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World leaders kick start accelerated climate action at COP26

World leaders are in the UK for day three of COP26 on Tuesday, November 2, 2021 where a wide range of announcements focused on signalling a clear shift from ambition to immediate action. Countries have made unprecedented commitments to protect forests, reduce methane emissions and accelerate green technology.

L-R: UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson; US President, Joe Biden; and UN Secretary General, António Guterres, at COP26

Amid powerful pleas heard in Glasgow on Monday, November 1, 2021, world leaders, young people and campaigners all stressed the urgency of taking tangible action to keep the prospect of holding back global temperature rises to 1.5C and building resilience to climate impacts.

Some 114 leaders took a landmark step forward at a convening of world leaders on forests by committing to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. The pledge is backed by $12 billion in public and $7.2 billion in private funding.

Countries from Canada to Russia to Brazil – which also increased its NDC on Monday – China, Colombia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo all endorsed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use.

Together, they support 85% of the world’s forests, an area of over 13 million square miles which absorbs around one third of global CO2 released from burning fossil fuels each year.

This announcement was bolstered with a commitment by CEOs from more than 30 financial institutions with over $8.7 trillion of global assets – including Aviva, Schroders and Axa – committing to eliminate investment in activities linked to deforestation.

Tuesday is also the first time a COP in recent history has hosted a major event on methane, with 105 countries, including 15 major emitters including Brazil, Nigeria and Canada, signing up to the Global Methane Pledge. This historic commitment, led by the US and EU alongside the UK COP26 presidency, equates to up to 40% of global methane emissions and 60% of global GDP.

More than 35 world leaders have also backed and signed up to the new Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda that will see countries and businesses work together to dramatically scale and speed up the development and deployment of clean technologies and drive down costs this decade. Signatories include the US, India, EU, developing economies and some of those most vulnerable to climate change – collectively representing more than 50% of the world’s economy and every region.

The aim is to make clean technologies the most affordable, accessible and attractive choice for all globally in the most polluting sectors by 2030, particularly supporting the developing world to access the innovation and tools needed for a just transition to net zero.

 Work will focus on five key sectors – power, road transport, hydrogen, steel and agriculture – which together represent more than half of total global emissions and further demonstrates how countries are moving from commitments to tangible action.

Leaders signed up to the Glasgow Breakthroughs also committed to discussing global progress every year in each sector starting in 2022 – supported by annual reports led by the International Energy Agency in collaboration with International Renewable Energy Agency and UN High Level Champions – and annual discussions of Ministers across government convened around the Mission Innovation and Clean Energy Ministerials. This “Global Checkpoint Process” will seek to sustain and continually strengthen international cooperation across the agenda throughout this decade.

Leaders from South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany and the European Union have announced a ground-breaking partnership to support South Africa with an Accelerated Just Energy Transition.

As a first step, the international partnership has announced that $8.5 billion can be made available over the next three to five years to support South Africa – the world’s most carbon-intensive electricity producer – to achieve the most ambitious target within South Africa’s upgraded and ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution.

A package of support, bringing together private sector finance and public sector expertise to scale-up African climate adaptation projects, providing life-saving support in the face of climate shocks protect the most vulnerable.

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.

Alongside these strong signals from leaders, negotiators continued their crucial work on the systems and rules that underpin delivery. Early drafts of negotiating texts have been tabled on many issues and experts are working to find common ground, energised by the clear political direction from leaders.

COP26 President, AlokSharma, said: “Forests are one of our best defences against catastrophic climate change, and essential to keeping 1.5C alive. This historic commitment will help end the devastating effects of deforestation and support the developing countries and indigenous communities who are the guardians of so much of the world’s forests.

“The Glasgow Breakthroughs will help move us towards a global tipping point, where the clean, green technologies we need to reach net zero and keep 1.5C alive are more affordable, accessible and attractive for all than the polluting practices we are leaving behind.

“Today’s launch of the Global Methane Pledge is also critical to keeping 1.5C alive. I am proud that COP has played host to a historic pledge which will play a vital role in limiting up to 0.2 degrees of warming across the next decade.”

UN High-Level Climate Champions for COP25 and COP26, Gonzalo Munoz and Nigel Topping, said: “More than 18 sectors of the global economy have already achieved critical momentum, with key private sector actors mobilizing 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.”

Also, at the COP on Tuesday, world leaders, CEOs and philanthropists launched a series of new initiatives in support of the Glasgow Breakthroughs, including:

  • The launch of the UK-India led Green Grids Initiative – One Sun One World One Grid, endorsed by over 80 countries, to mobilise political will, finance and technical assistance needed to interconnect continents, countries and communities to the very best renewable sources of power globally to ensure no one is left without access to clean energy.
  • The Rockefeller Foundation, alongside IKEA Foundation and Bezos Earth Fund, launched the Global Energy Alliance for People & Planet with an initial $10 billion of funding from philanthropies and development banks to support energy access and the clean energy transition in the Global South, in strategic partnership with the UK-led Energy Transition Council.
  • AIM4C, a new initiative led by the US and UAE, with over 30 supporting countries, committed to accelerating innovation in sustainable agriculture, having already garnered $4 billion in increased investment in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation, including $1 billion from the US.
  • The Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, headed by Bill Gates, programme aiming to raise $3 billion in concessional capital to catalyse up to $30 billion of investments in bring down clean technology costs and create markets for green products for green hydrogen, Direct Air Capture, long-duration energy storage and sustainable aviation fuel including £200 million of UK support.
  • The First Movers Coalition, a US-led buyers club of 25 major global companies making purchasing commitments to help commercialise key emerging clean technologies across hard-to-decabonise sectors like steel, trucking, shipping, aviation, aluminium, concrete, chemicals, and direct air capture.

Two days into COP26 on Monday saw India, Thailand, Nepal, Nigeria and Vietnam make new net zero pledges which now means that 90% of the global economy is covered by net zero commitments. India’s announcement also included a suite of ambitious 2030 commitments, including 500GW non fossil fuel power capacity, 50% energy requirements from renewable sources and 45% reduction of the carbon intensity of the economy.

There were also new NDC announcements from: Argentina, Brazil, Guyana, India, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique and Thailand and new Long-Term Strategies announced or submitted by Jamaica, Kazakhstan and the USA. On climate finance, there were new commitments from: Ireland, Spain, Australia and Luxembourg.

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