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News from COP26 dominated by energy announcements and pledges

The UN Conference on Climate (COP26) is in full swing, with people traveling to Glasgow from all over the world to talk climate matters since Sunday.

World leaders have been signing all manner of pledges and making announcements, countries are making commitments to protecting forests and – thus far – the reduction of methane emissions and scaling up finance commitments dominate headlines.

Countries from Canada to Russia to Brazil (which announced an increase to its Nationally Determined Contributions) all endorsed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use. At the convening of world leaders on forests, 114 countries committed to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. This pledge is backed by $12 billion in public and $7.2 billion in private funding.

Speaking at a high level side event on Monday, African Development Bank (AfDB) President Dr Akinwumo Adesina highlighted the importance of stopping desertification in Africa’s Sahel and turning the region green.

Adesina said desertification, obliteration by sand dunes, and droughts continue to pummel vast areas of the Sahara and the Sahel. “Life is unbearable, so people migrate, populations are displaced and conflicts are aggravated as previously co-existing communities of farmers and herders engage in relentless battles over declining communal resources,” he explained. 

The AfDB President noted that for the millions of people in the region, it was either adapt or see the disappearance of the Sahel.

 The AfDB has committed to mobilise $6.5 billion towards the Great Green Wall initiative, by 2025. This is 45% of the $14.5 billion that development partners committed to the initiative at the One Planet Summit in Paris. It also represents 20% of the $33 billion needed to deliver on the 10-year priority investments of the Great Green Wall by 2030.

In other news at COP26

More than 35 world leaders backed and signed the new Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda that will see countries and business collaborate to scale and speed up development and deployment of clean technologies and drive down costs.

Work will focus on power, road transport, hydrogen, steel and the agriculture sector, which together represent more than half of total global emissions. Leaders who signed the Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda committed to discussing global progress every year in each sector starting in 2022. This will be supported by annual reports from IRENA and IEA and UN High Level Champions. Also, annual discussions of Ministers across governments convened around the Mission Innovation and Clean Energy Ministerials.

UN High-Level Climate Champions for COP25 and COP26, Gonzalo Munoz and Nigel Topping: “More than 18 sectors of the global economy have already achieved critical momentum, with key private sector actors mobilising behind the breakthroughs necessary to achieve a net-zero world in time.

“Now, with more than 35 world leaders signing up to the Breakthrough Agenda, governments across the world will help dramatically scale and speed up the race to zero emissions and deliver the promise of the Paris Agreement. This is what the future of COP is all about – catalysing an innovative ambition loop between political leadership and the dynamism of the private sector to drive towards a resilient, prosperous zero carbon future.”

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The initiative announcements at COP26 are coming thick and fast

Leaders raised the importance of adaptation to the impacts of climate change as a matter of survival. New countries came forward with Adaptation Communications, bringing the number of people covered by them and National Adaptation Plans to 2.3 billion. 

Now it is up to negotiators to thrash out the systems and rules that underpin delivery. Early drafts of negotiating texts will be tabled on many issues and then the experts work to find common ground.

Other initiatives expected to launch in support of the Glasgow Breakthroughs include:

  • The UK-India led Green Grids initiative – One Sun One World One Grid. Endorsed by more than 80 countries this will mobilise political will, finance and technical assistance to connect continents, countries and communities to the very best renewable sources of power to ensure no one is left without access to lean energy.
  • The Rockefeller Foundation, IKEA Foundation and Bezos Earth Fund have launched the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet.
  • AIM4C, an initiative led by the US and UAE, is committed to accelerating innovation in sustainable agriculture. They have garnered $4 billion in increased investment in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovations, which includes $1 billion from the US.
  • The Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, headed by Bill Gates, is a programme aimed at raising R3 billion concessional capital to catalyse up to $30 billion in investments to reduce clean technology costs and create markets for green products for green hydrogen, direct air capture, long-duration energy storage and sustainable aviation fuel (this includes £200 million from the UK).
  • The First Movers Coalition, a US-led buyers club of 25 global companies making purchasing commitments to help commercialise clean emerging technologies across hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as steel, trucking, shipping, aviation, aluminium, concrete, chemicals and direct air capture.

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New net zero pledges and NDC targets

Monday saw India, Thailand, Nepal, Nigeria and Vietnam make new net zero pledges at COP26. This means 90% of the global economy is covered by some sort of net zero commitment.

India’s announcement included a suite of ambitions 2030 commitments including 500GW of non fossil fuel power capacity, 50% energy requirements from renewable energy sources and a 45% reduction in carbon intensity of the economy.

Argentina, Brazil, Guyana, Mauritania, Morocco and Mozambique have also announced new NDC targets and new Long-Term Strategies were announced or submitted by Jamaica, Kazakhstan and the US.

Ireland, Spain, Australia and Luxembourg have made new commitments on climate finance.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.