Tag Archives: COP26

After COP26, we’re still headed towards a climate crisis

After some last-minute changes, countries agreed on a deal to tackle global warming at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. While the agreement keeps alive the hope of avoiding a temperature increase of over 1.5ºC, it’s starting to look more like a dream than actual hope — and many of the 200 national delegations and civil society activists expressed their disappointment at the result.

Image credit: UN Climate Change / Flickr

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the approved text is a “compromise” that reflects the “interests, conditions contradictions and the state of political will” in the world. He argued that “important steps” were taken at the COP26 climate summit but said the collective will wasn’t strong enough to overcome countries’ different positions.

“The approved texts are a compromise. They reflect the interests, the conditions, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today. They take important steps, but unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions.”

“As I said at the opening, we must accelerate action to keep the 1.5-degree goal alive. Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread,” he added.

Coal is still on the table

For two weeks, the small city Glasgow became the hub of global climate politics. Presidents and ministers flew into the UN conference to agree on how to best implement the Paris Agreement, a climate deal signed by virtually every country in 2015 in Paris to prevent global average temperatures from increasing more than 1.5ºC (above pre-industrial levels). 

The Glasgow Climate Pact, the name given to the text approved yesterday, calls on countries to accelerate emissions reductions by presenting new national climate plans by 2022, three years earlier than agreed in Paris. It was also the first climate agreement to acknowledge the role of fossil fuels as a driver of climate change. 

But overall, the pact lacks teeth.

It doesn’t mention any clear financial mechanisms through which to address the loss and damage that climate change is causing in the developing world. Following resistance from rich countries such as the United States and the European Union, the Glasgow Climate Pact only promises a future “dialogue” on this — the same type of delay that got us here in the first place.

The text was also watered down in the last minutes of the conference after lobbying from India and China, both coal-dependent countries. While the reference to fossil fuels was welcomed by climate activists, the text initially called for the “phase out” of coal-fired power in countries and finally ended up reading “phase down” of coal use. 

Negotiations had to end on Friday but were delayed as countries struggled to agree on the rules for carbon markets, something that has been unresolved for six years since the Paris agreement was signed. Now, the Glasgow Climate Pact will be the reference point for the trading of carbon credits between developed and developing countries. 

“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5C alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action,” Alok Sharma, the UK cabinet minister who presided COP26, said in tears at the ending plenary. “We have responded. History has been made here in Glasgow.”

A bittersweet agreement

For civil society, the goal the UK had set for the conference to “keep alive” the Paris Agreement 1.5ºC target was too modest. Global temperatures have already increased 1.1ºC and are on a growing trend amid a lack of ambition by countries. With their current pledges, the world would face a 2.4ºC warming by the end of the century. 

Image credit: CAN.

“Leaders came to Glasgow with some real progress but also the realization this was not enough to keep their citizens safe. By agreeing this emergency package they have responded to rising climate damage with an action plan to keep 1.5C within reach. But the real task begins now,” Nick Mabey, head of the thinktank E3G, said in a statement. 

The agreement struck in Glasgow was acknowledged by the UK as “imperfect” — and that’s as harsh a language as we can expect from career diplomats. The pact pushes much of the hard work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions for next year, just like previous COPs delayed it for this year. Developing nations said it’s an unbalanced agreement that weighs heavily towards emissions reduction and doesn’t concentrate much on adapting to the consequences. 

The text notes with “deep regret” that rich countries failed to provide the annual amount of US$100 billion to poor nations that they had promised a decade ago, committing them to pay up “urgently and through 2025.” Developed nations also promised to increase two times the money to adapt to the rising temperatures by the same date. 

Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and of the architects of the Paris Agreement, said the agreement in Glasgow accelerates actions and responds to the scientists’ call to close the gap towards 1.5ºC. Still, a lot remains to be done, she added, as countries will now have to deliver on all the commitments made at COP26. 

