Newsroom Pro Talks live interviews are made with the support of Spark.

It’s just one year to the United Nations’ Shindig in Sharm el-Sheikh – and three senior climate negotiators say it’s imperative that time is used to hold countries and corporates accountable for cutting emissions

The UN’s recent climate negotiations in Glasgow made substantial gains. But to set the world truly on a 1.5C pathway, nations must make far bigger commitments and deliver much more progress in time for next November’s negotiations at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

That was the verdict of three leading climate negotiators who were the panellists on our latest Newsroom Pro Talks, with Rod Oram. The three were Jake Werksman, the EU’s negotiator in the UN climate change framework; Stéphane Crouzat, France’s Climate Ambassador; and Kay Harrison, New Zealand’s Climate Change Ambassador.

“The Glasgow Climate Pact sets out what we have to do,” Werksman said. “We’ve reached consensus on a far more specific set of boundaries in terms of what is required, and those are essentially planetary boundaries.”

These include the 1.5C limit, the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 needed to secure it, and far more specific policy proposals to cut emissions.

“That’s why it is so important in the next year or two to make sure that everybody is held accountable,” said Crouzat, the French Climate Ambassador. “And not just governments and countries but also the private sector as well.”

On the latter for example, the UN Secretary General António Guterres, has promised the UN will establish mechanisms to record and evaluate climate commitments made by companies and other private sector entities.

European Union climate negotiator Jake Werksman says the world has reached consensus on “planetary boundaries”; now countries and companies need to step up and deliver. 

Looking ahead to COP27 in Egypt, “we still have some major economies that need to step up the ambition of their targets,” said Harrison, the NZ climate ambassador. These include some of the G20 economies.

“We must also see a great deal more implementation in every single country in the world. And we need to see finance flowing. We need to see investment patterns changing. We need to see moves away from fossil fuel subsidies and other harmful subsidies.”

With the Presidency of COP transferring from the UK to Egypt as the next host, “I think Egypt wants to be more focused on Africa as a region, and more focused on adaptation and finance as a theme,” said Werksman.

“It’s all hands to the pump, as it were, on methane for New Zealand.”
– Kay Harrison, NZ Climate Ambassador

Moreover, “the more you begin to implement, the more the opportunities for being more ambitious is revealed as people begin to see the benefits of reducing emissions in their daily lives.

“The cost of reducing emissions comes down as you press for more ambition, and as the partnerships that we’ve launched actually begin to take effect. So, absolutely accountability, implementation and partnership.”

Crouzat noted how important the G20 economies are for achieving agreement on difficult issues which the G7 balks at. One example this year was the ending of finance for building coal-powered electricity plants overseas. He also noted Indonesia, a major coal exporter, has just taken over the presidency of the G20 and will host its next summit in Bali in late 2022. “I hope we can do more on phasing down coal.”

New Zealand Climate Ambassador Kay Harrison says this country has looked for ways to reduce its sizeable methane emissions, including scientific research, the original emissions trading scheme, and now working with farmers to manage and price emissions.

The three panellists also discussed the COP26 pledge by a coalition of more than 100 countries to cut global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. This was an initiative led by the US and EU.

“It built in part from a methane strategy that we’ve been working on as part of our ‘Fit for 55’ European green deal package,” Werksman said.

The overall goal is a 55 percent reduction in all EU emissions by 2030. The package “is designed to address methane both from natural gas production and transport but also from the agricultural sector as well.”

Part of the increasing focus on methane “is the closing window of opportunity we have for keeping 1.5C within reach. Yes, we have to focus on carbon dioxide as the dominant greenhouse gas, but increasingly also on these powerful short-lived gases such as methane.”

“In France, about two-thirds of our methane comes from agriculture,” Crouzat said. While it’s a challenge, “there is a lot of work being done and we’re hopeful that we’ll manage to reduce it.”

New Zealand has long focused on how to reduce its sizeable methane emissions, Harrison said, through investing in scientific research, including agricultural in the original emissions trading scheme, and now working with farmers to devise ways to measure, manage and price emissions.

“And we introduced specific [methane] targets for ourselves, both an absolute reduction target for 2030, and the long-term target in line with the science,” she added. “It’s all hands to the pump, as it were, on methane for New Zealand.”

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Newsroom Pro Talks is made with the support of Spark, and thanks also to the European Union Delegation to NZ for its assistance on this episode.

Pro Talks is a live webinar series that looks at the crunchy part of big picture issues with the people whose decisions have a wider impact than just their own companies or enterprises. Hosted via zoom, subscribers can watch our journalists interview industry leaders live – and add their questions to the discussion. 

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