers and consumers seem opposed.

India Won’t Update NDC Until $1 Trillion by 2030 Is Secured (11:07 a.m.)

Last week Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanded that rich countries provide $1 trillion in climate finance. The timeline on that demand wasn’t clear until now, when a country delegate confirmed that India is seeking that sum for itself by 2030. Even though Modi announced India will be net-zero emissions by 2070 and upped its renewable goal, it hasn’t submitted the official document with those pledges called Nationally Determined Contributions. “Let’s be clear that India will not update its NDCs till there is clarity on climate finance,” an unnamed Indian delegate told the Hindustan Times.

Saudi Arabia Says It’s Not Blocking Progress (10:56 a.m.)

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman rejected accusations from NGOs that his country has been blocking progress at COP negotiations.

“What you’ve been hearing is a false allegation, and a cheat and a lie,” he told reporters in Glasgow.

He said Saudi Arabia was “working well” with the U.K. Presidency. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson this morning.

Johnson is heading back to Glasgow today.

China Says Clear Plans Needed to Avoid ‘Empty Slogans’ (10:33 a.m.)

Xie Zhenhua, China’s special envoy for climate change, spoke at an event at the Denmark pavilion. He reiterated that China plans to release a detailed road map for reaching net zero by 2060, and stressed that the country is focused on implementing its decarbonization measures.

“The key to tackling the climate crisis is cooperation,” he said. Countries need to have “clear timelines and clear action plans, otherwise it’s just empty slogans.”

Pelosi Defends U.S. Climate Action, Despite Absence on Coal Phaseout (10:29)

U.S. lawmakers insisted the country is committed to combating climate change and propelling clean energy — even if it hasn’t joined dozens of other nations in vowing to phase out coal.

“I don’t accept the fact that America has not assumed its moral authority in all of this,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when challenged on the omission during a news conference at COP26 Wednesday. “The narrative across America is one about saving the planet for the good health of our children, clean air, clean water.”

The absence of the U.S. from the coal phaseout pledge reflects a political reality in the country, where President Joe Biden is trying to win support from Senator Joe Manchin of coal-rich West Virginia for broad climate-and-spending legislation. But the “political constraints” aren’t getting in the way of action, said Representative Jared Huffman, a Democrat from California.

China Signals It’s Not Joining Methane Pledge (10:19)

Wang Yi, China’s chief negotiator, said in an interview that he’s “very optimistic” about negotiations but signaled the nation won’t join a global pledge to cut methane emissions 30% by the end of the decade from 2020 levels.

“The U.S. keeps telling people to join it for new pledges but without giving solutions about how to do it,” he said. “Young people say there’s a lot of ‘blah, blah, blah’ here which to some degree it’s true.”

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said Tuesday that he’d been up until 3 a.m., working with Russia and China to participate in the methane pledge.

UAE Is Bidding to Host COP28 in 2023 (10:15 a.m.)

“Many countries” have supported UAE’s bid to host the 2023 summit, Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum said on Twitter. The winner of the bid is set to be announced in two days.

EV Maker Polestar Throws a Punch at Car Industry’s Climate Pledge (10:10 a.m.)

Carmakers moving as “slowly as they can” in the switch to electric vehicles will see combustion cars still driving around causing pollution beyond 2050, the chief of EV maker Polestar said.

The scathing comments take aim at some manufacturers like Ford Motor Co. and Mercedes-Benz pledging to phase out fossil fuel vehicles between 2035 and 2040, as part of the Glasgow Declaration on Zero Emission Cars and Vans at the COP26 climate summit Wednesday. Polestar’s Chief Executive Officer Thomas Ingenlath said the industry must set in motion more radical change including clean supply chains and recycling.

“Car companies are still talking about selling petrol and diesel cars until 2040,” Ingenlath said in a statement, meaning they’d still be on the road well over a decade later. “They are delaying one of the most powerful climate protection solutions available to us.”

Eleven Automakers Take Road to Net-Zero in COP26 Statement: BNEF

Draft ‘Fails’ Vulnerable Nations: Ambassador (9:44 a.m.)

Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed is not impressed, saying the draft “fails on key asks of the most vulnerable nations.”