Among them, over 100 countries agreed in the first week of the summit to stop deforestation by 2030. However, many doubt the validity of this pact, especially as it includes Brazil — a country that in recent years has become known for its lack of environmental policies and disregard for the Amazon. A similar group of countries committed to tackling methane emissions, while about a dozen governments also vowed to stop investing in fossils. Do countries really intend to respect these? Who knows. Even if they do, how will they do it? Again, who knows — no clear plan or roadmap was presented.

“We gathered in the middle of a pandemic expecting our leaders to take responsibility in tackling the climate crisis and demonstrating a renewed sense of solidarity but what we witnessed was rich countries bullying and blocking funding for the most vulnerable people,” Tasneem Essop, head of the Climate Action Network, said in a statement. 

The UK government described the conference as the “most inclusive COP” ever organized, but for civil society, this was far from the case. Delegates from developing countries struggled to get to the UK amid travel restrictions and constantly changing rules, facing long quarantines at their arrival that most of them couldn’t afford. 

During the two weeks, access to the plenaries, press conferences, and side events at COP26 was highly limited, with the UK arguing that more people couldn’t get in because of the pandemic. The role of civil society and media as observers at climate summits is essential, preventing governments to take on their actual responsibilities. 

“Over the next 12 months, we must stand together to call on our governments to take ambitious action on climate change that puts people and human rights at its centre. If we do not put our hearts and minds into solving this existential threat to humanity, we lose everything.” Agnès Callamard, Secretary Genera of Amnesty International, said in a statement.

The world is set to 2.4ºC global warming despite new climate pledges

Despite the flurry of pledges made by governments so far at the COP26 climate summit, we are still on track for a disastrous level of global warming. According to a new analysis by Climate Action Tracker (CAT), COP26 “has a massive credibility, action and commitment gap”. In other words, there’s just not enough progress.

Image credit: UN / Flickr.

In 2015, almost every country agreed to limit global warming to 2ºC, ideally aiming for 1.5ºC, as part of the Paris Agreement. This would prevent even worse consequences from the climate crisis than the ones we are already experiencing all around the world, including species extinction, melting glaciers, and sea-level rise. 

Governments have come to the UN climate change climate summit in Glasgow with a whole set of pledges and commitments to act on the climate crisis. Nevertheless, this is just not enough. As things stand right now, temperatures will increase 2.4º by the end of the century, according to the analysis by CAT based on the short-term goals by countries. 

The researchers also found a big gap between what countries have said they will do on greenhouse gas emissions and what they’re actually doing. If current policies from governments are taken into account instead of just goals, global warming would reach 2.7ºC and not 2.4ºC, according to the analysis. A truly bleak scenario if this happens, as it would lead to more extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and plenty of other environmental problems.

“All countries have to go back and rethink what they can do. The only way to do that is to go on emergency mode. If we take baby steps every time it doesn’t work,” Niklas Höhne, one of the authors of the report and a climate researcher, said in a press conference at COP26, “Governments have to do something substantially different.”

The challenges ahead

The estimate by CAT is in sharp contrast with optimistic forecasts published last week, suggesting that global warming could be limited to 1.8ºC thanks to the commitments announced at COP26. Those initial estimates were based on long-term goals by countries for 2050, while CAT’s study looked at short-term ones for the next decade. 

Governments attending the climate summit in Glasgow were asked to come here with two deliverables: an updated short-term climate plan, known as NDCs, and a long-term plan to reach net-zero emissions around mid-century. Emissions have to fall by about 45% this decade for global temperatures to remain within 1.5ºC, studies have shown

While a large number of countries have recently signed to net-zero by 2050, the NDCs for actions in the next decade don’t match up to reality. If countries don’t act to lower their emissions in the coming two decades, the world could easily surpass the 1.5ºC limit even if carbon neutrality is reached later, according to the new analysis by CAT. 

The key drivers for this bleak outlook are coal and gas, CAT argued. Meeting the Paris Agreement targets requires coal to be phased out by 2030 in developed countries and globally by 2040. The increase of natural gas is also not compatible with Paris, but this fossil fuel is expanding, with countries using it as a transition to renewable sources.

