Numerous countries update climate pledges at summit

Article by Amanda Doyle

THE Climate Ambition Summit was held on 12 December to mark five years since the Paris Agreement, and saw many world leaders submitting new and updated climate pledges.

The Summit was hosted by the UN, the UK, and France, in partnership with Italy and Chile. It provided a platform for some discussion in lieu of the COP26 climate summit being postponed to next year. Around 75 world leaders, along with business executives and representatives from NGOs, gathered for the virtual summit.

New and updated pledges

Under the Paris Agreement, countries are expected to submit new or updated pledges – known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – every five years. The Summit marks the first time that this “ratchet” system of increasing ambition has been used. NDCs covering 71 countries (the EU submits one NDC) were announced at the Summit or just prior to it.

The Summit was open to leaders willing to show ambitious new commitments on climate action, particularly by submitting new and updated NDCs. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was among those not invited to speak, along with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa.

A week before the Summit, the UK announced an NDC committing to 68% emissions reduction by 2030. It submitted the full details to the the UNFCC on the day of the Summit. The EU also announced its NDC where it pledged to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030, up from its previous commitment of 40%.

The full list of NDCs that have been submitted to UNFCCC (not just proposed) can be found here, while Carbon Action Tracker has an interactive tool on the proposed and submitted NDCs and whether they have sufficiently increased ambition. Businesses and NGOs also took the opportunity to announce new climate ambitions. For example, the Summit saw the launch of the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative, a group managing US$9trn in assets, that has committed to support the aims of the Paris Agreement by aligning their investments with a net zero by 2050 target. The Race to Resilience campaign was also launched, which aims to improve climate resilience for 4bn people vulnerable to climate risks by 2030.

Climate adaption

Under the Paris Agreement, signatories are also supposed to submit Adaption Communications, which outline how each country will deal with the effects of the climate crisis such as increased flooding and drought. The UK submitted its Adaption Communication to the UNFCCC at the Summit, with Switzerland and Russia submitting theirs prior to the Summit. This brings the total to seven countries which have submitted their Adaption Communication to date.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK’s International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26 Presidency, said: “We must act now to ensure our communities and economies are resilient to the climate shocks which are coming. From floods to droughts, to rising sea levels and wildfires, we need to be better prepared both at home and overseas to protect lives and livelihoods.”

Ending overseas fossil fuel support

The UK, France, and Sweden all pledged to end financial support for overseas fossil fuel projects.

French President Emmanuel Macron said: “The EU and France will continue to promote ambitious levels of climate finance. We look forward to working with the United Nations, the UK COP Presidency and all parties to the Paris Agreement to keep raising ambition, and deliver on it through concrete action, in the year ahead.”

The UK said it will end export finance, aid funding, and trade promotion for new crude oil, natural gas, and thermal coal projects. In the last four years, £21bn was spent on fossil fuel support overseas. The new policy for the UK is expected to come into force prior to COP26 next year.

While the new pledges and commitments announced at the Summit were welcomed, there is still a lot to be done, and there are numerous issues such as increased funding for vulnerable nations that will need to be resolved at COP26.

António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, said: “The Summit has now sent strong signals that more countries and more businesses are ready to take the bold climate action on which our future security and prosperity depend. Today was an important step forward, but it’s not yet enough. Let’s not forget that we are still on track to an increase of temperature of 3 degrees at least in the end of the century, which would be catastrophic. The recovery from Covid-19 presents an opportunity to set our economies and societies on a green path.”

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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