Joe Biden apologizes for Trump’s actions on climate

President Joe Biden offered a public apology to a U.N. climate conference over his predecessor Donald Trump’s move to pull the U.S. from the Paris accord.

Biden was speaking in Glasgow, Scotland on Monday where world leaders were gathering to discuss implementing the agreement to contain global warming by mid-century.

He said: “I shouldn’t apologize, but I do apologize for the fact the United States, the last administration, pulled out of the Paris Accords and put us sort of behind the eight ball a little bit.”

Biden has frequently criticized the past administration’s approach to climate, but had not previously delivered a public apology to the world.

Biden reentered the agreement in one of his first official acts in office on Jan. 20.

Glasgow COP26: climate finance pledges from rich nations are inadequate and time is running out

The make-or-break United Nations climate talks in Glasgow have begun. Much attention so far has rightly focused on the emissions reduction ambition each nation is taking to the negotiations. But another key goal of the talks is to dramatically scale up so-called “climate finance” for developing nations.

Climate finance is money paid by wealthy countries (which are responsible for most of the historic emissions) to developing countries to help them pay for emissions reduction measures and adaptation. Climate finance should be in addition to standard development aid.

At the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks, wealthy nations promised US$100 billion a year in climate finance to developing nations by 2020. But that goal has not been met.

A new climate finance plan, developed by Germany and Canada, has been proposed. Reports suggest it will propose meeting the US$100 billion annual target by taking an average of the finance provided from 2020 to 2025, instead of in single years.

The renewed focus on the plan is welcome. But it must be robust enough to tackle the mammoth task ahead, not just an exercise in shuffling figures. Time is running out – if developing nations can’t afford to reduce emissions, we won’t hit global climate goals and everyone will suffer.

Failing to commit enough climate finance puts us all at risk
At COP26, intense pressure will be applied to developed countries to provide adequate climate finance.

The promised US$100 billion a year is not nearly enough. The IPCC estimates US$2.4 trillion is needed annually for the energy sector alone until 2035 to limit global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius to prevent catastrophic consequences.

The cost for inaction is high and livelihoods are at stake. Crop failures, water shortages, and poor health outcomes due to pollution in major cities are all on the cards.

Wealthy nations such as Australia are also affected by such issues – but they often have a far greater capacity to prepare and respond than developing nations.

Australia’s pledges lag behind others
Australia’s current pledge for climate finance under the Paris agreement is A$300 million a year by 2025. So far, there are no signs this will change.

Compared to many countries, Australia is lagging. Even New Zealand, with its much smaller economy, has increased its pledge to NZ$1.3 billion over four years 2025.

The European Union is pledging an additional 4.7 billion until 2027 and the US is doubling its commitment to over US$11 billion annually by 2024.

The EU remains a world leader in climate action and pledges commitments fully in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Its impressive set of actions includes:

  • the “Green Deal” as a COVID recovery package
  • the adoption of a European Climate law
  • further reduced greenhouse gas emissions from 40% to at least 55% by 2030
  • carbon neutrality by 2050
  • a reformed emission trading scheme
  • a carbon border adjustment mechanism.

Other sticking points
COP26 will also likely see “Article 6” of the Paris Agreement come into effect, and produce more detail on how this would work in practice.

This article establishes a market mechanism which would encourage emission reductions by means of carbon trading. It could mean companies have to buy allowances to continue emitting CO₂.

This carbon trading will provide a funding stream for climate finance. In an ideal world, it generates climate cash that poor countries can use to reduce emissions and adapt.

Another topic expected to be fiercely negotiated at COP26 is the so-called “third pillar” of climate change action: loss and damage caused by human-induced climate change.

Loss and damage can be, for example, slow onset events such as sea level rise or prolonged droughts. It could be extreme weather events such as floods and cyclones.

Other impacts include economic damage to livelihoods and personal “non-economic losses” such as cultural heritage or loss of loved ones. Loss and damage goes beyond what we consider “normal weather”.

Increased human migration and displacement also fall under “loss and damage” if caused by climate change impacts. Between 2008 and 2014 and average of 22.5 million people were displaced because of extreme weather and climate-related disasters. This figure does not include migration due to sea level rise, desertification or environmental degradation.