“Glasgow is meant to keep the Paris Agreement 1.5ºC target in sight. But the gap is still so big that we can’t see that being possible at the moment,” Bill Hare, one of the authors of the report, said in a press conference. “It’s all very well for leaders and governments to claim they have a net zero target but they don’t plan to get there. Glasgow has a big credibility gap”

The full analysis can be accessed here.

New alliance of countries at COP26 wants to leave behind oil and gas

Hailed as an important step by many campaigners, an alliance of countries has committed at the COP26 climate change summit to phase out the production of oil and natural gas entirely. While major polluters haven’t signed yet, the founding members are confident a long list of countries will come on board over the next few days at COP.

Image credit: Fermin Koop

The initiative has been named Beyond Oil and Gas (BOGA) and is led by Costa Rica and Denmark, both with solid plans in place to phase out fossils. BOGA already has six core members (Sweden, France, Quebec, Greenland, Ireland and Wales), three associate members (New Zealand, Portugal and California) and one “friend of BOGA,” Italy. 

By signing the alliance, the core members are committing themselves to end new concessions, licensing, or leasing rounds for oil and gas production and exploration, setting a specific date. Meanwhile, the associate members will “take significant concrete steps to reduce production” and can later be upgraded to core membership.

“Today will mark the beginning of the end of oil and gas,” Dan Jørgensen, Denmark’s Minister for Climate, Energy, and Utilities said at the launch. “When I talk to scientists and activists they all want one thing more than anything bold action. That’s what the alliance is here to deliver. We have decided to move beyond oil and natural gas.”

Also speaking at the launch, Andrea Meza — Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment and Energy — said that while the signatory countries aren’t the main oil producers, they were the ones with the sufficient courage to do something on fossil fuels. Every dollar spent on fossils is a dollar less for renewable energy or nature conservation, she said. 

BOGA is one of the several coalitions that have so far been announced in Glasgow at the COP26, and quite possibly the most exciting initiative launched at the summit. Previously, over 100 countries have committed to ending deforestation by 2030, and another group pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30%. A smaller group also pledge to ending fossil fuel investments abroad. 

While they are starting off with fewer members that the other coalitions at COP, Meza showed high expectations for BOGA and compared it with the High Ambition Coalition (HAC), a group of countries that wants to meet avoid temperature increasing over 1.5ºC. HAC started just with a few members and now has more than 60, Meza said. 

“This broad alliance can help shift the world away from fossil fuels that are driving climate change toward catastrophe. Transitioning to clean energy will reap enormous benefits for people’s health, the climate and economies around the world. It’s time to take a strong step and resolute commitment, Sujatha Bergne, a campaigner at NRDC, said in a statement. 

Time to phase out fossils 

The new coalition was probably not well received by the more than 500 fossil fuel lobbyists present at COP26. In an analysis published earlier this week, the NGO Global Witness found that there are more delegates at COP linked with the fossil fuel industry than with any single country, representing over 100 companies and 30 trade unions.

Phasing out fossil fuels is a necessary action in order to meet the target of the Paris Agreement, a climate deal signed in 2015 by almost every country. A study earlier this year found that almost 60% of proven oil and gas reserves and almost 90% of coal reserves have to remain on the ground for the temperature not to grow over 1.5ºC

The International Energy Agency (IEA), a usually conservative organization in terms of the energy transition from fossil fuels, said in a report this year exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields have to stop this year and no new coal power plants can be built if the world wants to stay within the safe limits of global warming.

The largest delegation at COP26? The fossil fuel lobby group

With about 40,000 people registered at the COP26 climate summit in the UK, you would expect that most of them to be pushing for action like reducing our emissions or protecting the forests. Turns out, there are more delegates at the summit linked with the fossil fuel industry than from any single country, according to a new report based on official data. 

Image credit: UN / Flickr.

The UK NGO Global Witness analyzed the provisional list of participants at the climate conference and found that 503 fossil fuel lobbyists affiliated with the largest polluting oil and gas giants are now at COP26 — the “biggest villains” of the climate crisis, as Swedish activist Greta Thunberg put it.

