Photo credit: Guillermo Flores / IPSNEW YORK, May 27 (IPS) – The past few weeks have sparked optimism on the climate protection front. It began on April 18 with the US-China announcement of climate cooperation. This was followed in quick succession by the EU Parliament’s vote to cut emissions by 55% by 2030, the UK’s promise to cut 78% by 2035. Japan doubled its commitment based on 2013 levels and US President Biden’s promise from 26% to 46% of a 50-52% reduction, also by 2030 (compared to 2005).
With such cuts providing a clear avenue for limiting temperature growth, only the most ardent cynic would deny that this was a good start to the Glasgow run-up. Not to mention the announcement by a court in the Netherlands when we wrote this article (May 26th) that Shell needs to cut its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2019. This could lead to a wave of lawsuits against fossil fuel companies.
An important question now is how we can use the Glasgow climate summit to build on the good intentions of governments.
As we noted in a recent article published in IPS, the limitations on face-to-face meetings in a Covid-hit world are a particular concern for such a complex, high-stakes process. The office that manages the preparation process for Glasgow recently announced that it will hold virtual “informal meetings” starting next week. While we welcome the resumption of such discussions under the umbrella of the United Nations and see an advantage in online discussions, they will only get us this far.
We hope that diplomats, key stakeholders and journalists can meet in person before the official start of the Summit in Glasgow, possibly in October as part of a negotiation bubble in Italy (where the G20 will take place on October 30th and 31st). and the UK (which will host the summit from November 1st to 12th).
The current work on COVID vaccine passports should make such face-to-face meetings entirely feasible. In the last few days, the EU has pushed ahead with plans to introduce it as early as July. In addition, the UK’s offer to offer vaccinations to delegations from developing countries is a welcome move and should be extended to other stakeholders.
National stakeholder climate alliances
What else could help drive the progress ahead of Glasgow? We would advocate that stakeholder coalitions could play an important role at the national level.
Such coalitions have already shown their worth. In 2017, Michael Bloomberg and former California Governor Jerry Brown launched America’s Pledge and America’s All In coalition in response to President Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement .
The coalition “America is everything in” has meanwhile grown to 147 cities, 1157 companies, 3 states, 2 tribal nations and almost 500 universities, religious groups, cultural institutions and health organizations. This is a powerful – and still growing – coalition committed to reducing emissions by at least 50% from 2005 to 2030.
Accelerating America’s Pledge – a report released by Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2020 – not only identifies areas that still need to be worked on, but also identifies progress so far. This work has helped lay a strong foundation for President Biden’s recent announcement of a nationally set US contribution, which is expected to be reduced by 52% in 2030 compared to 2005.
Such partnerships and commitments also take place internationally. In 2019, the Climate Ambition Alliance announced commitments from cities, regions and companies to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
This alliance, which includes 992 companies, 449 cities, 21 regions, 505 universities and 38 of the largest investors, has made a significant promise as it represents economic interest groups that cover a quarter of global carbon emissions. This type of coalition has paved the way for national governments and others to achieve similar goals.
Such coalitions can also be a model of how stakeholders might act in the run-up to Glasgow. The welcome promises made by many governments can be supported and held more accountable by a coalition of key national interest groups.
For example, imagine what national stakeholder coalitions in perhaps the 20 largest emissions countries in the world could do to ensure that governments deliver on their pledges with clear, actionable guidelines and funding to meet the promised cuts.
In addition, national stakeholder coalitions could encourage governments to make new, more ambitious commitments in advance of Glasgow, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
When a government is lagging behind, such national coalitions can help keep the pressure going by making their own commitments to their city, region, or corporate sector.
Such coalitions were also strongly supported by the United Nations. “All countries, companies, cities and financial institutions must commit to zero, with clear and credible plans to achieve this from today,” urged UN Secretary General António Guterres in March.
Independent monitoring and review
One specific area in which stakeholder coalitions can play a role, both domestically and internationally, is to press for consistent monitoring, measurement and reporting of emissions. This is an area that was not resolved by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, yet it is vital if we are to ensure full transparency and accountability in delivering on government commitments.
The Glasgow Summit is judged, at least in part, by how it catalyzes not only greater ambitions to reduce emissions, but also ensures that they are consistently measured. Some countries, especially developing countries, need significant financial support for such actions and this should be another result of Glasgow.
The United Nations-sponsored Race to Zero campaign plays a useful role in this area. Race to Zero, the largest alliance of non-state actors committed to achieving net zero emissions before 2050, recently released a report setting out criteria for how stakeholders set, measure and report on net zero commitments can refund.
Interestingly, the Glasgow Financial Alliance is taking a similar approach for Net Zero, a group of 160 financial institutions with total assets of $ 70 trillion.
Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Change and Finance and Prime Minister Johnson’s Climate Finance Advisor for COP26, will lead this new grouping.
If these national coalitions are to be taken seriously, national and international independent monitoring and review may need to be carried out. Reporting and review should be done annually.
Working together in our cities could be the key to realizing Glasgow’s potential
Cities could be critical to Glasgow’s success. “Cities consume a large part of the world’s energy supply and are responsible for around 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat and cause the earth to warm,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat in 2019.
Launching in the cities of the top 20 emitters could be a good first step in bringing national stakeholders into line with the Paris Agreement. Cities have the potential to be more than just a powerful engine for change. They can keep the world moving even when national political leadership is absent in a country or is affected by a change of direction after an election.
The recent positive announcements by some governments for stronger NDCs are to be commended. Only if everyone involved is committed and involved can we create a sustainable way of living together on this “only earth” that we have.
Felix Dodds is an advocate and writer for sustainable development. His new book Tomorrow’s People and New Technologies: The Way We Live Our Lives is out in September. He is co-author of Only One Earth with Maurice Strong and Michael Strauss and is negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals with Ambassador David Donoghue and Jimena Leiva Roesch.
Chris Spence is an environmental consultant, author, and author of Global Warming: Personal Solutions for a Healthy Planet. He is a veteran of many COPs and other UNFCCC negotiations over the past three decades.
(2021) – All rights reserved