3 issues to watch at climate summit

3 issues to watch at climate summit
© AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali

Global leaders attending the United Nations climate summit beginning Sunday face a number of key issues as they seek ways to preserve the planet’s future.

At the conference in Glasgow, Scotland, known as COP26, they’ll work on the next steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change. 

These three key issue areas are expected to be on the agenda.

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Financing climate mitigation

Climate finance is likely to be a contentious issue as developed nations are falling short of their pledge to send $100 billion per year to poorer countries to help them prepare for climate change. Experts say that while rich countries have been historically responsible for most of the world’s pollution, developing countries are bearing the brunt of its impacts.

A group of developed countries in 2009 set that financing goal to begin in 2020 — but a new report this week indicated that they won’t meet it until 2023. 

Some observers are hopeful this could be expedited. 

“We’re hoping that what we hear at COP might move that into 2022,” said Kelley Kizzier, a former European Union climate negotiator. 

Meanwhile, Maria Laura Rojas Vallejo, a former climate adviser in Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters this week that there’s a “distrust” between nations on climate finance. 

“The COP will be coming with a sense of distrust and tension, especially around finance,” Rojas said, adding that the delivery of the $100 billion would be a key issue. 

Kizzier, who now works at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that while this could be a push for government funding, there could also be pressure for private company financing. 

“What we’re going to see in all of these initiatives that are launched to the climate action agenda is also that private sector finance,” she said. “I think there will be a massive focus on finance and that will include both the amount of public sector finance that’s mobilized and the amount of private sector finance that’s mobilized.”

 

Methane

In recent months, the international community has shown momentum on reducing its emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. 

The U.S. and European Union are leading a global methane pledge, which seeks to reduce global methane pollution by at least 30 percent by 2030 and which more than 30 countries have signed. 

U.S. climate envoy John KerryJohn KerryTo address China's coal emissions, the US could use a little help from its friends Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Storms a growing danger for East Coast Israel, Jordan, UAE sign pivotal deal to swap solar energy, desalinated water MORE recently said individual countries that agree to the pledge wouldn’t be required to reduce each of their emissions by 30 percent, saying instead that “every country will do what it can in order to be able to reduce methane emissions.”

Morgan Bazilian, a former EU representative during U.N. climate change negotiations, told The Hill it is possible that more countries could sign the pledge at the conference and it could be announced as a more formal coalition.

“There’ll be a coalition announced ... that’s how that will roll,” said Bazilian, who is now a professor at the Colorado School of Mines. “It’ll have tons of media. There’ll be several events. There’ll be several private dinners. There’ll be some little negotiations like getting country X or Y to join.”

Kizzier, meanwhile, said that in addition to more countries signing the pledge, something on methane could ultimately make it into final language approved by the conference. 

“We might see methane actually called out or codified in the COP decision itself as a really important lever, so I think we might see both,” she said. “That’s definitely an important direction of travel for this COP.”

The renewed focus on methane comes after a major U.N. climate report from August called for “strong, rapid and sustained reductions” in methane emissions to limit warming. 

 

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Finishing the Paris rulebook

In 2015, the world’s countries agreed to the landmark Paris agreement — seeking to limit warming by 2 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels, with a further goal of limiting it to 1.5 degrees. 

As part of that agreement, countries are expected to submit increasingly ambitious climate plans every five years. 

But countries haven’t yet hammered out all the ways the agreement will be implemented, with negotiations ongoing in areas like carbon markets and rules for transparency and accountability. 

Tony La Viña, who was a negotiator for the Philippines at the Paris summit, told reporters this week that these rules are important for implementing the agreement.

“The reason why you need to have rules is that that’s what will drive implementation and accountability of parties to what they promised to do,” said La Viña, who is the executive director at the Manila Observatory, a Jesuit scientific research institution.

He specifically said it was important to get the carbon markets piece — known as Article Six — done right.

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“The sustainable development mechanism in Article Six ... if designed properly with the right safeguards, it could contribute to ambitious outcomes in terms of mitigation but if not designed well, without safeguards, in a way that diminishes environmental integrity and accountability, then the mechanism will actually have the opposite effect,” he said. 

Kizzier said she expects progress on transparency and carbon markets. 

“I certainly hope that we’re going to see agreement on Article Six,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of progress in the past two or three COPs and if we could just make that progress and resolve the sort of handful of diplomatic level issues. Then we’ll have ... a final component of the Paris rulebook agreed.”