12 May 2021
Key Summits Pave Way to Glasgow Climate Change Conference
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The fifth session of the Ministerial on Climate Action, the Leaders Summit on Climate, and the 12th Petersberg Climate Dialogue convened over the course of the past three months, seeking to set the stage for the Glasgow Climate Change Conference.

The next stepping stone towards COP 26 is the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit, which will focus on the theme, ‘Inclusive Green Recovery Towards Carbon Neutrality’.

COP 26 is currently scheduled to take place from 1-12 November 2021, in Glasgow, UK.

A series of high-level events convened ahead of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in an effort to build momentum for successful negotiations and to catalyze efforts towards the net-zero transition and more ambitious action on climate adaptation, resilience, and finance, among others. The 2021 P4G Seoul Summit meeting later this month will serve as the next stepping stone towards COP 26.

On 23 March 2021, China, the European Commission, and Canada co-convened the fifth session of the Ministerial on Climate Action (MoCA). The virtual event gathered ministers from Group of 20 (G20) countries and other key parties in the UNFCCC process, and was the first ministerial meeting of the year focusing on international climate action in the lead-up to COP 26.

At the SDG Knowledge Hub, we reported that discussions focused on how to enhance global ambition while fostering global cooperation and solidarity, and understanding country-specific challenges and opportunities that arise in implementing low-carbon, resilient, and sustainable recoveries from the COVID-19 crisis. 

Addressing the Ministerial, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed that “all countries, companies, cities and financial institutions must commit to net zero, with clear and credible plans to achieve this, starting today.” He urged participants to find breakthroughs on adaptation, finance, and ending coal, and encouraged countries to “move forward immediately with virtual negotiations.”

A month later, US President Joe Biden convened the Leaders Summit on Climate, which took place from 22-23 April 2021. The virtual event gathered 40 world leaders, as well as stakeholders from international organizations, businesses, subnational governments, indigenous communities, and youth, to “galvanize efforts” by the world’s major economies to tackle climate change, highlight economic benefits of early, “decisive” action, and catalyze global cooperation and ambition to “increase the chances for meaningful outcomes” at COP 26.

The SDG Knowledge Hub’s coverage of the event highlights that the Leaders Summit on Climate reconvened the US-led Major Economies Forum (MEF) on Energy and Climate. The MEF’s 17 members are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the EU, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, the Russian Federation, South Africa, the UK, and the US. Together, they are responsible for approximately 80% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and global gross domestic product (GDP).

MEF meetings had taken place periodically from 2009-2016. Following the Trump Administration’s announcement that the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, Canada, China, and the EU co-hosted five Ministerials on Climate Action (MoCAs) between 2017 and 2021. Both, the MEF and the fifth MoCA, took place in 2021.

At the Leaders Summit on Climate, MEF participants, with the leaders of vulnerable countries and “countries charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy,” undertook to “set the world up for success” in this decade. Agreed actions included: galvanizing efforts by the world’s major economies to reduce emissions by 2030 to keep the 1.5°C temperature goal “within reach”; mobilizing public and private sector finance to drive the net-zero transition and to help vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts; and emphasizing the economic benefits of climate action, including job creation to ensure that all workers benefit from the transition to a clean energy economy.

To support these actions, global leaders offered the following pledges:

