Day 10 at COP26 – #NaturePositive highlights

This news piece is an excerpt from the COP26 Daily Newsletter that Nature4Climate is publishing.

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Today, we’re going to dive right in.

US-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s
In a move that surprised many of us, the United States and China announced yesterday evening an agreement to work together to achieve climate action during the next decade. While the majority of the declaration repeats the science we already know, the existing commitments to the Paris Agreement, and the obvious need to increase ambition, there are several specific actions included. China promised to develop a National Action Plan on methane by COP27 (next year) and the countries established a Working Group on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s to help with cooperation and coordination on concrete actions. “However, with the declaration delivering no concrete increase in ambition, the job of the US and China at COP26 is far from done.”

For those looking for anything on nature, a key component of the US-China Joint Declaration is Paragraph 10: “The two sides intend to engage collaboratively in support of eliminating global illegal deforestation through effectively enforcing their respective laws on banning illegal imports.“This is nice to see but its effectiveness will be minimal if their respective laws are inadequate. The Schatz-Blumenhauer bill in the US will go some way to address this, though we hear it is by no means a ‘sure thing’. In China, while new laws may not get caught in partisan deadlock, we will have to wait and see whether they are being proposed at all.

COP Draft Decisions
Yesterday morning the UK Presidency released the draft cover decisions for COP26 and CMA3. The current drafts are a strong starting point for the negotiations: they highlight the need for nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches, acknowledge the ambition and finance gaps and the need to remedy them, and, for the first time, call for the phase-out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies.

What is the purpose of these sector-specific ‘shout-outs’ for action, given that it is well-known that we cannot “keep 1.5 alive” without such actions? We must remember that such cover decisions are intended for a broader audience, as a signal to non-state actors and domestic constituents that the governments of the world are heading in this direction. Whether this will have a significant impact is, based on history, debatable. According to Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead Climate & Energy: “It is clear that there is more to be done, and negotiators must improve the areas of the text that are still weak. This must be a floor, not a ceiling.”

Finance: The draft text acknowledges the $100bn goal has not been met; calls for increased financing for mitigation and adaptation; and “urges” countries and financial institutions to provide funding for loss and damage. But the details are missing. The voices of developing countries have been heard loud and clear throughout COP26: they are calling for 50% of finance to be allocated for adaptation, and the need for new funding streams (both pre-2025 and in long term strategies) for loss and damage. Additionally, Indigenous groups and some developing countries have expressed the need for funding to be more easily accessible, concessional, and direct — cutting out the burdensome and time-consuming processes that currently plague finance flows. The debates over how the $100bn should be allocated are important, but this would be less of an issue if the total size of the pie were increased.

Fossil Fuels: For the first time in a decision text, Parties are called upon to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.” However, reading closely, this calls for the phase out of fossil fuel subsidies, not the use of fossil fuels. And the text does not consider the financing and construction of fossil fuel facilities by financing institutions and MDBs. Many stakeholders — including the youth movement and the Climate Action Network — are calling for meaningful action to be taken on fossil fuels, and say the decision text must go beyond just subsidies to include the permitting, licensing, and construction of all fossil fuel facilities.

NBS: Nature-based solutions, ecosystem-based services, and the linking of biodiversity and the climate crisis are all recognized in the preamble of the draft text. Fernanda Carvalho, WWF global policy manager climate and energy, says: “The reference to nature-based solutions in the draft cover text is important and innovative. This is the first time an explicit reference to nature-based solutions and ecosystems-based adaptation as key contributions to climate change mitigation and adaptation has been included. It is critical that it not only stays in the final COP negotiated outcome but is strengthened through a mention of their role in limiting global warming to 1.5℃.”

Yesterday evening, negotiators met again to address initial comments on the draft cover decisions. Most countries cautiously welcomed the text as a good basis to work from, and some called for more ambition. Let’s see what happens; more to follow.

Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture
If you, like us, forgot about the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, here is a quick summary. In the months leading up to COP26, a Koronivia intersessional workshop emphasized the need for soil and nutrient management practices, sustainable land and water management, and sustainably managed livestock systems. The workshop also explored options on how to scale up implementation of best practices, innovations and technologies that increase resilience and sustainable production in agricultural systems, and recognized the need to prioritize food security and ending hunger. On November 6th, SBSTA and SBI proposed draft conclusions recognizing this work, and recommended a report on the workshop be drafted at SB56 in June 2022 with the aim to report and recommend a draft decision on the Koronivia Joint Work at COP27 in November 2022. (For those familiar with the history of attempts within the COP process to address the role of the agriculture sector in mitigation and adaptation, you will not be surprised to hear that agreeing on the simplest conclusions about what has actually been discussed can be difficult.)

Other NBS Announcements

Burning forest wood for energy sabotages climate action
Environmental organizations pledged their opposition to burning forest biomass for renewable energy in a declaration issued yesterday. This came in response to a series of events organised by the biomass and wood pellet industries, that NGOs say greenwashes the use of forest biomass for energy.

Great Blue Wall
Western Indian Ocean states and partners including International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have launched the Great Blue Wall initiative to establish a network of marine and coastal conserved areas to benefit biodiversity and local livelihoods, empowering communities to become stewards of the ocean.

This news piece is an excerpt from the COP26 Daily Newsletter that Nature4Climate is publishing.

Sign up here to get the full newsletter direct to your inbox.

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