“Above all, there are no actions in the first text to meaningfully keep 1.5 within reach and accelerate adaptation,” Nasheed, who also serves as the Climate Vulnerable Forum’s ambassador for ambition, said in a statement. He’s referring to the goal to limit global warming to 1.5-degrees Celsius.

The archipelago nation of the Maldives is one of the most at-risk to climate change. Nasheed said the draft text’s reference to $100 billion a year in climate finance from rich countries by 2023 is “unacceptable,” adding that $500 billion needs to be mobilized over the period from 2020-2024. COP also needs to take steps to explore financing options for loss and damage, he said.

Fossil Fuels Are Named and Shamed in Draft (9:36 a.m.)

The burning of fossil fuels is the chief reason the world comes together for annual UN summits on climate change, but the accords produced by those conferences have so far not singled out oil, gas and coal. There are signs that will change in Glasgow.

The draft for the first time calls on parties “to accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.”

It’s just one line, without any fixed deadline. What’s more, the Group of 20 nations has been formally calling for a phase out of fossil fuel subsidies since 2009. Still, environmentalists hailed the shift.

“It’s quite helpful to have those sectors named very specifically and those types of actions named very specifically,” said David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute. As the draft is negotiated further, “the real issue is whether it can be kept in,” said Helen Mountford, vice president for climate and economics at WRI.

Nations Pledge ‘Green’ Shipping Routes (9:09 a.m.)

Almost twenty countries have pledged to support the establishment of at least six zero-emission shipping routes by the middle of the decade, according to a statement on the U.K. government’s website.

Draft Criticized as Vague on Vulnerable Nations (8:50 a.m.)

“On one side of the scales, it advances a detailed process for accelerating climate mitigation goals,” said Mohamed Adow with Power Shift Africa. However, “on finance and loss and damage, it is fuzzy and vague. The missed deadline for the $100 billion promise doesn’t get acknowledged – and this is a key ask from vulnerable countries.”

U.S. Weighs In on Aviation Goals (8:47 a.m.)

The U.S. gave a shot in the arm Tuesday night to a U.K.-led effort to secure more commitments for net-zero goals in aviation at the Glasgow summit. President Joe Biden’s administration is proposing a 2050 target for carbon-neutral flying, bringing the U.S. in line with the airline industry’s main global lobby, the International Air Transport Association.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will attend Wednesday to underscore the message. The goal is to get more countries to sign on, building pressure for the UN’s aviation body, the International Civil Aviation Organization, to adopt tougher carbon goals at its next assembly in September 2022. In October, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for making more ambitious and credible ICAO emissions targets “an urgent priority.” The campaign to bring more countries into line with the targets kicks off later Wednesday.

Zero-Emission Auto Outcome Disappoints (8:30 a.m.)

An effort to get governments and automotive companies to sign on to all sales of new cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2040 — and by 2035 in leading markets — has largely fallen flat.

While some major manufacturers are signatories, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, most of the world’s largest producers — led by Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG — are missing. The U.S., China, Germany, France and Japan also are absent.

GM, Mercedes and other automakers laid out plans earlier this year that put them on track to meet the COP26 declaration, which isn’t binding and lacks any enforcement mechanism.

Nations With 20% of Global Auto Market Join Climate Pact: BNEF

Reaction to Early Draft Starts to Come in (8:18 a.m.)

The draft text’s omission of key details on how to ramp up finance for adaptation as well as loss and damage were a chief source of concern.

“Adaptation finance is somewhat positive but weak without a date for achieving it,” said Waskow of World Resources Institute’s International Climate Initiative. “Loss and damage finance is still not nailed down at all,” with just a placeholder for ministerial consultations.

Yamide Dagnet, director of climate negotiations at WRI, notes a placeholder for the rules that reveals there is still “tension and impasse” over how to govern carbon trading, particularly over whether to require a portion of trade proceeds to go toward adaptation, as well as whether both donor and recipient countries should be able to take credit for emissions reductions when allowances are exchanged.

BNEF Theme: COP26 in Glasgow

Draft Urges More Action Still (7:25 a.m.)

Countries will be asked to rewrite their national climate blueprints by the end of next year to bring them in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, according to an early draft document emerging from COP26 negotiations.

It also calls on the United Nations to report every year on what the overall impact of countries’ climate plans is on global warming. At the moment, they put the planet on course for 2.7 degrees of warming.

To catch up on Tuesday’s developments, click here.

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