  • The US presented its goal of reducing emissions by 50-52% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, which is also reflected in the nationally determined contribution (NDC) the US submitted to the UNFCCC on 21 April 2021, after rejoining the Paris Agreement. The US also announced a range of commitments to create jobs, mobilize finance, spur transformational innovations, conserve nature, build resilience, strengthen adaptation, and drive economic growth for communities;
  • Japan increased its previous goal to cut emissions 26% to 46-50% below 2013 levels by 2030, “with strong efforts toward achieving a 50% reduction”;
  • Canada boosted its previous target to reduce emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 to a 40-45% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030;
  • Argentina will strengthen its NDC, deploy more renewables, reduce methane emissions, and end illegal deforestation;
  • The UK will write into law a 78% GHG reduction below 1990 levels by 2035;
  • The EU is embedding in law a target of reducing net GHG emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and a net zero target by 2050;
  • The Republic of Korea, which will host the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit in May, will terminate public overseas coal finance and strengthen its NDC this year to be consistent with its 2050 net zero goal;
  • China will join the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, strengthen the control of non-CO2 GHGs, strictly control coal-fired power generation projects, and phase down coal consumption;
  • Brazil committed to achieve net zero by 2050, end illegal deforestation by 2030, and double funding for deforestation enforcement;
  • South Africa will strengthen its NDC and shift its intended emissions peak year ten years earlier to 2025; and
  • The Russian Federation called for international collaboration to address methane.

Building on the outcomes of the March MoCA and the Leaders Summit on Climate, Germany’s Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze and COP 26 President Designate Alok Sharma, UK, convened some 40 ministers from all over the world for the 12th Petersberg Climate Dialogue, held from 6-7 May 2021, via video conference. The event focused on political preparations for the Glasgow Climate Change Conference, and sought to “take the momentum generated by President Biden’s Summit […] into the negotiations on the joint set of rules under the auspices of the Paris Agreement.” Participants issued a call to “make [COP 26] a success and to conclude negotiations on all unresolved aspects of the [Paris Agreement] rulebook.”

According to Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) press release, “individual policy steps towards complete greenhouse gas neutrality are becoming increasingly defined, especially in economically strong countries.” The release notes that many participants agreed that “the rhythm of the Paris Agreement, under which the international community revises and raises the ambition of its climate targets every five years, has proven effective,” and recognized that increased financial support from wealthier countries is needed to enhance climate efforts in developing countries.

In her opening statement, Minister Schulze noted that “climate action is still at the top of the agenda despite the tragedy of the pandemic.” Among priorities for COP 26, she identified:

  • completing the transparency framework;
  • specifying common time frames for NDCs; and
  • finalizing the provisions on the cooperation mechanisms of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

In his remarks, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned the participants that under current commitments, including those recently made, the world is still heading for a “disastrous” temperature increase of 2.4°C above preindustrial levels by the end of the century. However, he said, “we can avert the worst impacts of climate disruption, and use the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to steer us on a cleaner, greener path.”

In the six months remaining before COP 26, Guterres urged “all ministers to start working on an ambitious and balanced political deal that supports developing countries,” and asked all stakeholders to make sure their initiatives are “ambitious, credible and verifiable.” “There must be no doubt on the environmental integrity of our actions,” he said.

The next stepping stone towards the Glasgow Climate Change Conference is the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit, scheduled to take place from 30-31 May 2021, in Seoul, Republic of Korea. The Summit will focus on the theme, ‘Inclusive Green Recovery Towards Carbon Neutrality,’ and explore how “scalable and replicable market-based solutions can inspire an increased ambition loop of climate action and sustainable development.” The Summit aims to serve as “a catalytic moment for collective action” towards net zero. The Seoul Declaration, expected to result from the Summit, will seek to help raise the ambition of NDCs by putting an emphasis on action, and set milestones for the Decade of Action. 

The event includes a series of leaders’ sessions, breakout sessions, and thematic sessions targeting the water, energy, food and agriculture, cities, and circular economy sectors, which correspond to P4G’s five thematic tracks where the global platform works to accelerate innovative multistakeholder partnerships to deliver transformative change to reach SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production). The SDG Knowledge Hub overview of the thematic sessions is available here.

The Green Future Week, taking place prior to the Summit, will feature ten sessions dedicated to: Carbon Neutrality; the Green New Deal; Civil Society; Ocean; Biodiversity; a Business Forum; Green Technology; Forests; Green Finance; and the Future Generation. You can read the SDG Knowledge Hub’s overview of green future sessions here.

The Glasgow Climate Change Conference was originally scheduled to convene from 9-19 November 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is currently expected to take place from 1-12 November 2021, in Glasgow, UK.

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