Glasgow Brief: Draft COP26 deal increases pressure on Australia as US and China issue rare joint statement – Community News
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Glasgow Brief: Draft COP26 deal increases pressure on Australia as US and China issue rare joint statement

COP26 President Alok Sharma addresses the opening of the conference in Glasgow.  Photo by IISD/ENB.

Wednesday in Glasgow marked a bit of a turning point for the negotiations, with a draft agreement released by the COP26 presidency outlining a range of potential commitments that could emerge from the COP26 talks.

The United States and China also released a rare joint statement committing the two countries to stepping up their cooperation on climate change, with a strong focus on stepping up their respective actions over the next decade.

Draft text calls for ‘accelerated coal phase-out’, stronger 2030 targets

COP President Alok Sharma released a number of draft decisions on Wednesday, providing somewhat of a basis for the decisions that could emerge from the talks, including a possible commitment to phase out the use of coal and end government subsidies on fossil fuels.

To give an impression of what is currently being considered by the Glasgow negotiators, the draft decision text includes the following proposals:

  • a call on countries to accelerate the phasing out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies;
  • recognizing the need to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030;
  • encourage countries to review and tighten their 2030 targets, if necessary to align with the temperature target of the Paris Agreement by the end of 2022
  • an invitation to the UN Secretary-General to convene another ‘top of world leaders’ in 2023 – targeting 2030 targets

While the proposed text would not commit countries to phasing out subsidies for coal and fossil fuels and does not include a timeline, it would be the first time such a call has been incorporated into a formal agreement stemming from UN climate talks.

The text also proposes recognizing that global carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by at least 45 percent by 2030 to maintain a 1.5 degree limit on global warming. Again, while the text wouldn’t commit countries to such a target, it could be used to pressure countries like Australia to bring their intermediate targets to at least that level.

The draft text proposes to reassess the country’s 2030 targets as early as next year, with negotiators recognizing that there is still a significant ambition gap to keep global warming within safer limits.

The draft decision is far from settled and will be the subject of ongoing discussions, as well as efforts by countries strongly opposing parts of the draft text.

This means that the language surrounding a fossil fuel phase-out could eventually be sunk by countries like Australia or Saudi Arabia.

Providing draft text is of no benefit to developing countries.

While the drafts contain unprecedented language about the phasing out of fossil fuels, developing countries have expressed concern at the lack of detail on other critical messages, including providing financial support to vulnerable countries to respond to the impacts of climate change, which described the draft text as “unbalanced”.

The chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States, diplomat Aubrey Webson of Antigua and Barbuda, said the COP26 talks were necessary to reach a meaningful agreement to make progress towards establishing a “loss and damage” mechanism that would compensate vulnerable countries for the damage caused by climate change.

“The text provides a foundation for progress, but needs to be strengthened in key areas to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, especially in the area of ​​finance,” Webson said.

“If we don’t scale up funding, including the long-awaited recognition of a separate and additional component for loss and damage, we won’t meet the emissions ambition we need for 1.5C.”

United States and China issue rare joint statement on climate cooperation

On the positive side, the world’s two biggest emitters have issued a rare joint statement committing the United States and China to further cooperating to increase their respective ambitions to tackle climate change, with a particular focus on stepping up measures in the 2020s.

The statement includes a commitment by the United States to achieve “100% carbon-free electricity by 2035” and for China to “phase out coal consumption” in its next five-year plan from 2026 and “best efforts to accelerate this work”.

The two countries also agreed to convene a new “Working Group on Improving Climate Action in the 2020s” between the two countries that will meet regularly “to tackle the climate crisis,” including policy-sharing and technology.

“The United States and China… are determined to address this through their respective accelerated actions in the critical decade of the 2020s, as well as through cooperation in multilateral processes, including the UNFCCC process, to prevent catastrophic consequences the statement said.

“The United States and China welcome the significant efforts being made around the world to address the climate crisis. They nevertheless recognize that there is still a significant gap between such efforts, including their overall impact, and the efforts to be made to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Both sides emphasize the crucial importance of closing that gap as soon as possible, especially by stepping up efforts.”

There has been much talk about the absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Glasgow, with some interpreting the head of state’s lack of involvement as Chinese disinterest in the issue of climate change.

But the joint statement between the US and China could become one of the most meaningful outcomes of COP26.

Australian tech wins award in Glasgow

Students from the University of Sydney have won a major innovation award at the COP26 talks for their direct air capture technology for removing greenhouse gases.

The students, who have developed a method of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that can be powered entirely by solar energy, won the $250,000 (A$338,000) prize awarded by Tesla chief Elon Musk as part of the Sustainable Innovation Forum in Glasgow.

The student team was overseen by chemistry professor Deanna D’Alessandro’s USYD school and led by PhD student Eleanor Kearns.

“CO . remove2 from the atmosphere is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, and Australia is in a unique position to deliver the solution. It has about 300 million hectares of non-arable land with high solar intensity,” D’Alessandro said.

An artistic impression of the carbon removal technology developed by Australian students.  (Delivered).
An artistic impression of the carbon removal technology developed by Australian students. (Delivered).

Australia wins ‘first place’ fossil of the day award

For the record, international environmental groups awarded Australia the fifth ‘fossil of the day’ award at COP26, this time the ‘first place’ award for the Morrison government’s announcement that it plans to launch the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to channel an additional $500 million into carbon capture and storage technologies.