Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Over for coal and more – these are the results of the world climate conference

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Concrete initiatives – and lots of good intentions: The UN summit in Glasgow was marked by the goal of 1.5 degrees, but in the end they agreed on a watered-down compromise. The results at a glance.

The negotiations on the concrete implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement took a lot of time at the World Climate Conference in Glasgow. But not only many technical topics such as transparency rules or fundamental questions such as the commitment to the 1.5 degree target have shaped the COP26, there were also a number of specific initiatives.

The British COP presidency can claim to have worked through its priorities “coal, cars, cash and trees” with a plethora of agreements:

Protection of forests

The importance of forests for climate protection was recognized in the first week of the conference with the commitment of more than a hundred countries to stop deforestation by 2030. Numerous wooded countries, Brazil and Russia, are among the signatories. Climate activists criticize the target date as too late.

In Glasgow, 30 financial institutions also pledged to stop investing in deforestation by 2025. However, there is no guarantee that these voluntary commitments will be kept.

Reducing methane gas emissions

Also in the first week of the conference, around one hundred countries, including the USA and the EU, agreed to reduce their emissions of the important greenhouse gas methane by 30 percent by 2030. According to the environmental organization Clean Air Task Force, the greenhouse gas savings achieved in this way would correspond to those achieved by closing more than 1,000 coal-fired power plants. Global warming could thus be reduced by 0.2 degrees.

However, it is unclear how and how often this objective is checked. In addition, major methane emitters such as China, India, Russia and Australia did not join the agreement. In the second week of the conference, however, China pledged to reduce its methane gas emissions in its climate protection agreement with the USA.

Moving away from fossil fuels

In the first week of the conference, Great Britain, the USA and around 20 other countries announced that they would withdraw from financing coal, crude oil and natural gas projects abroad by the end of next year. Germany only joined in the following week when it became clear that under this agreement, investments in gas infrastructure are still possible in individual cases, for example for the transition from coal energy to renewable energies.

In addition, an alliance for the withdrawal from the production and use of crude oil and natural gas, the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance (Boga), was founded. Environmentalists welcomed the initiative, but criticized the fact that it initially only includes governments of around a dozen countries and regions, including France, Ireland and Greenland. And even these do not want to do without fossil fuels overnight, but rather continue to use oil and gas temporarily.

In addition, there were various individual commitments for the coal phase-out. The world’s third largest coal user, Vietnam, does not want to build any new coal-fired power plants. For the sixth largest coal producer South Africa, a billion euro package for the coal phase-out was put together with Germany’s participation. However, instead of phase-out, pressure from China and India, which are heavily dependent on coal, is now only a step-by-step phase-down.

Climate-friendly road traffic

An alliance of around 30 countries as well as cities, regions, car manufacturers and other companies promised the complete switch to emission-free cars by 2040 at the latest. Germany did not join because the agreement excluded the use of so-called e-fuels in internal combustion engines.

Other large carmaker locations such as France and Japan as well as the largest auto sales markets in the USA and China are not participating in the British initiative. Of the German car manufacturers, only Mercedes Benz is involved.

The USA-China deal

With its revised climate targets presented shortly before COP26, China caused a disappointment: a peak in greenhouse gas emissions will not occur until sometime before 2030 and CO2 neutrality only until 2060. On Wednesday evening, the People’s Republic surprisingly announced an agreement with the USA for more climate protection in the coming years . The two world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters recognize the “gap” between the 1.5 degree target and the current climate protection measures and want to reduce this with “concrete plans”.

What these look like is unclear. COP participants nevertheless saw the agreement as a significant boost for the negotiations in Glasgow.

Aid pledges for poorer countries

As usual at UN climate conferences, there were also some aid pledges in Glasgow. For example, 413 million dollars (360.9 million euros) were pledged for the Fund for Adaptation of the 46 Least Developed Countries to Climate Change, the LDCF, of which 100 million euros came from Germany.

Record pledges of $ 356 million were received for the International Adjustment Fund. The developing countries emphasize, however, that advancing climate change is significantly increasing the need for finance.

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