30 April 2020
Petersberg Climate Dialogue Keeps Momentum towards COP 26
Photo credit: Claudio Schwarz /Unsplash
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UN Secretary General António-Guterres said the same leadership required to fight COVID-19 is needed to address the climate crisis.

Participants underscored the opportunity for a green, resilient recovery from COVID-19, with economic stimulus packages supporting decarbonization.

Ministers underscored the need for enhanced NDCs without delay, despite the postponement of COP 26 until 2021.

The 11th edition of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue (PCD XI) focused on ways to enable a clean, climate-friendly, resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The two-day dialogue was the first major climate ministerial meeting of 2020.

The Dialogue took place from 27-28 April 2020, in a virtual format, enabling broader participation. Over 30 climate ministers and high-level representatives spoke via video to discuss measures that could pave the way for a green recovery from the economic crisis posed by COVID-19, with additional video meetings taking place between other stakeholders and non-state actors, between UNFCCC lead negotiators, and among representatives from the finance sector.

Many acknowledged that COVID-19 and the impacts of climate change are exacerbating each other.

The Dialogue also focused on: how countries can move forward with ambitious climate action despite the postponement of UNFCCC COP 26 until 2021; and designing stimulus programmes that will facilitate a more committed climate policy in future.

The Dialogue was co-hosted by Svenja Schulze, German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), and Alok Sharma, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and incoming UNFCCC COP President.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reinforced the importance of multilateralism while the world is facing COVID-19. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa stressed that while COVID-19 has not postponed the climate emergency, recovery from the pandemic has the potential to put the world on a more sustainable and inclusive path.
Sharma stressed the need for an ambitious roadmap for COP 26. He urged paying particular attention to the power and transport sectors, which are priorities for the UK Presidency. He cited the challenge of accelerating progress towards a zero-emission and climate-resilient global economy, while creating jobs and supporting communities through the transition. These are of particular importance in light of the COVID-19’s impact on the economy, he noted. 
COP 25 President Carolina Schmidt, Chile’s Environment Minister, stressed that climate action must continue at all levels despite the health crisis. She said  enhanced NDCs could provide “the blueprint for designing recovery strategies” that are aligned with reducing high emissions levels. She said Chile’s enhanced NDC connects climate commitments to the SDGs, and fosters a socioeconomic and a more inclusive development, which is critical in recovering from COVID-19 and its economic impacts.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the same leadership required to fight COVID-19 is also needed to address the climate crisis. He proposed climate-related actions to shape the recovery, including the need to: deliver new jobs through a clean green and just transition; invest in sustainability; and work together as an international community. He said recovery from the pandemic offers an opportunity to “steer our world” on a more sustainable and inclusive path that tackles climate change, protects the environment, and ensures long-term health and security. Calling on countries to ramp up their ambition, he said that more than 110 countries have announced they will submit enhanced NDCs, and 121 countries have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. 

Other speakers included: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Brookings Institution; Nicholas Stern, Chair, Grantham Research Institute; Christiana Figueres, Convener of Mission 2020; Achim Steiner, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator; and Kristalina Georgieva, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director.
During the ministerial discussion, many acknowledged that economic recovery programmes will be necessary as a mid- and long-term response to the crisis, and that the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of climate change are exacerbating each other. They emphasized the need for: aligning economic recovery plans with the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); multilateralism, international cooperation, and support for developing countries to ensure a successful recovery; enhanced NDCs without delay, despite the postponement of COP 26 until 2021; and further exchange among ministers, including possibly another virtual meeting in late summer.

The session with lead climate negotiators, inter alia:

  • underscored the importance of finding innovative ways to continue international cooperation, the multilateral process, and accelerating action on the ground;
  • recognized the success of the Placencia Ambition Forum, hosted by Belize and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) from 20-22 April, which reaffirmed the need to continue addressing climate change despite the current pandemic; and
  • encouraged the use of virtual meetings and overcoming associated challenges with connectivity in order to maintain momentum during the crisis.   

Negotiators also recognized the need to make progress on unresolved elements of the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWA), and underscored the importance of, inter alia: financial and technical support in coming back stronger from the pandemic, and beginning deliberations on the new climate finance goal at COP 26. They encouraged the incoming COP 26 Presidency and the UNFCCC Secretariat to provide clarity and direction in light of the postponement of COP 26.

For the first time in the history of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue a stakeholder session took place, bringing together representatives from international organizations, business leaders, ministers, local government leaders, and members of civil society. Stakeholders discussed working together to accelerate global net-zero, climate-resilient transitions in the power and road transport sectors in the context of COVID-19. Participants underscored: the opportunity for a green, resilient recovery from COVID-19, with economic stimulus packages supporting decarbonization; and the impact of the pandemic on the labor market. Some noted the opportunity to implement technologies such as solar PV, where rapid job creation could take place. 

In a virtual side event, representatives of international financial institutions, public finance providers, and the private sector discussed Financing Climate Ambition in the Context of COVID-19. Co-hosted by Germany, the UK, and the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), the event addressed ways in which: finance can support a green economic recovery and foster ambitious climate action in the lead-up to COP 26; and the financial industry can organize a climate-friendly, sustainable restart of the world economy after the COVID-19 pandemic and overcome the impacts of the crisis. Some participants stressed that economic stimulus measures must enable the achievement of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. 
Since 2010, the Government of Germany has organized the Petersberg Climate Dialogue as an annual forum for discussing international climate negotiations and advancing climate action on the ground. The Co-Chair of the Dialogue, alongside Germany, is the country presiding over the next COP. [UNFCCC news story] [2020 Petersberg Climate Dialogue website] [Video statement of UNFCCC Executive Secretary] [Government of Germany press release ahead of PCD XI] [Video statements of participants] [Co-Chairs’ conclusions] [Statement of IMF Managing Director during side event] [German BMU press release on side event

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