Experts react: Can COP26 negotiators sustain the momentum?

A mass of global political leaders, activists, and thinkers have descended on Glasgow, Scotland for the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) on climate change—described as the world’s “last best chance” to address the warming planet before it’s too late.

During the twelve-day event, which kicked off October 31, they’re mulling meaningful ways to wean the world off fossil fuels and embrace renewable energy. 

Throughout COP26, Atlantic Council experts—some of whom are on the ground in Glasgow—will deliver insightful and forward-looking analysis on the developments they believe will matter most in the fight against climate change.

This post will be continuously updated as news developments and expert analysis stream in and we track this hugely consequential conference.

COP26

2021
November 12 2021 3:58 AM

Will negotiators go easier on coal and fossil fuels?

 

A second draft of the COP26 pact, released early Friday, appeared to contain softened language compared to Wednesday’s first version, the Associated Press reports—calling on nations to increase “the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.”

 

Friday is crunch time for participating countries to nail down a final deal. Another sticking point, according to the AP, centers on providing financial aid for poorer countries struggling with climate change.

November 12 2021 3:52 AM

Kathy Baughman McLeod, director of the Council’s Adrienne Arsht Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, highlights an important moment for the Race to Resilience initiative:

November 10 2021 2:05 PM

The US and China strike their own climate deal

 

The world’s two biggest emitters, the United States and China, agreed to step up their efforts over the next decade to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius—including a new commitment from China to tackle methane.

 

“The surprise declaration was a boost to talks that are still teetering on the edge of failure to reach an agreement,” the Washington Post reports.

November 10 2021 7:51 AM

Don’t miss this special event tomorrow showcasing the Council’s real-world impact:

November 10 2021 4:16 AM
<strong>A draft deal is out. But does it demand enough?</strong>

A draft deal is out. But does it demand enough?

 

A seven-page rough cut of the COP26 pact calls on participating countries to lay out long-term net-zero strategies, boost their emissions-cutting, and speed up their shift away from coal and fossil fuel subsidies, the BBC reports.

 

Although that seems like a good plan on paper, activists aren’t over the moon about it: Greenpeace International chief Jennifer Morga has called it “a polite request that countries maybe, possibly, do more next year.”

November 9 2021 3:47 AM

Check out these images from the Council’s ground game in Glasgow:

November 9 2021 2:11 AM
<strong>Jennifer T. Gordon, managing editor and senior fellow at the Council’s Global Energy Center</strong>, reflects on why the recently announced US Nuclear Futures Initiative matters:

Jennifer T. Gordon, managing editor and senior fellow at the Council’s Global Energy Center, reflects on why the recently announced US Nuclear Futures Initiative matters:

 

The US Department of State’s announcement of the $25 million Nuclear Futures Package—aimed at helping a wide array of countries acquire nuclear energy technologies—at COP26 last week was a major milestone, and an implicit argument for the role of nuclear energy as a necessary tool in the fight against climate change. The coordination on this issue of several US government entities—including State and the Departments of Commerce and Energy, among others—also shows the importance of a whole-of-government approach to civil nuclear exports.

 

That the Nuclear Futures Package was announced by Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, demonstrates the intrinsic relationship between US civil nuclear export leadership and global safety and nonproliferation. Countries interested in purchasing nuclear energy technologies from the United States must adhere to the highest standards of safety and nonproliferation.

 

The funding is intended to build capacity for nuclear energy programs around the world, but not the reactors themselves. It will cover areas such as equipment, feasibility studies, and technical collaboration. While the eventual reactors will almost certainly carry much larger price tags, financing questions can be solved as long as the foundations of civil nuclear cooperation are built—which is exactly what this new initiative will do.

November 9 2021 1:44 AM

Dozens of countries say they’ll cut carbon in their health systems

 

Forty-two countries have committed to slashing emissions by their hospitals and other parts of their health-care industries, according to the New York Times.

 

“This announcement is huge,” said one nonprofit director—likely because the sector is responsible for nearly 5 percent of global carbon emissions, the Times reports.

November 8 2021 12:50 PM
During a Global Environment Facility panel on adaptation innovation on Monday, <strong>Jorge Gastelumendi, director of global policy for the Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center</strong>, weighed in on the critical role of women in boosting climate resilience:

During a Global Environment Facility panel on adaptation innovation on Monday, Jorge Gastelumendi, director of global policy for the Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, weighed in on the critical role of women in boosting climate resilience:

 

“Women and children are way more affected than men by climate change, and we need women working in [climate] finance and micro-finance. We need them—not because it’s a nice thing to have, but without social resilience, without social justice, it’s impossible to have climate resilience and climate justice.”

 

 

November 8 2021 11:04 AM
<strong>Obama: Big nations shoulder an extra burden</strong>

Obama: Big nations shoulder an extra burden

 

Former US President Barack Obama told COP26 delegates on Monday that “all of us have a part to play” in fighting climate change—but that rich nations should do more.

 

“We have an added burden to make sure we are working with, and helping and assisting those who are less responsible and less able but more vulnerable to this oncoming crisis,” he said, according to the Evening Standard.

 

That’s a topic Council experts have covered in the past, particularly when it comes to helping low-income countries weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further reading

Image: Former US President Barack Obama attends a round table meeting at Strathclyde University during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, Scotland, November 8, 2021. Photo by Dylan Martinez/REUTERS