More than 20,000 people are gathering in Glasgow in Scotland for the massive UN climate meeting that officially begins later today.
It comes after a major UN climate report in August unequivocally confirmed that humans are driving climate change and that the effects will be catastrophic if emissions are not drastically reduced.
Some of the main problems
Essentially, the The COP26 summit is about defining the rules to the framework and targets set in the 2015 Paris agreement to keep global warming well below 2 degrees, ideally 1.5 degrees, if there is any hope of avoiding a terrible climate catastrophe.
We are currently off track. Emissions hit a record last year and a 700 percent increase in cuts is needed. That’s roughly the equivalent of China’s annual emissions in global cuts each year.
New Zealand’s top priorities are: finalizing negotiations on the Paris rules, including international carbon markets that do not allow countries to double-count reductions; make countries meet the cash promised to the poorest countries; and to support the Pacific facing being swept away by rising sea levels.
NDC: Nationally Determined Contributions
This is the number of countries that commit to reducing emissions.
A report released late last week said current promises from more than 100 countries will cause temperatures to rise 2.7 percent by 2050, triggering a climate catastrophe.
Expect a flood of announcements from other countries at the World Leaders Summit during the first days of the conference.
New Zealand announced yesterday that it is strengthening its commitment to reduce net emissions 30 to 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Another big problem is finally solving what is called ‘Article Six’, a dizzyingly complex issue left over from Paris.
Basically, it sets the rules for how international carbon markets will work. Markets allow countries that outperform emissions reductions to sell credits to others struggling to meet their commitments.
There will be a lot of discussion on whether the carbon credits left over from before 2020 can be used to deliver on promises.
New Zealand will also fight hard to prevent countries from being allowed to count twice: that if a county sells an emissions reduction to another country, neither does the reduction count on its own pledges.
New Zealand wants the framework for the international carbon market developed and the program put in place so that it can start buying emission reductions from other countries.
However, as Climate Minister James Shaw said yesterday, any business scheme must have environmental integrity, and if it ended up like an older version, I wouldn’t touch it with a barge survey.
One of the main criticisms of carbon markets is that they may not lead to real emissions reductions.
Commentators are optimistic that Article Six could cross the line, but may require concessions that New Zealand finds difficult to bear.
One of the main sticking points of this COP is getting developed countries to fulfill their promises to give the poorest countries $ 100 billion a year starting in 2020 to tackle climate change.
They have fallen short.
Earlier this month, New Zealand quadrupled its contribution, committing $ NZ1.3 billion over four years, more than half of which will go to the Pacific.
Adaptation and transparency
The practical things that are being done to prepare for the warm-up.
For now, it appears that COP26 will focus on getting the world to commit to building early warning defenses and greater infrastructure to protect communities.
One issue New Zealand has taken a leadership role on is making sure countries can be verified to be making the cuts to which they committed.
How COP works
COPs (Conference of the Parties) are staggeringly complex beasts, with a dozen New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade, Environment and Primary Industries officials negotiating in some of the 30 meetings taking place at any given time.
Business and iwi representatives round out the New Zealand delegation, all subject to daily Covid testing, and Shaw heads into the second week of the meeting.
Only heads of state are invited to participate in the first World Leaders Summit on Monday and Tuesday (UK time).
Former Climate Change Ambassador and Chairman of the Kyoto Protocol, Dr. Adrian Macey, said he hopes breakthroughs will come once politicians take over.
“That’s what happened in Paris, it’s the only reason we got the Paris Agreement agreed. So you can see that some of the great successes of the negotiations have come despite the negotiators, and no thanks to them. “
These massive gatherings are becoming less important relative to governments that are really just moving forward and cutting emissions, Macey said.
“Some of the rules and regulations that will come out of the COP will be rather bureaucratic and I don’t think they are fundamental to get things going, which is really what we should focus on.”
The meeting has already been delayed a year due to Covid, and security rules like masking and other requirements will make the already difficult negotiations even more complicated.
Who will be there?
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the host of APEC and will not be among the more than 100 heads of state at COP26; the leaders of China and Russia will not make it either.
But Britain’s Boris Johnston, Germany’s Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden, who resigned from the Paris Agreement after Donald Trump withdrew, will.
University of Canterbury professor Bronwyn Hayward said that low expectations (world leaders are distracted by Covid and distrust each other) and Biden’s moral influence has been destroyed by the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the aftermath of a deal. nuclear that has gone sour.
What else is going on?
There is also a large program of side events with meetings of NGOs, scientists, companies and pressure groups, with many choosing these events as the location where some of the most important actions take place.
Watch for New Zealand’s response to multilateral side agreements to reduce methane. Although this is primarily aimed at plugging emissions from oil and gas sites, discussions about reducing agricultural methane emissions are definitely at stake and New Zealand will come under increasing international pressure to act.
Young Maori climate activist India Logan-Riley has been to several COPs and is in Glasgow with other Maori and Pacific activists.
She will add her voice to indigenous peoples to hold them accountable to wealthy nations.
“In particular, New Zealand and other countries in the global north must really be facing a reduction in emissions that is much faster than what they are demanding from the countries of the global south.
“Because actually, we have the resources and the capacity to be able to reduce our emissions and therefore we should be doing that.”
Land controlled by indigenous peoples contains 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, which showed that they have solutions to the climate crisis and should lead the discussions, Logan-Riley said.
How does New Zealand rank overall?
Not very well on actual reductions, emissions have stalled, but reduction targets have been signed into law and the government will publish its comprehensive climate plan in May next year, laying the groundwork for reaching net zero.
The government is trying to make up for decades of inaction in a short period of time.
Ralph Sims, Professor Emeritus of Sustainable Energy and Climate Mitigation at Massey University, said New Zealand’s efforts put us in the middle of the pack internationally.
A Reuters poll of economists found that the damage from climate change caused by doing nothing will far exceed the investment needed to reach the goal of net zero.
Professor Sims said that even though New Zealand produces 0.17 percent of global emissions, we must do our fair share.
“The key point is that everyone has the right to live on this planet and we individually in New Zealand are one of the largest emitters per capita of any country.”
The summit officially ends on Friday, November 12, but could drag on for days.