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Climate Ambition Summit shows new “surge in action and ambition” to COP26

Global climate leaders took a major stride towards a resilient, net zero emissions future on December 12, 2020, as ambitious new commitments, urgent actions, and concrete plans to confront the climate crisis were presented. Co-convened by the United Nations, the UK, and France, in partnership with Italy and Chile, on the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement, the Climate Ambition Summit marked a major milestone on the road to the crucial UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow on November 2021.

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“Can anyone still deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency? I call on leaders worldwide to declare a State of Climate Emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his address at the Climate Ambition Summit on December 12, 2020, the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement (photo courtesy UN).

The Climate Ambition Summit in which 75 leaders from all continents outlined new commitments, showed that climate change is at the top of the global agenda despite the shared challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and that there is a mutual understanding that the science is clear.

Today we have seen what can be achieved if nations pull together and demonstrate real leadership and ambition in the fight to save our planet. The UK has led the way with a commitment to cut emissions by at least 68 percent by 2030 and to end support for the fossil fuel sector overseas as soon as possible, and it’s fantastic to see new pledges from around the world that put us on the path to success ahead of COP26 in Glasgow. There is no doubt that we are coming to the end of a dark and difficult year, but scientific innovation has proved to be our salvation as the vaccine is rolled out. We must use that same ingenuity and spirit of collective endeavour to tackle the climate crisis, create the jobs of the future, and build back better, said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

While there remains much more to do as a global community to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5oC, the Summit showed beyond doubt that climate action and ambition are on the rise.

The announcements made at or just before the Summit, together with those expected early next year, mean that countries representing around 65 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and around 70 percent of the world’s economy, will have made net-zero emissions or carbon neutrality commitments by early next year.

These commitments must now be backed up with concrete plans and actions, starting now, to achieve these goals, and the Climate Ambition Summit delivered a “surge in progress” on this front.

The Summit has now sent strong signals that more countries and more businesses are ready to take the bold climate action on which our future security and prosperity depend. Today was an important step forward, but it’s not yet enough. Let’s not forget that we are still on track to an increase of temperature of 3 degrees at least by the end of the century, which would be catastrophic. The recovery from COVID-19 presents an opportunity to set our economies and societies on a green path in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As we look ahead, the central objective of the United Nations for 2021 is to build a truly Global Coalition for Carbon Neutrality, said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Strengthened national climate plans (NDCs)

The number of countries coming forward with strengthened national climate plans (NDCs) grew significantly, with commitments covering 71 countries (all EU member states are included in the new EU NDC). As well as the EU NDC, a further 27 of these new and enhanced NDCs were announced at or shortly before the Summit.

A growing number of countries (15) shifted gears from incremental to major increases. Countries committing to having much stronger NDCs at the Summit included Argentina, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Iceland, and Peru. 24 countries have now announced new commitments, strategies, or plans to reach net-zero or carbon neutrality.

Recent commitments from China, Japan, South Korea, the EU, and Argentina have established a clear benchmark for other G20 countries. A number of countries at the Summit set out how they are going even further, with ambitious dates to reach net-zero emissions: Finland (2035); Austria (2040), and Sweden (2045).

“Finland aims to be the world’s first climate-neutral welfare society. We are committed to become climate neutral by 2035 and have negative net emissions soon after that. We commit to scale up our climate finance, aiming at balanced mitigation and adaptation. Finland commits to actively promote a systemic approach. Climate aspects need to be part of our economic and financial policies,” said Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin in her address (photo courtesy Svante Axelsson).

Climate vulnerable countries are at the forefront of action and ambition. Barbados and the Maldives have set a highly ambitious target for achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, with the right support. Fiji, Malawi, Nauru, and Nepal indicated that they are aiming for the 2050 goal.

Speeding up the shift to green economies

At the Summit, adaptation and resilience moved to centre stage with twenty countries indicated new or forthcoming commitments to protect people and nature from climate impacts. Countries, such as Ethiopia, said they were taking a “whole-of-economy” approach that protects people and nature, while Suriname said it is stepping up its implementation of its National Adaptation Plan.