The analysis shows that more than 100 fossil fuel companies and 30 trade associations are represented at COP. This makes the fossil fuel lobby group way bigger than the delegations of countries like the US or China, or even the combined total of the eight delegations from the countries most affected by the climate crisis in the last two decades (such as Haiti, the Philippines, the Bahamas, and Pakistan).

Also concerning is the fact that 27 country delegations have additional fossil fuel lobbyists among their ranks, including Brazil, Canada, and Russia. 

The presence of so many fossil fuel lobbyists spells bad news for the climate negoatiations, says Murray Worthy, gas campaign leader at Global Witness. Worthy said the call for global climate action shouldn’t be diverted “by a festival of polluters and their mouthpieces,” asking for further progress at the COP26.

“The presence of hundreds of those being paid to push the toxic interests of polluting fossil fuel companies, will only increase the scepticism of climate activists who see these talks as more evidence of global leaders’ dithering and delaying,” Worthy said in a statement. “There is no time for us to be diverted by greenwashing or meaningless corporate promises.”

They even have a booth

One of the biggest lobby groups identified by Global Witness was the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), with 103 registered delegates, including people from the fossil fuel companies BP and Chevron. According to the NGO, IETA is financed by many of these companies, lobbying for carbon markets as a way to keep extracting oil and gas. 

Image credit: Fermin Koop.

IETA has a big booth at COP26, in which they host events during the two weeks of the summit. Most of their talks focus on carbon markets, which is one of the most difficult topics for governments to agree on in Glasgow. According to the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries are supposed to create a global carbon market for greenhouse gas emissions, but there has been little progress in this regard, and many feel this is not something we should pursue.

With so many big polluters in the building and so many of those on the frontlines of fighting climate change left outside due to vaccine apartheid — COP26 is almost compromised. “It is people on the front lines of this crisis, not polluters, who have the life raft we need at this moment,” Rachel Rose Jackson, director of climate research at Corporate Accountability, said in a statement.

The news at COP comes as environmental organizations and civil society groups around the world have questioned unequal access to the summit, listing barriers to participation, limited vaccine access, and costly travel restrictions. NGOs play a key role at COP, as they can keep an eye on what countries and lobbyists are up to during the climate negotiations.

A study published before COP26 showed the French oil company Total knew at least 50 years ago there was a link between burning fossil fuels and climate change. The same was the case of ExxonMobil and Shell, other studies showed. No wonder every environmental campaigner at COP26 is pushing strongly to kick them out from the conference.  

Biden’s COP26 speech shows real climate ambition. Can he deliver?

The global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, seen as the most important climate talks since the 2015 Paris Agreement, began with speeches by world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, who said the climate crisis is “ravaging the world.” Developed countries need to take the lead and address their climate responsibility, he added — emphasizing that the US is ready to lead by action. 

Image credit: UN

Biden tried to clarify the position of the US, noting that a lot has changed in the past few years.  He said that ‘American people, four or five years ago, weren’t at all sure about climate change, whether it was real’. Now, things seem to be very different. A recent Pew Research Center analysis found 60% of Americans see climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States. Biden also emphasized that he rejoined the Paris Agreement on climate change on his first day in office — a major U-turn from his predecessor, Donald Trump, who at times referred to climate change as a “hoax”.

“I guess I shouldn’t apologize, but I do apologize for the fact that the United States — the last administration pulled out of the Paris accord,” Biden told the delegates at COP26.

The summit, COP26, gathers governments, civil society, and media for two weeks to discuss ways to further increase climate ambition and deliver on the Paris Agreement to limit the global average temperature increase to 2ºC. With the current government pledges, the world is set on a 2.7ºC warming trajectory — and few countries are even respecting these pledges. This can still be addressed, but the window of opportunity is closing, hence the sence of urgency.  

Biden reaffirmed the US government plan to reduce emissions by 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030, “demonstrating the world” that the US is not only “back at the table” but also leading “by the power of example.” He said “this hasn’t been the case” before he was elected but said to be “working overtime” to show climate leadership. 

“We have a brief window to raise ambition and meet the task,” Biden said, speaking at the opening segment of the summit. “Glasgow must be the kick off of a decade of ambition innovation. Climate change is affecting the world, it’s not something hypothetical. It’s already costing our nations trillions of dollars and affecting people.”

