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China Digs In on Coal While Greenpeace Slams U.S.: COP26 Update

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·11-min read
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(Bloomberg) -- The COP26 talks are running out of time, with key issues including climate finance and global carbon markets still unresolved before the summit’s scheduled end on Friday evening.

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Delegates are making plans for the conference to run into Saturday, yet Covid-related travel restrictions create complications for it to go much longer than that, raising the stakes over the next 48 hours. Negotiators continue to plow through the draft text, and ministers are set to meet on finance tonight. China is signaling it won’t support a phase-out of coal or frequent new climate pledges.

Key Developments:

  • China is digging in its heels on phasing out coal

  • Ministers to meet on climate finance at 8:30 p.m. in Glasgow

  • The endgame: what to watch for if you’re just tuning in

  • While it could help curb methane leaks, China hasn’t signed on to a global pact to limit emissions of the gas

(All timestamps Glasgow, Scotland)

Rich Nations Not Doing Enough on Funding (5:39 p.m.)

Developed countries aren’t doing enough to boost finance for climate adaptation and mitigation for countries most affected by climate change, according to ministers and activists from Bangladesh, Uganda and Tuvalu.

A major point of tension is the failure of the U.S. and other rich nations to contribute $100 billion annually by 2020 or create a pathway for quickly ramp up the financing after 2025. Vulnerable countries need the final COP26 text to show a plan for mobilizing funding, said Alden Meyer, a senior associate at E3G.

“Without that money, this COP will end unsuccessfully,” said Patience Nabukalu, a climate activist from Uganda.

U.S. Blasted for Lacking Ambition and Blocking Progress (5:10 p.m.)

Negotiators and activists from climate-vulnerable nations blasted the U.S. for blocking progress in negotiations over raising ambition and steering finance to countries on the front lines of global warming.

“On a number of provisions across the board, they are working to weaken and block the text,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International. For the Biden administration to lead on climate would mean supporting a text to increase ambition each year, but “we have seen a number of different ways that the United States is undermining that kind of ambition in the room,” she said.

In its joint pledge with China, the U.S. supported “taking enhanced climate actions that raise ambition in the 2020s” with the aim of keeping within reach a limit on warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius. That falls short of some vulnerable nations’ push for an annual escalation in climate action and commitments.

“We need them here to support coming back to close the gap as soon as possible and to come back to the table next year at a heads of state level until that gap is closed,” she said. “That U.S.-China deal cannot be the ceiling.” So far, the U.S. is “not committing enough to achieve that 1.5 degree target,” added Tuvalu Finance Minister Seve Paeniu.

UN Sees Policing of Net Zero Targets Taking Shape in 2022 (4:16 p.m.)

The head of the United Nations said that a group he’s convening to police net-zero commitments will submit recommendations to him over the course of next year.

“We need to hold each other accountable -- governments, non-state actors and civil society,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Global Climate Action event on Thursday, where he gave details on the High-Level Expert Group that he’s established to give more consistency around net zero targets.

Steadfast Sharma Still Pushing for Ambitious Outcome (4:06 p.m.)

With COP26 scheduled to end within 24 hours, summit President Alok Sharma said he’s still pushing for an ambitious outcome, noting that he’s sometimes called “No Drama Sharma” for his steadfast approach.

Negotiators are “still some way” from finalizing the text and completing the Paris rulebook, Sharma told reporters. “If it was easy, we would have resolved this over the past six years,” he said.

U.S. Rejects Formal Loss and Damage Compensation Fund (4 p.m.)

The U.S. supports boosting money to avert, minimize and address the loss and damage experienced by climate-vulnerable countries, but it opposes some of the options under discussion, a senior U.S. official said Thursday. The U.S. is not open to the creation of a formal loss and damage compensation fund, supplied with money from developed countries that have contributed the most toward global warming, the official said.

By contrast, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry has signaled that the U.S. backs funding a blueprint for providing technical assistance to countries making damage claims known as the Santiago network. Key issues include who will provide contributions, how funding will be used and what kind of loss and damage facility might be established to administer it.

China’s Energy Security Concerns Hinder Ending Coal (3:15 p.m.)

China doesn’t support a proposal to phase out coal because of energy security concerns, according to a person familiar with the country’s stance who asked not to be named.

It also rejects a proposal on coming back with new climate pledges by the end of next year because it will be too time-consuming to draft another submission, the person said.

Discarding Fossil Fuel Reference Would be ‘Bad Signal’: Timmermans (3:11 p.m.)

Cutting the reference from the draft text that urges countries to accelerate the phase-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels -- the first time it has appeared in a UN COP text -- would be an “extremely bad signal,” EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said.

“If you remove it from the text, what is the message you’re sending there? That has to be part of the conclusion here today,” he added.

EU Nations Oppose Green Label for Nuclear (1:43 p.m.)

Environment ministers from Germany, Portugal, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark warned against classifying nuclear power as green in the EU sustainable investment rulebook. If included, it would “jeopardize the courageous path” the 27-nation bloc has taken to become the global leader in sustainable finance, the five member states said in a joint statement.

The European Commission is expected to propose before the end of this year a regulation on how to treat atomic power and natural gas in its taxonomy as the bloc shifts to a low-carbon economy.

“It’s not safe, it’s not sustainable and it costs a lot of money,” Portugal’s Environment Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes said in Glasgow. “There are many other options, especially wind and solar.”