Developed countries, including the UK, Portugal, and Spain, announced they were stepping up their adaptation efforts while twelve leaders highlighted their existing plans to increase the use of nature-based solutions to combat climate change.

Several countries set out concrete policies to implement their economy-wide targets at the Summit. Pakistan announced no new coal plants, while Israel said it was joining the growing list of countries stepping away from coal.

Fifteen countries provided details on how they will speed up their transitions to renewable energy by 2030, including Barbados (aiming for fossil-fuel-free), Vanuatu (100 percent renewables), and Slovakia (decarbonised power).

Denmark announced it will end oil and gas exploration. India announced a new target of 450 GW installed capacity of renewable energy by 2030. China committed to increasing the share of non-fossil fuel in primary energy consumption to around 25 percent by 2030.

Green finance

In line with this momentum, the UK, France, and Sweden set out plans to end international financial support for fossil fuels, while Canada announced it will ramp up its price on carbon to CA$170 per tonne by 2030.

Twelve donor countries highlighted their commitments to support developing countries, including just under EUR 500 million in additional investment from Germany, an additional EUR 1 billion per year from France from its previous target.

The World Bank committed to ensuring that 35 percent of their portfolio includes climate co-benefits and the European Investment Bank (EIB) commitment to ensure that 50 percent includes climate co-benefits, as well as 100 percent alignment of EIB’s activities on the Paris Agreement.

With COVID-19 impacting international climate finance flows this year, 2021 will be critical to show that finance is flowing and to meet and surpass the US$100 billion goal.

Despite the global pandemic and one of the worst economic crises of our time, we have shown today that climate action remains at the top of the international agenda. This Summit has confirmed that the Paris agreement struck under the French COP Presidency five years ago remains, more than ever, the compass of international climate action. The EU is a leader in this global fight, with our new target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 – which is a fundamental milestone on the way to carbon neutrality. The EU and France will continue to promote ambitious levels of climate finance. We look forward to working with the United Nations, the UK COP Presidency, and all parties to the Paris Agreement to keep raising ambition, and deliver on it through concrete action, in the year ahead, said President Macron.

Race to Resilience campaign launched

A major new global campaign – the Race to Resilience – was also launched. The campaign brings together initiatives involving mayors, community leaders, businesses, and insurance companies, among others, who commit to building resilience actions to safeguard by 2030 the lives and livelihoods of 4 billion people from groups and communities vulnerable to climate risks.

Examples of actions and initiatives include the following:

  • Zurich Insurance (Switzerland) announced that the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance will triple funding by 2025 and expand its reach from 11 to 21 countries;
  • The Mayor of Freetown (Sierra Leone) committed to planting 1 million trees between 2020 and 2021;
  • Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative (Global) – representing US$9 trillion of assets under management has seen each of the 30 founding members unequivocally commit to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. This includes setting individual portfolio targets, as well as engaging companies in each member’s portfolio to set decarbonization goals in line with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5oC;
  • C40 Cities (Global) – reinforced the commitment and action by cities to implement the Paris agreement by announcing the launch of the Cities Race to Zero campaign and that 70 cities have joined in the first month;
  • International Airlines Group (Spain/UK) — are the first airline group worldwide to commit to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The Oneworld Alliance of 13 airlines representing 20 percent of global aviation, is investing US$400 million in sustainable aviation fuels (over the next 20 years) to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050;
  • Dalmia Cement (India) – 40 of the world’s leading producers of cement as part of the Global Concrete and Cement Association have issued an industry commitment to deliver carbon-neutral concrete by 2050. The Indian cement company has gone further and established a roadmap to become carbon negative by 2040 and is working globally to meet its 100 percent renewable energy objectives.

As COP26 Presidency, the UK will host the 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow on November 1-12, 2021.

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