Biden told delegates that the US wants to become a net-zero emissions economy no later than 2050, saying the government will soon introduce a long-term decarbonization strategy. He also touted his legislative plans, still awaiting approval by his fellow Democrats in Congress, to allocate $500 billion to address climate change.

The plan consists of new and expanded tax incentives to promote clean energy technologies and it would mark “the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis” that the US has ever done, Biden said. The investment would be “enough” to allow the US to deliver on its climate targets by 2030, Biden added. 

While every country has to do its part, Biden said developed countries have to support developing ones so they can deliver on their climate pledges. He said the US has “an obligation” to help them, especially with funding. In fact, Biden wants to provide $3 billion in financing per year by 2024, something that will have to pass by Congress. 

Falling short

But rhetoric is one thing, and actually acting is another. For starters, per capita US emissions are already about two times higher than the average in Europe, and even if Biden’s good intentions are true, we’ve seen with the past administration just how quickly progress can be reversed.

For many climate activists gathered outside the venue that hosted Biden and other 120 world leaders in Glasgow, the US is also failing to live up to its words. They questioned the fact that his climate plan is still stuck at Congress and that his administration has so far been reluctant to scale back oil and gas drilling in the US, instead of granting new permits.

Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), said in a statement that it’s “unjust” that those who least created the climate crisis have to pay the highest price for its consequences. He said the US has to build on its promise and provide the resources developing countries need to address the growing costs of the climate crisis.

Biden’s speech was one of the first ones after the official opening of COP26, in which leaders acknowledged the distress over the escalating climate crisis. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said “we are digging our own graves” due to the failure to address emissions, while British prime minister Boris Johnson said children not yet born will be the ones judging us. Hopefully, action will live up to these big words.

COP26 is about to start. Can it really make a difference?

Governments, civil society, and media representatives will meet in Glasgow, Scotland during the next two weeks to discuss ways to increase climate action. With the global average temperature already up 1ºC compared to pre-industrial time, there’s no time to lose to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GEI) and avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis. But will this actually make a difference?

Image credit: Flickr / Marco Verch

The international summit COP26 is the 26th iteration of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). For almost three decades, governments have met almost every year to take action on climate change, with moments of high drama and also of success — as in the case of the Paris Agreement.

Upgrading our climate plans

In 2015 in Paris, countries agreed to limit the global temperature rise to 2ºC by the end of the century, making every effort to avoid 1.5ºC. This led to the creation of national action plans, known as NDCs, to reduce emissions in every country.

Nevertheless, with the current NDCs, global warming would only be limited to 2.7ºC, according to UN estimations. So even if countries are keeping their part of the deal (which many are not doing at the moment), we’re still on a healthy climate path.

That’s why raising the bar will be one of the main targets at this year’s COP. Under the Paris Agreement, countries have to improve their plants every five years — and that time is now. There’s already been some progress. More than 100 countries have already upgraded their plans ahead of COP, with more ambitious commitments in most cases. 

Still, not everybody is fully committed. China, the main polluter accounting for 27% of all the world’s emissions, just updated its NDC but maintained a previously announced target to peak emissions before 2030. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia pledged to reach net-zero by 2060 but without changing its role as the world’s leading oil producer, raising questions on the substance of its plan.

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a leading group of climate experts, from August found that the world still has a chance to stay within the 1.5ºC threshold. But that would require concerted efforts to stop emitting carbon dioxide and other dangerous greenhouse gases almost completely by mid-century.  

Getting a 1.5ºC increase will still lead to extreme weather events such as heatwaves, floods, and heavy storms, as well as rising sea levels and bleaching of corals. But these consequences would be far less severe than the ones associated with a rise of 2ºC. That’s why it’s so important for countries to present their plans as soon as possible.

Not just NDCs

While improving climate commitments will be a central part of the talks in Glasgow, the UK, acting as the COP26 president, is also focusing on three other areas: climate finance, phasing out coal, and nature-based solutions. This is because the COP president is entitled to choose the priority issues that countries should focus on. 

