Four Key Issues to Watch at the Upcoming Climate Summit

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Glasgow is proudly situated on the banks the river Clyde. Once the heart of Scotland's industrial glory, it is now a launchpad to its green energy transition. The United Nations climate conference, COP26 will take place in Glasgow. World leaders will discuss how their countries can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are contributing to climate change.

As a former U.N. senior official, I have been involved in climate negotiations since the early 1990s. I will be there for the talks that begin in Glasgow on October 31, 2021. Here are some things to look out for as negotiations begin.


The Paris climate conference of 2015 saw countries agree to work together to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). They also aimed for 1.5 C (2.7 F) at the Paris climate conference. If COP21 was the Paris climate conference, 2015, countries agreed to work together to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), aiming for 1.5 C (2.7 F).

Unfortunately, many countries are not on the right track. This year, they were required to submit new action plans called national determined contributions (NDCs). According to the U.N., the latest count of all revised plans submitted before the Glasgow summit shows that the world is on track for warming 2.7 C (4.86 F) by the end this century.

The G-20 is the focus of all eyes. This group represents almost 80% global emissions. Their annual summit will take place in Rome, Oct. 30-31, just before COP26 starts.

India is one of the G-20's most important countries that has not yet submitted its updated plans. Brazil, Russia, Australia, and Mexico have submitted plans that are not consistent with the Paris Agreement.

The details of China's climate goals are being revealed. The world is now looking at them to understand how China will increase its 2030 emissions reduction target. This currently includes cutting emissions by 65% per unit gross domestic product, increasing the date when China's emissions growth will peak and setting industrial production targets.

The Paris climate agreement was reached in 2015 thanks to a delicate dance between China and the United States, as well as deft diplomacy from France. Six years later, an ever-growing rivalry threatens the downfall of what was once a race for the top.

The United States is the focus of the entire world's attention. Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Silena from Arizona, are likely to oppose the Biden administration's plan to incentivize utilities to switch to cleaner energy sources more quickly. The world will be interested in details of Plans B and C in Glasgow if their planetary brinksmanship destroys President Joe Biden's Plan A to how the U.S. will achieve its 2030 emission targets.

Carbon markets

The Paris conference left behind one task: to establish rules for carbon markets. This includes how countries can trade carbon credits between each other or between a country, as well as how private companies can trade carbon credits.

From the European Union to China there are carbon markets that are regulated. Voluntary markets have been a source of both optimism and concern. To ensure that carbon markets are effective in driving down emissions and providing revenue for developing countries, rules must be established. Carbon markets can accelerate the transition to net zero if they are managed correctly. Greenwashing can undermine trust in promises made by companies and governments.

Another task is to determine how countries report and measure their emission reductions, and how transparent they work with each other. This is also crucial to reversing greenwashing.

Expect to see countries return in a year with improved plans to reduce emissions and concrete progress reports.

Climate finance

Finance is the foundation of all progress.

The world's poor need assistance to adapt to climate change and grow green. The wealthy agreed in 2009 to contribute $100 billion per year to climate finance for developing countries by 2020. However, they have not yet reached that goal.

The U.K. announced a climate finance plan with just one week left. It was brokered by Canada and Germany. This would establish a process to count and agree on what counts in the $100billion figure, but that number will not be reached until 2023.

It is progress on the one hand, but it will be a disappointment to developing countries, whose adaptation costs must now be covered as rising global climate impacts, such as heat waves, wildfires floods, and intensifying hurricanes. As with the global vaccination rollout, the developing countries may be wondering if they are being walked into an economic divergence where the wealthy will become richer and the poor less.

Beyond the cost of adaptation and mitigation, there is also the question of loss. This term refers to the damage and harm caused by countries that have not contributed to climate change in the future and those that have contributed to the current climate crisis. As the losses rise, these difficult negotiations will become more prominent.

The potential for countries to provide public climate finance can play a role in leveraging the trillions of dollars required to invest in clean energy and greener development. Expect large pledges from private sources such as banks, insurance companies, banks, and philanthropies to fund their net zero plans. This includes ending financing and investments in fossil fuel projects and funding critical efforts to accelerate progress.

It's raining promises

The conference will bring together representatives from all walks of the globe. They will discuss ways to reduce global carbon emissions and build greater resilience.

The two-week conference will include a steady stream and new groups of non-governmental organizations, businesses, and countries working together to achieve emissions-free shipping and aviation.

It will be crucial to keep track of and verify the achievements towards these pledges when you return from COP26. Without this, Greta Thunberg's blah blah blah blah speech to delegates at a Milan pre-COP meeting a few weeks back will echo around the globe.

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