Climate Geopolitics & COP26 Updates

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This training describes the process of global climate negotiations, which began with the  UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. It then focuses on the Conference of Parties negotiations (COP26) which took place in Glasgow in November 2021, and was attended by a large delegation of CCL staff and volunteers. Major agreements and outcomes of COP26 are presented. CCL staff who attended present information about Canadian climate legislation, the Action for Climate Empowerment program, and the People’s Pavillon.

TOC and Guide Section
Global climate negotiations: how the process works
  • The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was agreed in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992. It was signed by President George H.W. Bush; it was approved by the Senate and became a ratified treaty.
  • Its mandate is most clearly distilled with the phrase “to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
  • The UN Framework established a standard of “common but differentiated responsibilities“ (Article 3.1) and placed a greater action burden on historic polluters. Article 3.1 thus calls on industrialized countries to “take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.”
  • Every year for two weeks in November or December, the 196 signatory nations meet as the Conference of Parties (or COP) to the UN Framework Convention.
  • They also meet as the COP acting on the Kyoto Protocol, and as the COP acting on the Paris Agreement, and as two subsidiary bodies for implementation and technical assistance.
  • Thus every COP is actually five separate COPs: 
    • COP (Conference of Parties). The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention.
    • CMP (Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol). The CMP oversees the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and takes decisions to promote its effective implementation.
    • CMA (Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement). The CMA oversees the implementation of the Paris Agreement and takes decisions to promote its effective implementation.
    • SBI (Subsidiary Body for Implementation). The SBI assists the governing bodies in the assessment and review of the implementation of the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
    • SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice). The SBSTA assists the governing bodies through the provision of information and advice on scientific and technological matters.
  • The COP makes legal decisions that have consequences in international law for how areas like trade and finance relate to climate action. 
  • The COP makes decisions by consensus. If any country doesn't want a proposed agreement to go forward, it can't go forward. So what comes out at the end of the two weeks has been agreed to by all of the countries.

The Paris Agreement 

  • Upheld the ”common but differentiated responsibilities” standard, but also required all Parties to make Nationally Determined Contributions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 

  • Exists to provide a regular update on the scientific consensus regarding “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

1.5ºC is the upper limit for acceptable warming 

  • The Paris Agreement mandated a scientific review, which this year showed that warming above 1.5ºC would be unacceptably dangerous.

Who’s Involved in the Negotiations?

Delegation Categories

  • Parties (Nations): 195 nations and the EU, with power to negotiate, grant or withhold consensus. 
  • United Nations: Climate Secretariat experts, diplomats and observers from across U.N. system. 
  • Observers / NGOs : CCE, CAN, NGOs, research institutions, stakeholders, incl. trade associations. 
  • Media: Lowest level of access, can’t join negotiating sessions; do interview delegates of all types. 
More About COP26

COP 26 was held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. It was a particularly important COP, as the fifth COP since the Paris Agreement in 2015. (It had been postponed in 2020 due to Covid.) 

The Paris Agreement had upheld the ”common but differentiated responsibilities” standard, but also required all Parties to make Nationally Determined Contributions, asking each country to self-determine the actions it will take.  In Paris it was agreed that after five years, nations would evaluate their progress and increase their commitments to reducing emissions. 

The Paris Agreement also mandated a scientific review, which this year showed that warming above 1.5ºC would be unacceptably dangerous.

Additionally, an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report in August 2021 concluded that if we don't reduce global emissions by nearly half by 2030, we will have a very hard time avoiding persistent climate emergencies. (The IPCC, an intergovernmental body of the UN, provides policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks.)

