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Insights from COP26: Day 5 - Youth and nature

By Dafydd Rees
05 November 2021

By Andrew Adie & Dafydd Rees

As the week closes after a positive and, from many perspectives, successful start to COP26 we were reminded again of why it matters.

Today is Youth and Public Empowerment Day and that has been visibly illustrated by the Fridays for Future demonstration that has brought thousands of young people onto the streets of Glasgow to call for more urgent action to decarbonise and protect the planet.

While many of the speeches have focused on a perceived lack of progress and broken political promises, the reality inside COP26 is perhaps less dire than the protestors fear.

The first week has surprised many by the scale of what has been achieved and the resolute, pragmatic, action-focused nature of discussions.

The ‘business COP’ descriptor of the Glasgow conference continues to be used – both as a reference to the fact that the private sector is actively involved and here in force but also descriptively for the approach the Conference has taken. One speaker this week said it is the first COP they’ve been to where everyone agrees there is a problem, the focus is on how we solve it.

While the demonstrators outside continue to hold delegates feet to the fire and remind everyone why they’re there, inside the Conference the focus has been on nature and a carbon offset market.  

It may sound like an arcane argument but the questions around Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which essentially provides a foundation for establishing a carbon offset scheme that could then allow natural assets (e.g. a living rainforest) to become a financially valuable asset as it stands, not as a pile of logged wood, have continued to rage.

It’s a bone of contention and agreeing Article 6 has proved a blocker for countries since the Paris Agreement. Developing nations are said to want a bigger share of revenues directed towards climate adaptation. The European Union is said to be opposed. A deal on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is widely viewed as being essential to help protect natural assets and help drive finance from the wealthy nations (who produce the most emissions) to developing nations who have many natural assets and produce the least greenhouse gas. 

The UN Environment Programme says developing countries need up to ten times more money than developed countries are currently providing to help them mitigate the impacts of climate change. In a hard-hitting report UNEP says the financing gap is widening and is worried there is little evaluation of existing adaptation projects.   

The Chair of the African Group of negotiators on Climate Change has said there should be a 13-fold increase in climate finance for the continent, rising to a figure of $1.3 trillion a year.  

It all builds on a theme that has been ubiquitous throughout week one, Climate Justice, the need to ensure a just transition to net zero that sees financial support from the global north flowing to the global south to pay for decarbonisation, sustainable technologies and to put a value on protecting nature.

While the protests will continue over the weekend the takeaway from week one is positive but much remains to be agreed next week when negotiations on carbon reduction will resume in earnest.

Tomorrow is Nature Day and also the Global Day for Climate Justice. The temperature in Glasgow is set to rise.