COP26: Days 10 and 11 – China-US ‘breakthrough’ as final statement is hammered out

With a break for yesterday’s public holiday in Poland, here’s a catch-up from Wednesday in Glasgow, where three significant events happened, and then from Thursday, which was a day of frenetic negotiations of the text of the final announcement:

Day 1: BPCC’s green blog on COP 26 in Glasgow
Day 2: Methane emission pledge hailed as success on second day of COP26
Day 3: Coal and climate finance are the focus of the third day of COP26
Day 4: Youth activism flavours fourth day of COP26
Day 7: Barack Obama’s speech highlighted start of second week of COP26
Day 8: Gender equality – focus of eighth day of COP26 – overshadowed by new heat calculation
Day 10&11: China-US ‘breakthrough’ as final statement is hammered out
Summary: COP26 disappoints with the loss of strong commitment

Wednesday – Day 10

The US and China released a joint declaration promising cooperation on many issues, most notably on slashing methane emissions. The US says China should take far more action to combat climate change, while China is saying that the US must deliver on the commitments it made first. The declaration is seen as a truce, a desire by both parties to stop fighting, and it may be the precursor of for a major bilateral agreement between the two biggest polluters on earth. Given that China did not sign up too the methane-emission cap announced on the first full day of COP26, this is seen as a major step forward. China pledged on Wednesday to develop a plan “to achieve a significant effect on methane emissions control and reductions in the 2020s” before next year’s COP. The US-China agreement called for both parties to take “enhanced climate actions” and pursue efforts to reach the Paris goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C. The statement, however, sidestepped key areas raised the first draft of the COP26 deal, released on Wednesday.

Wednesday was transport day at COP26. The UK failed to secure backing from big car-producing countries for a commitment to ban the sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles by 2040 at the latest.

A mere 32 countries agreeing to the plan, including the UK, India, Turkey and 12 EU members, including Poland. The US, China, Germany and France were not on the list of signatories. Of the car-makers, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo agreed to the plan, whilst BMW, Nissan, Renault, Stellantis [Fiat/Chrysler/Citroen/Peugeot/Opel/Vauxhall] and Volkswagen opted out. The declaration commits signatories to work toward all new cars and van sales "being zero emission by 2040 or earlier, or by no later than 2035 in leading markets." For the car-makers, it means that 100% of their sales will be zero emission by 2035 at the latest. Signatories to the declaration also includes fleet operators, including AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, financial institutions including Aviva and local authorities, including Barcelona, Bristol, Los Angeles, New York and Rome. The European Commission wants to ban the sale of combustion engine cars from 2035 through new emission-reduction targets.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson returned to the UN climate conference on Wednesday to move negotiations forward ahead of the publication of the final document, to be hammered out by the end of COP26 on Friday evening. Mr Johnson visited the different negotiating rooms on Wednesday to send a message to ministers and negotiators to "dig deep”. He also met with UN secretary-general, António Guterres. At stake is an agreement that will shape the course of global climate discussions for the next few years. There’s still much to be agreed – this will go to a marathon series of negotiations that finish today.

"The honest truth is that we are not where we need to be, not even close," said European Commission Executive vice-president and Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans.

 

Thursday – Day 11 – COP27 and COP28 both to be held in the Arab World

We already knew that COP27 will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt; yesterday it was announced that the United Arab Emirates would host COP28.

The UK announced that it would not be joining the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, initiated in September by Denmark and Costa Rica in effort to phase out production of these fossil fuels. France, Greenland, Ireland, Sweden, the devolved government of Wales and the Canadian province Quebec said yesterday that they would join the alliance.

Thursday’s main developments however, took place in individual negotiation rooms, as the COP26 final declaration was been prepared. The wording is crucial; the next BPCC blogpost (out on Monday) will look at what the world has signed up to, and whether it is enough to forestall climate disaster.

Day 1: BPCC’s green blog on COP 26 in Glasgow
Day 2: Methane emission pledge hailed as success on second day of COP26
Day 3: Coal and climate finance are the focus of the third day of COP26
Day 4: Youth activism flavours fourth day of COP26
Day 7: Barack Obama’s speech highlighted start of second week of COP26
Day 8: Gender equality – focus of eighth day of COP26 – overshadowed by new heat calculation
Day 10&11: China-US ‘breakthrough’ as final statement is hammered out
Summary: COP26 disappoints with the loss of strong commitment