Where to go from Glasgow? Three priorities for developing countries
Where to go from Glasgow? Three priorities for developing countries
Alok Sharma described the Glasgow Climate Pact as an outcome of which all parties can be proud. Saleemul Huq described the COP as dismal and dishonest. My view is less pointed and less pithy, summarised in 20 points, below, with some relevant figures pasted in for reference.
The big picture is that even taking account of commitments made at the last minute in Glasgow, formal NDCs to 2030 only reduce the gap between current policies and the least cost pathway to 1.5 degrees by 11%. 89% to go!
Mid-century net zero commitments have potential, but still need fleshing out if they are to offer viable pathways.
The global pacts announced in Glasgow (Point 1 below) impart momentum, but need to be translated into national actions.
So, where next? It is obvious that new NDCs are needed. I am sceptical about a 2022 timetable, given the complexity, but that is what Glasgow requested (para 29 of the Glasgow Pact). The focus is on action to 2030, but I am also quite concerned about setting unrealistic targets, given the time it takes to implement new measures. Climate action is urgent, but nine years is not long. It would, of course, be much better to have started sooner, as we argued in Nature in 2020.
In this context, it is worth remembering that the ‘pathways’ to temperature targets, including the pathway which calls for a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030, compared to levels in 2010 (para 22 of the Glasgow Pact), are formally ‘least cost’ pathways. Delay (at least for 2 degrees or 1.8) does not necessarily mean that the temperature target is unattainable, but does mean higher cost. The last IPCC Assessment Report, AR 5, said up to 28% more expensive, if mitigation did not start until 2030 (Pg 58 of the technical summary of WG III, here). Presumably it will now be less, since action has been taken. Working Group 3 of AR 6 will report on this early in 2022.
So, it would be better, I think, to focus both on what is possible up to 2030 and what needs to happen in the following decade. The relevant decision in Glasgow calls for new NDCs by 2025, covering the period up to 2035. That date could have been moved forward to 2023, say. The UK already has a carbon budget out to 2037, with substantial cuts to 2030, and accelerating cuts thereafter: see here. Others should follow.
As far as developing countries are concerned, there are three priorities.
First, hang onto a model of ‘climate compatible development’. This is about linking climate and development, in the wider context of the Sustainable Development Goals - so a just transition, which recognises the need to tackle poverty and vulnerability, alongside global warming. But also, taking account not just of domestic mitigation and adaptation, but in addition the changing international context, in which markets and prices change as a result of climate action taken elsewhere. The CCD Venn diagram has three circles, not two (see figure below). With perhaps 40% of carbon traded across international borders, ‘climate compatible trade’ is an important area of work. Having a policy in place to deal with planned EU or US border carbon taxes is just one example of where the third circle leads.
Second, put more effort into conditional NDCs. This is an opportunity to be explicit about the need for financial and technical support to deliver a just transition, covering the full economic and social costs of mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage. The Just Energy Transition Partnership between South Africa, France, Germany, the UK, the US and the EUEuropean Union may provide a model (though many questions remain). Conditional NDCs have mostly been weak so far. A raft of stronger proposals, in 2022, 2023, or 2025, would put rich countries more firmly on the spot, and would boost the discussion on climate finance, including loss and damage.
Third, work together to promote a global framework. This might be called the Global Green New Deal, or something else if that is politically loaded. The GGND should cover climate compatible development globally, which means all three circles of the Venn diagram, including issues like the treatment of consumption emissions and the inequality thereof (see Ch 6 of EGR 2020). It should also provide an opportunity to look carefully at the additionality or lack of it in climate finance: this is necessary because of the risk that climate finance will gobble up oda, leaving less for other purposes (See Point 18 of the 20 below). Could the Climate Vulnerable Forum play a leadership role?
20 reflections on the Glasgow COP
- Global pacts (e.g. coal, methane, deforestation, finance) give a sense of purpose and set a direction, but . . .
- What really matters is the commitments that countries make to emission reductions
- Provided they are actually delivered
- In this context, general mid-century net-zero targets provide momentum
- But are no substitute for precise commitments embedded in NDCs
- Glasgow was never going to result in substantial new commitments, independently of the UNFCCC timetable – and didn’t
- The official process has resulted in formal commitments for 2030 barely less than current policies will deliver
- And leave a huge gap to the least cost pathway to 2 degrees, 1.8 degrees, and especially 1.5 degrees
- Which is pretty serious, especially given that the least-cost pathway does not take account of the cost of extreme weather events
- That means more is needed quickly, and that a new round of NDCs is needed before the pre-COP timetable of 2025
- The next round of NDCs need to do a better job of accounting for the additionality of commitments by non-state actors (cities, private sector)
- And they really need to be charged with reporting and acting on consumption emissions as well as territorial emissions
- Poorer countries will need more help with transition than has so far been on offer – does the South Africa deal offer a model for more ambitious conditional NDCs, and even for a Global Green New Deal?
- COP has asked for new commitments in 2022, which is a big ask given the complexity of properly worked through NDCs – 2023 might have been better
- But whatever the date, it seems highly unlikely that least cost targets can be achieved by 2030
- Which means that more focus is needed on post-2030 and the costs associated with delay
- The pledge of additional funding for adaptation is welcome, especially if, or provided that, the money is new and additional
- But the whole climate finance set-up needs a proper review, including sources, architecture and amounts
- The review should take account of Loss and Damage needs, though preferably without creating yet more special purpose funding vehicles
- And, finally, the completion of the carbon trading rule book offers new ways to lower the cost of cutting emissions
1. Emissions are still rising
2. NDCs leave a big gap to fill
3. It would have been better to start earlier
4. Consumption emissions matter
5. A model of climate compatible development