Sunday, November 14, 2021

COP26 inches to a close, for the first time including language on coal and fossil fuels phase down

Watching the UNFCCC livestream

UN Climate Change conferences are reknowned for running extensively into overtime with last minute negotiations to try and salvage a way forward through the consensus process. This one was no different with a Saturday afternoon ending.

Draft texts are issued, debated, watered down, reissued, debated and further watered down until enough compromise has been achieved for consensus. Occasionally some new ambition may sneak in, but generally its a dilution of action. It's a tough process, especially when urgency and ambition is required, which empowers countries with vested interests in maintaining fossil fuel production. 

Australia has taken advantage of this process in the past, such as when the Australian delegation threatened to walk out in 1997 at final stage of negotiations unless a special clause on land use emissions was inserted. We got our way and a special clause was created specifically called the Australia clause which allowed us to increase our emissions by 8 percent while all other countries had commitments to reduce emissions.

During the final days of this negotiation process, Small island states and many developing countries gave up  in the spirt of compromise on the Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility to be replaced by a vague Dialogue during 2022 as part of Draft texts version 3, but they were not happy about this. But the fact there were other areas of ambition in the overall deal and they are suffering now from climate impacts, made them commit to consensus.

But during the discussion India, Iran, Nigeria and China objected to the wording around coal and inefficient fossil fuel sibsidies phase out. The stocktaking plenary was adjourned and huddles reformed.

Australia actually had accepted the deal that included a call for "accelerating efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies." They had already successfully lobbied with others to soften the text with those two adjectives: unabated and inefficient.

When the plenary restarted India proposed asking to change language to "phase down" coal instead of "phase out". Switzerland, Europe, Mexico, Marshall Islands and Fiji all expressed profound disappointment at this proposed change, and questioned this as a non-transparent process. Switzerland received overwhelming applause. 

The most eloquent statement came from the Marshall Islands:

"On behalf of the Marshall Islands I wish to read into the record our profound disappointment with the change in the language on coal from phase out to phase down. I ask that this be reflected in the report of this meeting. This commitment on coal had been a bright spot in this package. It was one of the things we were hoping to carry out of here, back home with pride, and it hurts deeply to see that bright spot dim. We accept this change with the greatest reluctance. We do so only, and I really want to stress only, because there are critical elements of this package that people in my country need, as a lifeline for their future. Thankyou.

Fiji said "we were told 2 days ago that we could not add Loss and Damage language because it was "last minute", now new language on coal has been added 2 minutes before adoption of the text. A "phase-down" has no demonstrable measures to monitor the end of coal."

The reaction actually put COP President Alok Sharma into tears for a moment, as he said, "I am truly sorry about how this process has unfolded. It is also vital that we successfully conclude this package"

This is going to lead to a much greater push next year for Loss and Damage implementation and finance, at COP27, which has been long delayed at these conferences. 

Antigua and Barbuda speaking on behalf of AOSIS commented that they "would like to take note that we expect to see the development of a Loss and Damage facility by COP27." Venezuela added that they "would like to take up the issue of unilateral measures in subsequent COPs".

There was cheering in the American delegation and around other sections of the Plenary hall as the decision on Article 6 on carbon markets was gavelled, putting in place this important part of the Paris Agreement rulebook, although it seems there are already identified issues of integrity with the rules passed.

Read my blog on the assessment of outcomes from the Glasgow Climate Pact.

You can follow the flow of the diplomatic huddles and statements in the tweet thread below:


Negotiations on a fine wire in conference overtime

According to Bevan Shields in SMH, "Disagreement focuses on three key areas: emissions reduction pledges, compensation and financial aid for vulnerable developing nations, and the design of a voluntary international carbon market."

Some comments gleaned from Richie Merzian (Australia Institute) and others on Draft texts Version 3:

  • Maintains phaseout of unabated coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies recognizing the need for support towards a just transition;(+)
  • countries would be “requested” to update their pledges in 2022. CMA text still requests countries come to the next round of talks with strengthened 2030 targets (with specific reference to those countries that didn't bring updated targets to Glasgow).(+)
  • Glasgow Loss and Damage facility removed, to much civil society anger (CAN) replaced by a dialogue (more blah, blah, blah). Richie Merzian thinks "not sure enough Parties will hold up Plenary and the whole package if it comes down to it"(-)
  • Under the current text Parties are requested to bring back better targets for 2030. But it doesn't mandate that those targets align with 1.5 degrees, instead it uses past language which is weaker.(-)
  • "Version 3 of the covering text looks like it is firming up into a final - hope things will wrap this afternoon. Less likely to move on coal phase out, ambition, finance. Still big calls needed on markets" 
  • The real flashpoint is around markets, Whether the framework is tight enough to ensure integrity, avoid double counting, avoid the import of hotair and the creation of non-additional credits.
  • Article 6.4 market mechanism adds an independant grievance process (+)
  • Finance has always been a key issue, developed countries failed to meet $100bn target by 2020, but likely to reach this in 2023. "UN committee to report next year on progress towards delivering the $100 billion, and proposes government ministers meet in 2022, 2024 and 2026 to discuss climate finance." ABC

Here are some document change comparisons between version 2 and version 3:

Article 6.4 carbon market: Independant Grievance process included

Draft CMA decision to update NDC and 2030 targets

Draft CMA decision on phaseout of coal and fossil fuel subsidies
(1st time coal, FF included in COP decision)

Draft CMA decision - drops support for Glasgow Lass and Damage facility






















































































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