The 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) started in Glasgow October 31st. Chaired by the UK, government representatives of 197 countries will take part in negotiations. The heads of state and government are meeting on 1 and 2 November. Federal Chancellor Merkel is also attending this World Leaders Segment. The goal is for the international community to agree on the last unresolved issues concerning the rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement by the end of the conference, scheduled for 12 November.
Federal Environment Minister Schulze commented: “In Glasgow, the international community must conclude negotiations on unresolved issues concerning the rules for international cooperation on climate action. If we succeed, the Glasgow conference can usher in a new phase in international climate cooperation, focussing on concrete implementation. This is urgently necessary. The world is still a long way from a 1.5 degrees Celsius path. This is why the European Union submitted a new, ambitious climate target, or nationally determined contribution (NDC), to the United Nations. The US and many other countries have followed. We have the UN Climate Change Conference to thank for these developments, even though they were set in motion long before the summit in Glasgow. They show that the large majority of countries are serious about the promise they made in Paris to set new, more ambitious targets every five years. Some of the world’s largest economies have yet to follow suit and announce their own more ambitious plans. The meeting of heads of state and government at the start of the conference in Glasgow would be a good opportunity.”
Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller stated: “The global climate disaster can be averted. We have the technology and the know-how. The deciding factor is the international will to take resolute action. Developed countries bear the main responsibility for the global transformation to green, socially just growth. The G20 countries alone account for 80 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. Commitment to a new way of thinking and a new sense of responsibility must put political decision-makers and business leaders onto a new path towards decoupling global growth from resource consumption and tying it to our planetary boundaries. The UN Climate Change Conference also needs to provide protection for the poorest and most vulnerable countries. They are already particularly affected by the impacts of climate change. Developed countries have to stand by their pledge to provide 100 billion euros every year for international climate finance. The outstanding funds should primarily be used to drive forward a global energy transition and provide better protection for developing countries against the impacts of climate change”.
The Glasgow Climate Change Conference marks the first stage of the mechanism for raising the level of ambition that was agreed in Paris in 2015. Countries committed to a review every five years of whether they can raise the ambition of their NDCs in order to move closer to the common goal of limiting global heating to well below 2 degrees, and ideally to 1.5 degrees. In December 2020 during Germany’s Council Presidency, the European Union raised its 2030 climate target from a 40 to a 55 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 levels. It also notified the United Nations of this new target. Germany increased its reduction target from 55 to 65 percent. It also committed to climate neutrality by 2045 and made both these targets legally binding in its Federal Climate Change Act.
Updated NDCs have now been submitted by 143 countries. However, according to calculations by the UN Climate Change Secretariat, the total sum of these NDCs would only limit global heating to approximately 2.7 degrees. This is partly due to the fact that some major economies have not yet set new targets. It means that the international community is still a long way from its 1.5 degrees target. However, without the Paris Agreement and the process of annual climate change conferences, the world would be under threat from global heating of 5 to 6 degrees.
The market mechanisms in accordance with Article 6 of the Paris Agreement are also on the agenda in Glasgow. These mechanisms deal with how countries and other stakeholders, such as municipalities and companies, can count additional emission reductions achieved through international cooperation towards their national targets. Germany and the EU insist on a system with no loopholes or double counting. The EU has already declared that it will reach its new climate target without counting reductions achieved abroad. Further items on the agenda include countries’ reporting obligations regarding their climate progress and common rules on the time frames and comparability of NDCs.
In addition to the rulebook, decisions are pending at the beginning of the conference on implementation issues, the “Glasgow Breakthroughs”. The aim is to create coalitions of pioneers on four common goals by 2030: Firstly, to make emission-free energy the most affordable and reliable option for all countries. Secondly, to make zero-emission vehicles the new normal all over the world. Thirdly, to make practically net zero steel the first choice on global markets. And fourthly, to make hydrogen affordable and available worldwide as an option for climate action. The wording of the “breakthroughs” on steel and hydrogen are compromises – Germany wants to take things further, with a clearer focus on green hydrogen based on renewable energies.
Another key issue will be climate finance, for example support for developing countries in the fight against climate change in the form of public and private funding from developed countries. Developed countries had already committed in Copenhagen in 2009 to mobilising 100 billion dollars per year from 2020. However, in 2019 the total sum was only 80 billion dollars. Further pledges are therefore expected in Glasgow. Germany is leading the way. We have more than doubled our international climate finance since 2014. At the G7 summit in summer, the German government announced an increase in its climate finance from budget funds from the current four billion euros to six billions euros by 2025. Total public and private finance can therefore be increased from almost eight to well over 10 billion euros.
Negotiations at expert level will follow the World Leaders Segment on 1 and 2 November. Unresolved issues will then be tackled by ministers towards the end of the conference.