COP26 hot air is more than progress

Outside of the COP26 summit in Glasgow this week, the slogan of climate activists was: “Keep 1.5 alive.” It refers to a goal in the 2015 Paris Agreement to try to limit global warming to higher than pre-industrial levels A safer 1.5 degrees Celsius.With the lack of leadership in the most important countries in the world, the chance to achieve this goal now is “Close to zero”, According to the International Energy Agency. The failure of China and the United States to sign an agreement to phase out coal production put more pressure on the second week of the meeting to detail how to fulfill the grand promises that have been successfully achieved.

The past week has provided a reason for cynicism: the leader of China, the world’s largest polluter, has not even appeared.Although U.S. President Joe Biden quickly criticized Xi Jinping’s absence, he himself decided not to sign the coal agreement. The key to his efforts Pass a $130 million infrastructure bill-a major blow to what should be the flagship policy of COP.

Since Xi has not left China for two years, he has almost no chance to attend the meeting (Xi instead sent a written statement as the UK) Reject video link speech). But this has increased China’s sense of isolationism. Part of the success of the 2015 Paris Conference of the Parties was due to the intense diplomatic pace of Washington and Beijing in their preparations. China has pledged not to provide funding for foreign coal-fired power plants, and has set a goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2060, and has embarked on its own path. But in the process of responding to the energy crisis, it continues to invest in domestic power plants.Multilateralism should still make sense for China, especially when it is The biggest recipient of climate funding From the Development Bank.

Nevertheless, some tangible progress has been made this week.About 100 countries Methane trading, Although some large emitters have not signed up.India Committed to net zero, Although it will be 2070 instead of 2050. Developed countries have proposed a $8.5 billion plan to free South Africa from dependence on coal. This targeted support for poorer countries should be encouraged.

Former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney demands a pledge of $130 trillion from private sector assets Exaggerated, But he did manage to guide financial institutions to make meaningful commitments. He was right to emphasize the need for the private sector to fund the transition to net zero. But the institutions that signed the initiative have come under fire for still funding fossil fuels. In order to gain credibility, they need to promise to withdraw the funds before the deadline. Without policies and regulations, companies cannot be expected to take action. Regulators can consider whether they should punish lenders by increasing the cost of capital for holding legacy brown assets on their balance sheets.

This week’s IEA’s preliminary inventory of commitments estimate that their impact may limit global warming to 1.8C. As long as these promises are fulfilled, this is progress-even if it is not 1.5C.

This raises difficult law enforcement issues. The commitments made at COP26 are not legally binding. The ill-fated Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which the United States signed but never ratified, highlights the difficulty of turning promises into reality. Nevertheless, countries should explain at the next meeting of the parties why they did not comply with the agreement reached at this meeting. Otherwise, it is easy to over-commit and under-deliver, as demonstrated by the first 25 COPs. There is only one week left to distinguish this COP from all other COPs.

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