France, Portugal Join Alliance to End Oil Era (1:14 p.m.)

France and Portugal have joined a group of countries and states -- none of which are among the world’s major oil producers -- that support fixing a date to end fossil fuel exploration, putting its name to an initiative that was snubbed by the U.K.

The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance represents a rare supply-side initiative to cut hydrocarbon production. The group, which was created by Denmark and Costa Rica in the lead-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, now has 10 signatories, according to a statement on Thursday. They include Sweden, Ireland, Greenland, Quebec, Wales, California and New Zealand.

COP26 host U.K. has said it won’t back the alliance because ending fossil fuel production could cause a cliff edge in energy supply.

Group Hits Out at ‘Carbon Colonialism’ (12:43 p.m.)

A group of 22 countries, known as the Like Minded Group, told the U.K. Presidency that they rejected its proposal for deeper emissions cuts this decade.

The group -- which includes China, India and Bolivia -- say Wednesday’s draft text lacks details on how rich countries will help pay poor nations to cope with the ravages of climate change, according to Diego Pacheco Balanza, Bolivia’s head of delegation and Like Minded spokesman.

He accused rich countries of “carbon colonialism” in their push for more action this decade to keep alive the hope of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Overnight, the U.K. published more details on how to set a global adaptation goal and on finance. A new draft is expected later, which could help to address this imbalance.

Ministers to Meet on Climate Finance This Evening (11:54 a.m.)

Ministers are set to meet at 8:30 p.m. in Glasgow to discuss climate finance, COP President Alok Sharma said, adding that he is concerned about the number of issues that are still unresolved. It’s one of the thorniest subjects at the talks.

“The world is watching us and willing us to work together and reach consensus. And we know we cannot afford to fail them,” Sharma said, reminding people that the COP is meant to wrap up tomorrow. Ministers are to meet again at 11 a.m. on Friday.

Read: Google Turns Satellite Imaging Into Key Tool for Climate Change

Australia Has Good Coffee, at Least (11:20 a.m.)

Australia, the world’s third-largest exporter of fossil fuels, is falling short of its potential on climate, according to Richie Merzian, one of the country’s former negotiators. It hasn’t dramatically enhanced its emissions-cutting plans before 2030 and is low on its finance pledge, he said.

“It’s unfortunate that Australia hasn’t joined the U.K. and the U.S. in trying to put everything on the table for this COP. Instead, it’s done as little as possible,” Merzian said. “The only thing Australia really has brought to this negotiation is good coffee over at the Australian pavilion.”

Carbon-Market Talks Still Tricky as Summit-End Looms (10:59 a.m.)

The biggest sticking points in talks about international carbon markets remain largely unresolved, according to a new negotiating document published on Thursday. The draft proposal swelled by one page to 15 pages as negotiators built up options on how to treat old Kyoto Protocol-era carbon offsets under a new program.

The details on how to avoid double counting and use cash generated from emissions trading are also yet to be hammered out. That leaves a lot of work for the ministers, who have less than two days before the scheduled end of talks on Friday, with some diplomats saying the deal has a 50-50 chance of happening.

Fiji Proposes Alternative Plan on Loss and Damage (10:35 a.m.)

Fiji -- with the backing of the Alliance of Small Island States and Least Developed Countries negotiating blocs -- has put forward an alternative text to address loss and damage, the nation’s climate minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

The country is proposing a plan to establish financing for countries to deal with the destruction wrought by climate change by next year’s COP27. It would put in place now a roadmap on how to get there. The current version is “very vague,” Sayed-Khaiyum said.

Also read: ‘Loss and Damage’ a Top Concern at COP26 as Legal Questions Loom

COP Talks Could Run Into the Weekend (10:09 a.m.)

European officials are preparing for talks to run into extra time, even as COP26 President Alok Sharma has insisted the climate summit should end on time at 6 p.m. on Friday.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson left the door open yesterday, saying “I don’t see why we shouldn’t go into extra time if we have to.”

COPs almost always run over. The feeling is that, with so much at stake, it seems to make sense. But there’s a big complication this year: Covid-related travel restrictions and PCR testing make changing hotels or altering schedules very challenging.

Adaptation Finance Key to Unlocking Talks: Maldives (9:45 a.m.)

Small island states need real commitments on finance for adapting to the impacts of climate change, Maldives Environment Minister Shauna Aminath said in an interview. It’s not just the amount that matters, but also its accessibility, she said, highlighting that one of two projects approved for funding in 2008 only received the money two months ago.

“Bottom-line, available funds for front-line states are very limited,” Aminath said. “This is the fundamental problem. If this can be addressed, a lot of other things can work around it.”

Technical Groups to Consider How to Meet Climate Finance Goal (9:09 a.m.)

Countries at COP26 now have a working draft of a document that will decide how rich countries will provide billions or even trillions of dollars in climate finance to poor countries. The draft lays out options for the creation of ad-hoc groups supported by technical experts that will consider how to meet those financing goals over the next few years.

Crucially, one of the options keeps alive a demand for mobilizing as much as $1.3 trillion in annual funds by 2030, that would split equally between measures for cutting emissions and for adapting to a warmer planet. That sum is much higher than the $100 billion a year that still needs to materialize by 2023, three years later than promised.

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