There are three objectives that the European Union, the ‘herbivorous’ power that is leading the fight to cut climate-altering emissions, has targeted the Cop26, the 26th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Glasgow and ending on 12 November. COP’s work can now start from “solid foundations”, said Prime Minister Mario Draghi at the end of the G20 in Rome, after the twenty largest economies in the world, responsible for 80% of emissions, have committed themselves to achieving climate neutrality “by or around” 2050.
The concrete objectives of the Glasgow conference are three. First, do what is necessary for keep the planet warming around 1.5 degrees centigrade, compared to pre-industrial levels, as foreseen by the Paris Agreement of 2015. And, to keep this goal in sight, more efforts are needed already in this decade, as the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said. In short, those who have made commitments long ago should also present intermediate and concrete plans to implement them, already acting in this decade.
According to, mobilizing climate finance, that is the financial aid of the most developed countries (largely responsible for global warming) towards the poorest ones, to help them move to a less polluting economy, managing to deliver 100 billion dollars a year already starting from 2022, and not from 2023. Third, to find an agreement on the ‘rulebook’, the set of rules that, on a scientific basis, will make it possible to measure climate-altering emissions and the exchange of shares of the same between countries, avoiding double counting . It is the most technical and complicated part of the negotiation, but also the one on which there is a certain optimism in Brussels.
For the first, the goal of cutting emissions more already in this decade, the gap that must be bridged is estimated at 28 gigatonnes of climate-altering emissions between now and 2030 (one gigatonne is equivalent to one billion tons), to allow to maintain the warming of the planet below 2 degrees Celsius and, ideally, 1.5 degrees. This is a significant amount but, from what has been learned in Brussels, it is not considered out of reach.
The chances of success have increased significantly with the Joe Biden administration: with Donald Trump in the White House, the chances of reaching a meaningful agreement with COP26 were zero. Now everything is not resolved, also because the US is not the only country that counts in this game, but the chances of success are no longer nil.
If all the commitments already made by the various countries in terms of cutting emissions are respected, global warming should be 2.2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels (the Paris agreement does not specify what exactly they are: it is still a topic discussed scientifically). A reduction of between 10 and 15 gigatonnes, which should be sufficient to contain global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius, is considered in Brussels to be achievable relatively soon, perhaps as early as at the Glasgow conference or shortly thereafter. But that’s not enough: the goal, not easy, is 1.5 degrees. The EU has approved a climate law that provides for neutrality in terms of harmful emissions by 2050 and has presented a broad legislative package, the Fit for 55, which should make it possible to cut climate-altering emissions (Co2, methane and others) of the 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030, thus setting a binding medium-term target.
To ensure that the 1.5 degree target does not remain a chimera, other large economies must make more stringent commitments (Ndc, Nationally Determined Contributions) than those made so far. “Sufficient commitments are needed to really cut emissions in this decade – said von der Leyen – science is very clear: it is urgent. Science tells us that climate change is man-made, so we can do something, but we must act. “.
While the US with Biden has done more or less what was expected of them, the negotiators’ gaze is turned to other large countries, in particular to China and India, the two Asian giants, but also to Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa. , Saudi Arabia, Russia. The probable absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping does not bode well, but in Brussels it is emphasized that the Chinese position has evolved, that Beijing is considered a reliable partner on the climate and that something is expected from the first country in the world by population.
Already Xi’s commitment to no longer finance coal-fired power plants outside national borders is significant. Some commitment is now expected with regard to coal-fired power plants in China. Beijing has already slowed the pace at which it builds new coal plants to fuel its economic growth. This slowdown in the pace is enough for the corresponding increase in gas demand by the Asian giant to affect the world: it is one of the factors behind the natural gas price increases in recent weeks, which have been felt in the EU and also in the UK, which had to rekindle two coal-fired power plants.
On climate finance, the EU will press on the US to accelerate, so as to be able to have 100 billion dollars a year already starting from 2022, and not from 2023 as currently foreseen. The EU has increased its contribution by 4 billion: Washington has covered a significant part of its gap, but not all of it, and the EU is pressing for action. Of course, there is still a shortage of money, but just a few years ago there was nowhere near a three-figure commitment on climate finance, it is noted in Brussels. Part of the negotiations on this point will also concern how much money will go to adapt poor countries to climate change, and how much instead to climate mitigation. While mitigation is all that addresses the causes of global warming, adaptation is all that is needed to adapt to the new climatic conditions.
The third point, the rules, are the most technical chapter, but also one of the most important. An agreement is essential to establish a common standard for metering emissions, so that countries can trust each other. A crucial part of the negotiation will concern how many of the emission quotas currently in circulation will be ‘transferred’ into the new system: if they were all transferred, they would irreparably water down the commitments. It is possible that a compromise will be reached, with some of the old permits carried over. An agreement on the ‘rulebook’ is essential, to really start working on the objectives.
Von der Leyen will participate in some collateral initiatives at COP26. With Joe Biden he will launch a commitment to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 (gas more harmful to the climate than Co2) and with Bill Gates an initiative to finance green technologies and help bring them to market. The EU, together with others, will help South Africa accelerate its exit from coal, with a partnership that could be replicated in other parts of the world. The Cop26 tomorrow and Tuesday will see the heads of state and government in Glasgow, who will launch the political messages necessary to give the framework to the Conference in two days, and then leave the field to the negotiators, until 12 November. In the hope that they can find an agreement, under the autumn clouds of Scotland. (from the correspondent Tommaso Gallavotti)