Loss and damage has been a highly sensitive topic in international negotiations. Wealthy countries fear being made liable and opening themselves up to compensation claims from poorer countries due to climate inaction, human rights violations because of forced migration or other issues related to climate injustices.

After several previous attempts to include loss and damage in convention text, it was finally recognised under Article 8 in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

However, the document’s fine print ensured Article 8 does not provide any basis for liability or compensation. Finance to address loss and damage was also not identified.

The Alliance of Small Island Developing States, the Least Developed Countries and the Africa Group make up over half the world’s nations and currently take the brunt of climate damage. These groups have banded together and are expected to negotiate hard on loss and damage at COP26.

Failing on climate finance means failing the planet
The risk of legal consequences from climate inaction is increasing. Court cases against fossil fuel companies are on the rise.

Governments are no longer immune either. In 2015, an environmental group called the Urgenda Foundation joined with 900 citizens to sue the Dutch government for not doing enough to prevent climate change.

The law suit was successful. The court found the Dutch government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was insufficient.

In the US, 21 young Americans recently sued the government for violating their constitutional rights by exacerbating climate change. While unsuccessful, the Biden administration agreed to symbolic settlement talks.

And just over a month ago, Vanuatu asked the International Court of Justice to weigh in on what rights current and future generations may have to be protected from climate change.

If developing countries do not receive financial assistance to reduce emissions, it is unlikely we will meet the commitment of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius.

Clearly, helping developing nations pay for the expensive work of emissions reduction and adaptation benefits everyone on the planet.

(This article is syndicated by PTI from The Conversation)
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G20 Summit ‘fruitful’ in addressing issues of global importance: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described the outcome of the G20 Summit here as “fruitful” and said world leaders had elaborate deliberations on issues of global importance such as fighting the pandemic, improving health infrastructure, boosting economic cooperation and furthering innovation. The G-20 leaders during their two-day summit that concluded on Sunday, adopted the ‘Rome Declaration’ which gives a very strong message under the health section with the countries agreeing that the COVID-19 immunisation is a global public good.

“Leaving for Glasgow after a fruitful @g20org Summit in Rome. During the Summit, we were able to have elaborate deliberations on issues of global importance such as fighting the pandemic, improving health infrastructure, boosting economic cooperation and furthering innovation,” Modi tweeted.

Commenting on the outcome of the summit, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said: “It wasn’t easy to reach this agreement, it is a success. Over recent years, #G20 countries’ capacity to work together had diminished, but something changed at this summit: #G20 countries were once again able to tackle global challenges together.”

“Under the #G20Italy presidency, we reformed the international tax system, overcame health protectionism, secured more vaccines for the world’s poorest, laid the foundations for a more equitable recovery, and found new ways to support the world’s poorest,” Draghi tweeted.

The G-20 leaders have agreed that the World Health Organisation would be strengthened to fast-track the process for emergency use authorisation for Covid-19 vaccines, India’s G-20 Sherpa Piyush Goyal said on Sunday.

Noting that energy and climate were the centre of the discussions at the G-20, Goyal said India and many other developing countries pushed for safeguarding the interest of the developing world.

“We were also joined by the developed countries to increase the ambition from the current levels of commitment and active interest that the developed world has shown in terms of providing technology and affordable finance,” he said.

“We have really got into the text the language that confirms that the developed world has acknowledged that they have not done enough in terms of meeting their commitments and that they will have to be more forthcoming in providing finance in providing technology and (be) the enablers to make the transition to a clean energy world in the future,” he said.

Goyal said it was also decided that the recognition of Covid vaccines which are deemed to be safe and efficacious by the WHO will be mutually accepted subject to national and privacy laws that the countries may have.

Reacting to the G20 Declaration, the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the G20RomeSummit Declaration recognised WHO’s central role in the ongoing response to the COVID19 crisis and in protecting the world from future pandemics.

“Vaccines will help to end the #COVID19 pandemic, but the ultimate vaccine against pandemics and all health threats is leadership. The world needs @g20org leadership, now more than ever,” he tweeted.

“I thank @g20org Leaders for agreeing to scale up global action to ensure #VaccineEquity by meeting @WHO vaccination targets in all countries,” he said in another tweet.

“To help advance toward the global goals of vaccinating at least 40 per cent of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by mid-2022, as recommended by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global vaccination strategy, we will take steps to help boost the supply of vaccines and essential medical products and inputs in developing countries and remove relevant supply and financing constraints,” the G20 leaders said in their Declaration on Sunday.

