Kia ora tatou, and greetings from Glasgow. This is the first of my daily reports to you from the COP26 climate negotiations. I hope to give you a sense of the issues and mood of the meeting as they unfold in all the spheres involved across politics and civil society.
For the small contingent of New Zealanders here, our Government’s latest climate pledge to the global community was likely front of mind as COP26 was formerly opened Sunday morning.
As my Newsroom colleagues are reporting for you at home, the headline pledge of a 50 percent reduction in our emissions by 2030 simply does not stack up. Strip away the clever accounting and other devices and we’ll be lucky to reduce our actual domestic emissions by a quarter in the next nine years.
“The headline target…is what the general public hears,” says Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, a partner in the authoritative Carbon Action Tracker alliance, “however the government has taken a number of unusual accounting approaches that, when analysed, indicate that the real emission reductions achieved compared to 2005 levels of net emissions is only 22-23 percent.”
That puts us far behind the genuine cut of 50 percent required by all nations to keep the rise in global temperatures to under the critical threshold of 1.5C.
Thus, how the rest of the world responds to this deeply inadequate pledge is the crucial question for New Zealand in Glasgow. Above all, will it diminish our reputation and our ability to attract the partners and investment we need to tackle our twin crises of climate breakdown and biodiversity collapse?
While that’s pivotal to us, the 25,000 delegates here in Glasgow understandably have a vast array of other issues on their minds.
At the opening ceremony, Alok Sharma, President of COP26, called on global leaders to “banish ghosts of the past” and to deliver bigger commitments to lower emissions because the world is running out of time to keep warming below 1.5C. He holds the post by virtue of being a cabinet minister in Britain, which is co-hosting the negotiations with Italy.
The other main issues on the agenda include more funding from developed countries to help developing nations decarbonise and adapt to climate change; completing work on Article 6, the rule book required to measure and enforce nations’ pledges and the likes of carbon markets; and seeking a rapid end to coal-fired electricity generation.
Methane is the other big issues on the table with particular importance to New Zealand. The US and EU are build an alliance of countries committed to cutting human-induced methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 – a goal some three times greater that New Zealand is offering for its own methane emissions. Some 30 countries have joined the alliance and the number is growing.
The huge array of civil society events is also well under way. While the main formal programme at COP26 begins on Monday UK-time, gatherings in central Glasgow Sunday afternoon gave a flavour of people’s rich and deep expressions of commitment to climate action.
For example one half of George Square hosted a rally of representatives of all the main religious faiths of the world which was livestreamed globally; while at the other end a small group of largely UK-based Punjabi Sikhs protested loudly against Indian government agricultural reforms with banners such as “No farmers…no food”.
These daily reports will include a photo of the day I’ve taken and a cartoon of the day from the long cartoon wall in the midst of the COP complex.
Today’s photo is of the old wharf-side crane which looms over the COP26 campus. As I explain in my audio report to accompany this piece, in its working life it hoisted some 30,000 Glasgow-made steam railway engines for export far and wide across the British Empire. A monument to a 19th century technology, economy and a political system, it is a reminder of how far we still have to travel to secure a 21st century future for humanity.
Today’s cartoon speaks for itself; the cartoon wall gives a glimpse of the life of COP26.
Next on the agenda for COP26 is the World Leaders Summit, Monday and Tuesday UK-time.
I’ll be back with you tomorrow on that and more from across the political and civil society action here.