CCL’s delegation members were significant participants at Glasgow: 

  • 15 badges per week (our most ever) 
  • 23 total delegates (larger than 30% of national delegations) 
  • 33 team members in Glasgow, representing 15 countries 
  • Overall team, including remote support: 46
  • 6 team-members with Party (country) badges
  • 310 contacts and leaders tracked, across 531 affiliations
  • 237 events tracking affiliations
  • 50 bilateral meetings
  • Meeting with 11 ministers or heads of state 
  • People’s Pavilion - 51 sessions 
  • Isatis Cintrón addressing the High-Level Segment 

Major voluntary commitments achieved at COP26

  • Powering Past Coal Alliance - 168 members 
  • Regen 10 - Regenerative Agriculture support for 500 million farmers
  • Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero - $130 trillion AUM
  • Methane Pledge - 105 nations to cut emissions 30 x 30
  • Ending Deforestation - More than 100 countries, 91% of forests, $19.2 billion
  • Zero Emissions Transport - More than 100 nations, cities, states, and businesses
  • Clydebank Shipping Declaration - 19 Countries sign up to zero-emissions shipping routes
  • FACT - Countries with more than 75% of global trade to develop green commodities
  • Nature, People, Planet - MDBs will foster nature-positive policy investment
  • AIM4C - 30 countries to work on accelerating sustainable agriculture with $4 billion in new funding

COP26 official outcomes (selected) 

  • First ever global commitment to phase down use of coal
  • Global commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies
  • Frames convention mandate (avoiding danger) as requiring “rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, (45 per cent by 2030) in line with 1.5ºC
  • Doubling financial support for adaptation
  • International financial institutions to consider climate vulnerabilities in concessional financial and other forms of support, including Special Drawing Rights (more than $600 billion in 2021) 
  • Glasgow Work Programme for Action for Climate Empowerment (public information & climate civics)
Article 6.8: “Non-market approaches”

Article 6.8 of the Paris Agreement  is about how countries work together to reduce emissions such as emissions trading and non-market approaches such as cooperative emissions reduction.

Agreements were made at COP26 on moving Article 6.8 forward, including:

  • Allow nations to cooperate to secure a faster pace of decarbonization
  • Signal wisdom of climate income policies, to set strong carbon prices
  • Make room for carbon border adjustments, to ensure climate leaders don’t lose trade to pollution offshoring 
  • Increase likelihood of international “floor price” for carbon pollution 
  • Recognize regulatory measures that mandate accounting, disclosure, and avoidance of carbon-related liabilities 
  • Create conditions for climate-smart, nature-positive financial instruments 
  • Link Special Drawing Rights (SDR) to Paris Agreement action and funding
  • Expand opportunity for mainstreaming of climate-smart finance 
  • Invite integration of Earth science data platforms into financial decision-making information flows 
  • Empower existing international institutions to become engines for climate action incentives and enforcement 
Canada’s example of successful carbon pricing

The Canadian system of carbon pricing was an important subject of discussion among some high level leaders at COP26. 

The Canadian government has set minimum standards for carbon pricing that apply to all provinces. Carbon pricing works differently in each province and territory in Canada. Every jurisdiction must meet minimum standards as set out in federal policy and legislation. As long as a province/territory meets these minimum standards, it can implement and operate its own carbon pricing system. If it doesn’t meet the standards or declines to implement a system, the federal backstop kicks in.

As one part of the two-part Canadian system, a “retail” carbon tax applies to fuels used for transportation and home heating, and is levied at the point of sale.The carbon price for fuels will rise yearly and reach $170 CAD per ton by 2030. The other part of the federal policy is assessing a carbon price on large industrial emitters.

Ninety per cent of revenues from the fuels tax are returned to households and ten percent to small businesses or nonprofits, such as municipalities, schools, and hospitals in the province where they were collected. About sixty percent of families come out ahead. Between 2019 and 2021, citizens received rebates via a line in income tax forms. Most people didn't know they were getting the rebates. However in 2022, the rebates switch to four four direct deposits into bank accounts. 

