COP26 Week 1: What Has Been Achieved So Far?

What importance can be placed on the outcomes from the discussions at COP26 Week 1? How confident can we be that they will affect climate change in a positive way? And how will we know the commitments will be adhered to and achieved by the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)?

A number of international and national pledges have been given by a some of the attending countries at COP26 during the first week. The key ones are listed below and the potential positive effect of each different category of pledge on climate change is discussed briefly.

International Pledges

DeforestationThe Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use was agreed by over 100 nations which cover 90% of the globe’s forested areas. This requires the signatories to commit to work together to stop and reverse loss of forests and degradation of land. This is intended to preserve a key carbon sink resource and will also include obligations on these nations to conserve and restore forests with concomitant benefits for the indigenous populations of the key areas affected. One of the key successes of this Declaration is that Brazil has agreed to commit to the measures set out in the Declaration- without their agreement this output would not have had the potential for a real impact in this area.

Agreement to end investment in coal power plants: This pledge was signed up to by more than 40 countries from both the developed economies and the developing world; the former agreed that they would cease development of unabated coal-fired generation by 2030 with the developing countries committing to this by 2040. On the face of it this seems to be a very good outcome with the likes of Poland, Vietnam and South Korea signing up to this commitment. However, the truth is that this commitment has not been signed up to by the US, China, India and Australia so the potential extent and positive effect of this commitment is far short of what could have been achieved if the big polluters had agreed to join up.

Global Methane Pledge: A group of over 100 countries have committed to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels. The key positive coming out of this pledge is the fact that the EU, the US and other key partners/nations have signed up and they make up about 50% of methane emissions globally and given the potency of methane as a greenhouse gas (over 20x more potent than CO2) this can only be good news.

Just Transition DeclarationThis Declaration was signed up to by 15 nations including the UK, US, Canada and Germany. What they have committed to do is to put in place strategies which ensure that their workers, enterprises and communities are supported by the Governments to enable them to transition to the greener economies envisaged. This is a key commitment as there has been major concern that the cost of transitioning to a green economy will be a costly exercise and that without this support there will be many casualties.

Key National Pledges:

NigeriaNigeria has committed to eliminate emissions by 2060 (ie to achieve net zero by this date). Given that they are a huge exporter of crude oil then this is a significant commitment by an African nation which will hopefully give the right signal to other African and developing nations that such commitments are vital to enable the global net zero targets to be achieved.

IndiaIndia has committed to a net zero target date of 2070. This commitment has been welcomed as India is the world’s third largest polluter; however, many nations have been disappointed at the date chosen for the achievement of this reduction as it is some 20 years later than the majority of western developed nations have committed to (2050). There is also some scepticism as to whether even this extended timetable for achieving net zero is realistic.

About the Author

Rory Tait was a solicitor for 34 years prior to retiring from legal practice in 2020. His legal career has focussed exclusively on advising clients on projects in the renewable and clean energy sector from a regulatory and commercial standpoint. He has worked for a number of the larger Energy and Renewables legal practices including Eversheds where he jointly led the Renewables practice. Rory is an expert on the regulatory regime governing the electricity industry, and he has advised extensively on the structuring and execution of generation projects across the majority of renewables technologies. He has also advised on the acquisition and disposal of individual projects, as well as portfolios of renewables assets, and he has negotiated connection agreements and power offtake arrangements for developers. Rory is also the Secretary of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), and has held this role for the last 20 years. With his deep knowledge of the sector gained over the course of many years Rory brings together a combination of legal, commercial and regulatory expertise which provides a comprehensive all round advisory offering for clients.

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy, infrastructure and natural resources sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and other technical experts.

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