Complex Made Simple

COP26 is over, historic, but its success is tied to Egypt’s COP27

COP 26 put the planet on course for global warming of 1.8°C, if all the pledges come to pass. That’s much better than where we were on the way into COP26, a catastrophic 2.7°C according to scientists

The biggest surprise in Glasgow was an agreement by the US and China to talk about the climate India says it wants $1 trillion of international public funding just for itself to fight carbon emissions Airlines rolled out a slew of sustainable fuel initiatives in the run-up to COP26

COP 26 put the planet on course for a warming of 1.8°C, if all the pledges come to pass. That’s much better than where we were on the way into COP26, a catastrophic 2.7°C according to scientists, but still way above what’s safe. On Tuesday, the research group Climate Action Tracker released a global update showing that nations’ plans for how they will slash emissions by the end of this decade would result in 2.4°C of heating by 2100.

Done deals

The Cop26 climate summit concluded after nations agreed to a landmark deal aimed at preventing catastrophic global warming, literally in overtime.

Contentious issues like fossil fuel subsidies, emission-reduction timelines and climate finance for developing nations extended the conference.

COP26 in Glasgow keeps the prospect of limiting warming to 1.5 °C within reach but major polluters will need to return in 2022 with improved emissions-reduction targets to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the approved texts a “compromise.”

China and India made a last-minute intervention but it was a watered-down pledge of a “phase down” rather than a “phase out” of coal power, but the inclusion is still significant as the first mention of coal in a COP text.

COP26
Image source: Bloomberg Green

The biggest surprise in Glasgow was an agreement by the US and China to talk about the climate and work out solutions amid the broader diplomatic standoff.   

More than 100 countries agreed to slash methane, and there’s a reference to methane for the first time in the pact.  

The pact on deforestation is one all the main players signed up to. 

For the first time, there’s a recognition that countries struck by catastrophic climate events will get help, though the finer details is something for COP27, in Egypt to figure out next year.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, said in a tweet last Thursday that the UAE has been selected to host the COP28 international climate conference in 2023.

Cash demands

Developing nations say rich, industrialized countries wrecked the planet and are failing to provide enough cash to help poorer countries adjust.

Rich countries failed to meet a target of providing $100 billion a year by 2020 and now say that will happen in 2023.

India says it wants $1 trillion of international public funding just for itself. Another bloc representing African nations says they need at least $750 billion, and the demands go as high as $1.3 trillion.

Carbon credits

The Paris Agreement of 2015 left some unfinished business that negotiators still haven’t been able to tie up: how to standardize rules on trading carbon credits, or offsets. A deal on global carbon trading would be big but needs to impose strict rules or could end up increasing emissions, and allow for creative carbon accounting. The issue revolves around Article Six.  

Airlines throw their hats in

Bloomberg Green said airlines rolled out a slew of sustainable fuel initiatives in the run-up to COP26, aiming to prove they’re serious about the fight against global warming.

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), made from waste oils and fats to sugar crops and some trees and grasses, is a substitute for the fossil-based kerosene powering today’s jet turbines.

British Airways operated a “carbon neutral” flight to Glasgow, while EasyJet Plc will use a SAF blend on 42 flights out of London Gatwick airport. United Airlines committed to buying 1.5 billion gallons of SAF made from forest and crop waste.

A crucial selling point of SAF is that it offers a way to make immediate progress toward cutting CO₂ emissions, given more impactful changes like hydrogen- and electric-powered planes are still on the drawing board.   

One of the main challenges is cost. SAF is typically three to four times more expensive than kerosene, so very little is being produced.  

SAF supplies are extremely limited, with current production estimated to be less than 0.1% of global jet fuel consumption, according to BloombergNEF.

That’s expected to increase to about 3% of projected demand in 2030 and greater volumes will bring down prices, according to Chris Raymond, Boeing Co.’s chief sustainability officer. He says a combination of incentives and levies on traditional jet fuel could encourage higher SAF usage.   

Another obstacle is that, like conventional kerosene, SAF spews carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Any SAF’s life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions depend on the feedstock and the process of converting it into jet fuel. But some forms risk generating more carbon dioxide than the conventional fuels they replace, according to an International Council on Clean Transportation working paper published in March.

A raft of announcements relating to the greening of transportation were expected from COP26. Emissions from the transportation sector, including vehicles, airplanes, trains, and ships, have more than doubled since 1970. The sector now accounts for about 24% of global emissions.

Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the UAE, announced a new partnership with Microsoft, leveraging its latest tools and technologies to advance its sustainability goals. Under the agreement, the companies will be working together to use advanced analytics and AI to measure and benchmark Etihad’s environmental footprint, allowing the business to implement and assess carbon efficiency savings across its business operations.