CCL Canada was instrumental in lobbying for the Canadian carbon pricing system. In their own words: 

“We did what we were told would work. We documented everything. We sent out action sheets and met every single month like clockwork. We pulled relentlessly on the 5 levers of political will. We submitted countless documents as citizens from across Canada to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.”

What does the Canadian example demonstrate?

  • Political parties can get re-elected with a carbon pricing policy.
  • Governments must consult all stakeholders when developing a carbon pricing policy. 
  • Words matter: “pricing pollution” / “making polluters pay”.
  • A climate income rebate that people can see is best.
  • Tax reform can pay for the low carbon transition.
  • For countries with direct representation of their lawmakers build political will at the grassroots level one constituency at a time. 
  • Document everything.
  • You have to be more than an internet group. You have to have conferences and lobbying days.
  • Celebrate every success.
  • Be prepared for pushback when the policy is announced.
  • The policy will not be perfect on the first iteration and will need to be refined and protected for years to come.
Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE)

Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) is described in Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement.

The overarching goal of ACE is to empower all members of society to engage in climate action through

  • Education
  • Training
  • Public participation
  • Public awareness
  • Public access to information
  • International Cooperation

At COP26, governments adopted the 10-year Glasgow work program to strengthen the implementation of ACE. The Glasgow work programme reconfirms the key role that a broad range of stakeholders, such as national and sub-national governments, educational and cultural institutions, the private sector, international and non-governmental organizations, and the media, play in implementing ACE, and promotes cooperation, collaboration and partnerships among the diverse stakeholders.

The Glasgow work programme recognises the critical role of youth, as well as their right to engage in decisions and action on climate change. Countries are encouraged to build the capacity of youth to embark on and lead ACE implementation, and to promote youth participation in relevant climate action processes.

The People’s Pavillon

The People’s Pavillon was a virtual space for people from all around the world to interact with and share their vision for a climate-smart future. We created a platform for those who could not attend COP26 with the goal of making this process accessible to all. 

The Peoples' Pavilion sought to elevate Action for Climate Empowerment efforts and open the civic space of the UNFCCC. This pilot program aimed to provide a blueprint on how to make open public participation in climate negotiations a norm.

In our opening session we listened to environmental champions such as Fleur Newman UNFCCC ACE & Gender Unit Lead, Felicia Davis Co-Founder of  the Historically Black Colleges and Universities HBCU Green Fund, Talieh Woegerbauer ACE Ambassador, Isatis Cintron, Citizens Climate International board member, Latin America Regional Coordinator and US ACE coalition coordinating team member, Joseph Robertson CCI Director and from our funders.

The platform was available for two weeks, had 100 participants and included 60 sessions related to ACE. 

Looking Ahead: COP27

COP27 will take place in November 2022 at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. 

One of the programs CCL will engage in during 2022 is to train volunteers around the world in something we call science activation. That's not science translation, not explaining science, but helping policy makers understand how global climate insights relate to them locally, whether it's at the city level or the national level.

Press play to start the video (48m 47s)
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis. 

(0:00) Agenda and Intro

(1:33) What is COP and Why is it important?

(7:50) COP26 Outcomes & Article 6.8

(12:20) Canada's Updates

(20:59) ACE - Action for Climate Empowerment

(36:20) People's Pavilion

(42:14) Road to COP27 and Conclusion

  • Joseph Robertson
  • Cathy Orlando
  • Isatis Cintron
  • Solemi Hernandez

Download or view the Google Slides presentation.

Download the video.
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (48m 47s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis. 

(0:00) Agenda and Intro

(1:33) What is COP and Why is it important?

(7:50) COP26 Outcomes & Article 6.8

(12:20) Canada's Updates

(20:59) ACE - Action for Climate Empowerment

(36:20) People's Pavilion

(42:14) Road to COP27 and Conclusion

  • Joseph Robertson
  • Cathy Orlando
  • Isatis Cintron
  • Solemi Hernandez
Click here to download or find related CCL Training episodes on CCL’s iTunes channel.
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