COP26 a year later: Where do last year’s climate pledges stand?


A year ago at the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, countries, banks and business leaders announced a slew of climate plans and pledges. Here is an update on how some of the biggest promises have since progressed.

National emissions plans

Nearly 200 countries agreed at last year’s COP26 summit to improve their emissions-cutting pledges, called Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, in time for COP27, but only two dozen countries have so far done so. The world remains on a path to overshoot 2 degrees of warming beyond the pre-industrial average.

Those to upgrade since COP26 include Indonesia and South Korea as well as Australia, which pledged a 43% emissions cut by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Brazil submitted a plan in March that actually allows for higher emissions than under its 2016 pledge, though Sunday’s election victory by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva raises hopes of more ambitious action to combat Amazon deforestation.

The 27-country EU, the world’s third-biggest polluter, plans to upgrade its target in 2023. China has resisted pressure to improve its pledge to peak emissions before 2030 – a goal that doesn’t address the deep emissions cuts needed to avert disastrous global warming.

Deforestation

More than 100 countries pledged last year to end deforestation by 2030. Supporters included Brazil, Indonesia and Congo, which together contain more than 80% of the world’s remaining tropical forests.

To achieve that goal, however, the area deforested would need to shrink by 10% each year from the 2020 cover. Instead, deforestation fell last year by just 6.3%, according to the Forest Declaration Platform which tracks progress on the goal.

Amazon deforestation last year hit its highest level since 2006, and preliminary government data suggests it rose a further 23% in the first nine months of 2022.

Indonesia has seen deforestation slow since 2016. But Congo, which had promised to improve forest safeguards after COP26, instead announced plans to open up areas of pristine rainforest and carbon-rich peatlands to oil and gas drilling.

Methane pledge

To date, 119 countries and blocs including the United States and the European Union have joined the COP26 pledge to slash methane emissions 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. But only 15 of them have come up with concrete plans to do so, according to a report this month by the World Resources Institute.

Several countries are expected to provide methane strategies in time for the Egypt conference. And China could also give an update on its plan to begin monitoring methane emissions – a promise made under the U.S.-China agreement announced in Glasgow.

The focus on methane comes as the World Meteorological Organization warned of the biggest year-on-year jump in methane concentrations in 2021 since record-keeping began nearly 40 years ago.

Quitting fossil fuels

Around 20 countries including Germany, the United States, Canada, Britain and France pledged last November to stop public financing for fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of 2022, except in “limited” circumstances that comply with climate goals.

COP27 is expected to see a handful of new countries make the pledge. Signatories are also under pressure to translate the non-binding commitment into concrete policy, which some including France have done.

Others such as Germany and the United States have yet to publish such policies, and questions remain about how strict those plans will be. Germany this year called for new investments in gas, as it scrambles to replace its Russian gas supply with alternatives – which campaigners say could violate the commitment.

A fledgling international alliance to halt new oil and gas drilling also hopes to announce new members at COP27. Launched by Denmark and Sweden at last year’s climate talks, the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance counts France and Sweden among its members, but has yet to win support from any major fossil fuel producers.

$100 billion by 2023

Rich countries’ failure to deliver promised finance to poorer nations has eroded trust at recent climate talks and made collective progress harder.

At the heart of the issue is a 2009 pledge from developed countries to transfer $100 billion per year by 2020 to vulnerable states. The amount has become symbolic, even as it falls far short of the actual sums needed for poor nations to cope with severe climate impacts.

Rich countries fell $16.7 billion short of the target in 2020 and have signalled that it won’t be met until 2023. Analysis by the German and Canadian governments suggests wealthy countries will deliver more than $100 billion in the years after 2023.

Greening business

Launched ahead of last year’s U.N. talks, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero – known by its acronym GFANZ – acts as the umbrella group for financial services firms looking to reach net-zero emissions across their portfolios. The group now counts more than 550 members, including most of the world’s leading banks, insurers and asset managers, with collective assets of more than $150 trillion.

Since joining, 118 asset managers, 44 asset owners and 53 banks have set shorter-term targets to cut emissions, and more are expected to do so in coming months.
GFANZ, led by former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, also launched a series of projects to accelerate change in the real economy, including those helping to set standards and frameworks for disclosure and setting targets.

Despite that, the group and some of its members have been criticised for not going fast enough, particularly on the provision of financing to companies expanding production of fossil fuels. And last week, climate activists criticized GFANZ for dropping a requirement that its members sign onto a U.N. emissions reduction campaign.

Data reporting standards

Announced during COP26, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) was set up to establish baseline standards for the reporting of environmental data from companies globally, amid complaints from investors and companies that disclosures were hard to compare.

Since then, the group has announced Emmanuel Faber, the former head of French yogurt maker Danone, as its chair and appointed a high-profile leadership group to hammer out guidelines in time to launch them in 2023.

Despite that, the European Union and U.S. regulators have moved to launch their own rules, all with slight differences that companies fear could raise the cost of compliance and end up with even less clarity.





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