I’ve recently found time to read COP26: Delivering the Paris Agreement: A Five-Point Plan for Solidarity, Fairness and Prosperity, and I urge you to do the same. If you’ve been wondering what to expect from, and what to demand of, the upcoming climate talks in Glasgow, this is an excellent place to begin.
The title here – Delivering the Paris Agreement – sets the frame. Nearly 100 developing countries have endorsed this five-point plan for winning success in Glasgow, which is written in the belief that COP26 is “a time of both maximum need and maximum opportunity.”
This is a key point. The North’s activists are often quick to dismiss the climate summits as empty talk shops, but the South’s negotiators cannot afford to be so glib. Thus, the focus of this plan is the possibility of substantive wins, now and in the next ten years, wins that are absolutely necessary if the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals are to remain within reach.
Note well that the plan’s authors could easily itemize the compromises and limits that define the Paris Agreement, but they call instead for its full and immediate implementation. This is a radical realism, one that centers the interests of the poor and the vulnerable, which happen to overlap considerably with the interests of humanity as a whole.
The goal here is to empower the developing countries, and in particular the poorest among them, to effectively do their part in a proper planetary mobilization. Which is why the plan’s core is a new climate finance regime designed to accelerate emissions cuts around the world, even as it increases funding for, not just mitigation, but also adaptation and disaster management in vulnerable nations.
Mohamed Adow, the director of Power Shift Africa, is one of the plan’s driving forces, and having worked with him for years, I can testify to his clarity of vision. The logic here is that of necessity, which demands a focus on vulnerable nations’ “assessed needs rather than an arbitrary political pledge by rich countries”. The details follow directly, as do the asks, and though they’ll seem exorbitant if you view them from the perspective of, say, Washington DC, they are in fact a “bare minimum,” one that the plan’s authors can honestly see themselves moving forward with.
Such a plan wouldn’t in itself deliver the grand transformation needed to stabilize the climate system. But it would help a great deal, which is why The Least Developed Countries group, the Alliance of Small Island States and the African Group of Negotiators all backed it.
Not that it captures the limits of their aspirations. It does not, and as the next round of climate negotiations begin, some of the South’s negotiators will go much further indeed. The long-term challenges, after all, have become all too visible. In any case, the many kind words the fair share approach receives here are a pretty clear sign of an underlying aspiration that goes far beyond the bounds of realism-as-usual.
Still, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, or in this case with five. Here they are:
- “Cutting emissions: despite welcome recent progress, the sum total of climate policies in place across the world will not keep global warming within the limits that governments agreed in Paris; an acceleration that is consistent with the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature limit is urgently needed, led by those with the biggest responsibility and capacity
- Adaptation: with climate impacts increasing, provisions to help the most vulnerable adapt, including through increased financial support, need to be strengthened
- Loss and Damage: the consequences of the developed world’s historical failure to cut their emissions adequately are already resulting in losses and damage for the most vulnerable. Responsibilities have to be acknowledged and promised measures delivered
- Finance: The promises made in Copenhagen in 2009 and again in the Paris Agreement are unequivocal and must be delivered: at least $100bn per year by 2020, up to 2024, with a concrete delivery plan, with at least half going to adaptation, with increased annual sums from 2025. The debt consequences of Covid-19 mean that action outside the UN climate process is also essential
- Implementation: After several summits of stalling, governments must by COP26 finalize rules on transparency, carbon trading and common timeframes for accelerating action, in a way that safeguards development and nature.”