Glasgow COP26 flag
By: Toini Amutenya and Louise Brown
The 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place from 1st-12th November in Glasgow, UK, with the aim to accelerate action towards addressing the world’s most pressing challenge of climate change. Hosted under the theme “together for our planet”, COP26 was attended by 197 countries with approximately 30,000 attendees from governments, civil society, international organisations and the business sector.
So what was agreed upon?
After two weeks of gruelling negotiations, the Glasgow Climate Pact sets out a number of areas of convergence including on enhancing the ambition of national climate change goals, mobilizing climate finance, enabling carbon markets, dealing with the unavoidable loss and damage as a result of climate change, and financing adaptation. However, the outcome fell short of the expectations of developing countries, especially African countries, small islands and least developed countries who are among the most vulnerable to climate change.
Climate Change Ambition
Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledge to commit to a set of national actions to address climate change, known as Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs), and to update them every 5 years to increase the ambition of their actions. By 2020 all countries were expected to submit revised NDCs, but only 152 countries submitted. Furthermore, the collective ambition of the NDCs submitted fell far short of what is needed to reach the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Therefore, the Glasgow Climate Pact called on countries, especially major emitters, to revisit their NDCs to set more ambitious targets and for those who have not submitted their commitments to do so by 2022. It also included for the first time in a COP decision language on accelerating the “phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”, which albeit weak, sends an important signal on the future of the fossil fuel industry.
The issue of climate finance was high on the agenda for developing countries at COP26. Climate finance is important for vulnerable developing countries to realize their ambitious NDC goals, many of which are conditional on receiving adequate support from developed countries. COP26 started on a bitter note, as the failure of developed countries to meet the commitment made over a decade earlier to mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 had eroded trust and placed doubt on the sincerity of developed country commitments. Estimates by the OECD suggest that developed countries mobilized about 80% of their climate finance commitment by 2019, but Oxfam estimates that the figures are in fact much lower.
Going into COP26, developed countries presented a delivery plan for the 100 billion commitment which suggests that the target will only be met in 2023. The Glasgow Pact does not specify how the shortfall will be met. The 100 billion target is partly symbolic, as the real climate finance needs of developing countries are many times higher than this. African countries called for a scaled-up commitment by developed countries to provide USD1.3 trillion per year from 2025, which was not agreed, and negotiations on a new target will continue in the next COP.
Carbon markets and international cooperation
One of the key outcomes of COP26 was a decision on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement which deals with carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. Carbon markets allow for the trade in carbon credits between countries or industry actors, thereby allowing emission reductions to be achieved at the lowest possible cost. Article 6 establishes a new international carbon market, provides for bilateral trade in carbon credits between countries outside of the international market, and provides for other non-market approaches which could include results-based funding for adaptation or mitigation. There were a number of contentious issues that made Article 6 the last section of the Paris Agreement to be resolved, including how to ensure that carbon markets don’t lead to reduced ambition on mitigation, that were addressed at COP26. Importantly, the decision includes an agreement that a share of proceeds from transactions on the international carbon market will be used to fund adaptation activities, as well as rules to limit double counting of emission reductions.
A key requirement for developing countries going into COP26 was to see increased commitment from developing countries to provide funding for adaptation to the impacts of climate change, which has historically received significantly less funding than mitigation, despite being the major priority for the majority of developing countries which have contributed little to greenhouse gas emissions but remain highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. They succeeded in getting a commitment from developed countries to double adaptation finance to at least USD40 billion per year by 2025, which although well below the funding needed would still be an important improvement, as well as setting up a process to agree on a global goal for adaptation. In addition, COP26 saw an unprecedented scale of new commitments of USD356 million to the Adaptation Fund, a vote of confidence from donors that mirrors the confidence that developing countries have in the Adaptation Fund, which pioneered “direct access” for developing country institutions to climate finance.
Loss and Damage
An important topic of the COP26 negotiations for vulnerable countries was on the support needed to deal with the unavoidable impacts of climate change that may occur despite efforts to adapt. This includes the loss of life and livelihoods and damages to infrastructure, ecosystems and economies that occur as a result of extreme climatic events such as floods and hurricanes. COP26 fell short of agreeing to establish a facility to finance loss and damage, as called for by developing countries, but did provide an opening for taking these discussions forward at the next COP.
What do these decisions mean for Namibia?
Delegations at COP26
Namibia submitted its revised NDC to the UNFCCC in July 2021, which sets out a number of ambitious actions that it will take on mitigation and adaptation in order to build the resilience of its people, ecosystems and economy against climate change and to remain carbon neutral by 2030. Namibia will require about USD 5.33 billion of climate finance to implement its NDC, of which 10% will be provided through the national budget, while 90% will rely on international support. Namibia’s NDC Investment Strategy suggests that current climate finance flows are significantly lower than what will be needed to achieve the NDC commitments. The failure of developed countries to meet their 100 billion commitment by 2020 and their reluctance to commit to a scaled-up target from 2025 is thus a challenge that could limit the implementation of NDC actions. The enhanced commitments on adaptation are nonetheless promising, as Namibia is a vulnerable country that has already experienced significant climate impacts such as prolonged drought and periods of intense flooding. The progress in agreeing on an international carbon market as well as non-market approaches for adaptation and mitigation will open up new opportunities for climate financing that Namibia can benefit from.
Moving forward, Namibia will need to be strategic in positioning itself to benefit from the opportunities that the Paris Agreement presents, including by ensuring that national climate priorities are clearly defined and by putting in place conducive and coherent climate policy across all sectors that will attract international climate finance to achieve the NDC targets. Going into COP27, which will take place in Egypt, Namibia should continue to push for enhanced climate ambition from large emitters and scaled up commitments from developed countries on climate finance, as well as continued ambition on adaptation and a facility for financing loss and damage.