Insights from COP26: Day 11 – Cities & Built Environment Day

By Andrew Adie & Dafydd Rees

Today’s theme here in Glasgow is devoted to Cities and the Built Environment, yet broader themes dominated discussions outside the conference halls.

Last night’s surprise joint statement from the US and China that they will work together to limit global warming and achieve the 1.5C temperature ceiling for global warming has increased pressure on other countries to commit to tighter targets.

The US and China are the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and are expected to meet very soon (possibly next week) to discuss more stringent measure to reduce methane emissions and tackle deforestation. China has also repeated a promise that it will speed up efforts to reduce its reliance on coal. The Secretary General of the UN says it’s an important step in the right direction.

In the final days of the Conference the pressure is mounting on negotiators to reach new emissions reduction targets that ‘keep 1.5 alive’. Yesterday’s final draft text (published by the UN) urged the 197 countries at these talks to strengthen their 2030 climate targets and establish new targets by the end of 2022. China and Russia have signalled they want to keep to the existing five-year timeframe of setting carbon emission goals.

The United Nations Environment Programme says emissions would need to fall by half this decade to keep global temperature rises to the target of 1.5C. There is also a clause asking for a commitment to phase out coal and subsidies for fossil fuels. India has signalled its looking for a trillion-dollar commitment from the developed world by the end of the decade before it agrees to new targets to cut emissions.

Alok Sharma, President of COP26, said in a media conference this afternoon that finance (notably the $100billion reparation payments for developing nations from the G20 nations – which are the most polluting and larger economies) is still a sticking point, as reportedly is Article 6 which sets the framework for carbon pricing and trading.

In other news Costa Rica and Denmark announced a new global coalition, Beyond Oil and Gas, which will end the granting of new licences for exploring and extracting oil and gas. Other signatories to the new agreement include France, Greenland, Ireland, Quebec, Sweden and Wales.

There has also been plenty of discussion and case studies presented of the work being undertaken by cities and urban administrations to mitigate the impact of climate change and decarbonise urban areas.

However, as we move into the last day of COP26 all eyes are on the big prize. Will we get a global commitment to decarbonise faster and keep 1.5C global warming within reach? Negotiations will continue through the night and into tomorrow with the answer revealed at the end of COP26 news conference.