Climate finance essentially refers to the money that is provided to underdeveloped countries from public and private sources to help them reduce their emissions and cope with the impacts of extreme weather. This is more than just humanitarian help — it’s a way for developed countries to amend their past emissions. After all, developed countries became developed by burning fossil fuels, so they have a greater responsibility in this crisis.

At COP15 in Copenhagen, underdeveloped countries were promised that they would get $100 billion every year, starting in 2020. But the target has not yet been reached. A report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in September found that about $80 billion was offered last year, instead of the agreed $100 billion. This symbolic number won’t be reached until 2023, according to a UK-commissioned report. Even when it is reached, it’s doubtful that it will be sufficient. About 150 environmental groups wrote a letter to donor countries earlier this month asking them to mobilize $600 billion between 2020 and 2025, which would be more realistic to their needs. In fact, a report by the UN Climate Change committee on finance says that developing countries will need about $5.9 trillion up to 2030. 

No more coal

Coal, or rather, the phase-out of coal, is also expected to be a big theme at COP. Governments know they have to transition to other cleaner energy sources, and some have already taken steps in this direction. China, the main coal consumer in the world, announced earlier this year that it will stop financing new coal-fired plants in other countries. But there’s a lot more that needs to be done. 

India, Indonesia, Australia, and many other countries are still large producers and consumers of coal. It’s a big energy source, supplying one-third of the global energy. But its demand is declining, as countries realize it’s not a good bet both on economic and environmental terms. 

The UK COP hosts also want to see progress in nature-based solutions. These are projects such as preserving and restoring forests and other carbon sinks and growing more trees. There are already big initiatives in place, such as planting one billion trees. Still, experts argue this won’t solve the climate crisis alone and that our reliance on fossil fuels also has to end. 

The tricky carbon markets

While the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, not every aspect was fully finalized because of the many disagreements between countries. The trickiest one has been by far the creation of a new global carbon market. Under Paris, countries have to set up a carbon trading system to help decarbonize the economy known as Article 6.

This market would allow countries to finance projects that reduce emissions in other countries and count the avoided emissions towards their own climate targets. But without transparent and robust accounting rules, it has the potential to undermine the goal of keeping 1.5ºC between reach — a concern expressed by several countries. 

The UK hopes to resolve this issue in Glasgow so countries can have this mechanism in place to better deliver on their climate targets. China already set up its own national market and is pushing for a global one. But it’s a challenging task. In the last climate summit, countries couldn’t agree on this after two days of overtime and nine drafts.

This year’s COP will probably be the most significant one since Paris, especially because of its one-year delay due to the pandemic. The climate crisis is here and affecting us all. But whether we allow it to continue and worsen will depend on the actions taken today by governments, both from developed and developing countries.

The UK says it wants to have a net-zero economy by 2050

Just days away from hosting a massive climate change summit, the UK government presented a roadmap to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. This means no longer adding to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, something the UK claims to achieve through nuclear energy, planting forests, electric vehicles, and sustainable aviation fuel.

The plan represents a test of the UK’s credibility, as the government will seek similar commitments from other countries at the United Nations climate conference COP26. From October 31st to November 14th, delegates will gather in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss ways to raise the bar and avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Image credit: Flickr / Number 10.

The long-awaited plan will bring in $124 billion in private funding and create almost 500,000 new jobs by 2030, according to the UK government. Nevertheless, the government doesn’t actually want to put an end to the country’s use of fossil fuels, with environmental organizations questioning its actual scope and classing the some aspects of the plan as ‘weak’.

A roadmap for the future

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the plan will lead to well-paid jobs, green industries and billions in investment, powering a “green industrial revolution” across the country. The UK will build a “defining competitive edge” in sectors such as offshore wind, EVs and carbon capture, while still supporting people and businesses, he added. 

The UK was the first big economy to commit by law to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. In fact, the country’s emissions dropped by 44% from 1990 to 2019, especially emissions from the power sector. But the government has been facing pressure for not introducing an actual road map that explains how net-zero would be accomplished. In other words, no credible roadmap has been laid down.

Still, the government insists that it will decarbonize the entire power sector by 2035. This will be largely thanks to renewable energy, with 40 gigawatts of offshore wind expected to be added to the grid, and to nuclear projects, with a $166 investment expected in new plants. Hydrogen will also be expanded as well as carbon capture and storage. 

On transportation, another key sector in terms of emission in the UK, the government plans to invest in electrifying vehicles and their supply chain, as well as allocating money for buses, railways, and cycling lanes. There’s also a goal to produce up to 10% of the aviation fuels from household waste by 2030 and to capture flue gases from the industry. 

“There is a global race to develop new green technology, kick-start new industries and attract private investment. The countries that capture the benefits of this global green industrial revolution will enjoy unrivalled growth and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK is fighting fit,” UK Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said.

Still, climate experts and environmentalists weren’t that much convinced. Rebecca Newson, Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, said the government’s plan is “more like a pick and mix than the substantial meal that we need to reach net zero,” while Katie White from WWF said the plan doesn’t close the gap “between climate promises and action.”

Whether or not the promises will be kept still remains to be seen. Unfortunately, the current UK government has a history of overselling or flat-out lying about its plans. We can only hope this isn’t the case here. The full strategy can be accessed here.

UN postponed the COP26 climate summit amid coronavirus outbreak

This year was supposed to be a key one for the planet, with important summits scheduled to advance climate, biodiversity, and ocean discussions. Nevertheless, the coronavirus outbreak has altered most of the plans.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) presents the COP26. Credit Flickr

The UN body that oversees international climate negotiations, the UNFCCC, has postponed the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) on climate change, initially scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland, until 2021. This summit is central to advancing the climate agenda after COP25 talks in Madrid failed.

The decision was taken jointly by the UNFCCC and the UK, who will now work over the next few weeks to set a new date. Rescheduling will allow further time for the “necessary preparations” and ensure all countries “can focus on the issues to be discussed at the conference”, the UK said on a press release.

“COVID-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term,” UNFCCC head Patricia Espinosa said. “We continue to support and to urge nations to significantly boost climate ambition in line with the Paris Agreement.

For civil society, the decision is a sensible one amid the coronavirus outbreak. Nevertheless, climate action should remain high on the political agenda during 2020, with countries making sure that the economic response to the coronavirus doesn’t entrench the climate crisis.

“Under the current circumstances, the decision is unavoidable,” Manuel Pulgar Vidal, head of WWF’s global climate and energy practice, said. “But climate action must remain a non-negotiable global priority. That means we must also focus on creating low-carbon job opportunities and increasing our societies’ economic and ecological resilience.”

COP26 was supposed to see signatories to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change present new commitments, known as NDCs, which are meant to raise their ambition, a critical step in curbing global emissions. At the same time, it had to resolve key points for the implementation of the agreement, that wasn’t solved in COP25 in Madrid.

Countries committed to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Nevertheless, the commitments presented so far haven’t been ambitious enough, leading the world to a temperature increase of up to 4 degrees Celcius.

The UNFCCC had already canceled or postponed all meetings in March and April, both at its headquarters in Bonn, Germany, and worldwide. African Climate Week, due to take place from 9 March in Uganda, was also called off, as well as London Climate Week, which was scheduled from June 27 to July 5.

“This does not let governments off the hook. We will continue to hold them accountable to deliver renewed climate ambition for the equitable and just transformation of societies. If there is anything that this Covid19 crisis has taught us, it is that now more than ever we need sustained international efforts to build a safe and resilient future,” said Tasneem Essop, Executive Director of Climate Action Network.

As well as the COP26, the 15th conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the most important biodiversity conference in a decade, was also postponed without a date. The summit was due to take place in October in China, with the aim of creating a new global framework for biodiversity.

A UN conference on protecting marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, scheduled for March 23 in New York, was also shelved and the WTO (World Trade Organization) has suspended all meetings in March and April. If the move is extended, it could affect the June annual meeting in Kazakhstan, which has the elimination of fishing subsidies high on the agenda.