But the WHO chief said “urgent, unprecedented action” is needed now by the countries manufacturing the vaccines against the deadly pandemic.

According to Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker, more than 246,713,600 confirmed cases and over 4,999,900 deaths have been reported from across the world.

Protesters Target Banks in London

Protesters started gathering Friday in the heart of London’s historic financial district to lobby against the use of fossil fuels ahead of the start of the UN climate summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

The protests in London, which were to be joined by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, are part of a worldwide day of action before before leaders head to Glasgow for the U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP26. Many environmentalists are calling the Oct. 31-Nov. 12 gathering the world’s last chance to turn the tide in the battle against climate change.

The protest began outside the insurance marketplace of Lloyd’s of London, as demonstrators called for the global financial system to stop investing in the use of fossil fuels.

G20 agrees on 1.5 degree climate change target: Sources

G20 leaders agreed Sunday on the need to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius but fell short of a hoped-for pledge on reaching net zero emissions, according to a draft communique seen by AFP.

The group of 20 major economies emit nearly 80 percent of carbon emissions, and are under pressure to go bold on climate to give a much-needed boost to crucial UN climate talks starting in Glasgow on Sunday.

According to the draft, which sources said would be the final one, the G20 reaffirm their support for the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping “the global average temperature increase well below 2 degrees and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels”.

In addition, they state that “keeping 1.5 degrees within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries.”

This will “require taking into account different approaches, through the development of clear national pathways that align long-term ambition with short- and medium-term goals, and with international cooperation and support”.

Experts say meeting the 1.5 degree target means slashing global emissions nearly in half by 2030 and to “net-zero” by 2050.

But the draft declaration, due to be published later Sunday, does not set a clear deadline for carbon net neutrality, saying it should be achieved “by or around mid century.”

Summit host Italy was pushing for a 2050 target, but this was hard to square with China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, which has set its own deadline at 2060.

The declaration includes a commitment to “put an end to the provision of international public finance for new unabated coal power generation abroad by the end of 2021”, a key pledge that mirrors what was already promised by China in September.

Elsewhere, it reaffirms the so-far unmet commitment to mobilise $100 billion for developing countries for climate adaptation costs.

Opening the formal discussions on climate on the second and final day of the G20 Rome summit Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi urged counterparts to aim high.

“The decisions we make today will have a direct impact on the success of the Glasgow summit and ultimately on our ability to tackle the climate crisis,” he said.

The toughest of tasks at UN climate talks: Article 6 on CO2 markets

Agreement on a market-based mechanism to allow countries to use international carbon offsets to meet goals set under the 2015 Paris climate agreement is among the most complex and most important of the tasks facing U.N. negotiators.

The next round of U.N. climate talks, postponed from last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, begins on Oct. 31 in Glasgow, Scotland.

WHAT IS ARTICLE 6?

Article 6 of the Paris agreement seeks to set rules to strengthen the integrity of carbon markets and create a new global carbon offsetting mechanism.

Progress on agreeing those rules broke down at the last talks in 2019.

Carbon markets are seen by some as an opportunity to lower the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enable countries to commit to more ambitious targets. Others see them as a way to stall more aggressive action to combat emissions.

Carbon offsetting involves helping to fund a cut in emissions elsewhere, by for instance preventing deforestation.

Countries that struggle to meet their emissions reduction targets in their national climate plans, or want to pursue less expensive emissions cuts, can purchase emissions reductions from other nations that have cut their emissions more than the amount they had pledged, such as by moving to low-carbon energy.

Article 6 is intended to provide an accounting framework for international cooperation. It envisages linking the emissions trading schemes of two or more countries and allows for the international transfer of carbon credits.

It also aims to establish a central U.N. mechanism to trade carbon credits from emissions reductions generated from low-carbon projects.

For example, one country could pay another to build a renewable energy project instead of a coal plant. This would reduce emissions but allow the second country to get the benefits from cleaner energy.

WHY IS ARTICLE 6 IMPORTANT?
Getting stringent rules around market-based mechanisms is important in the fight against climate change because of the emissions reductions they can achieve and the cost savings they can generate, analysts say.

Many countries’ national climate pledges hinge on the use of international cooperation through carbon markets.

The International Emissions Trading Association says Article 6 has the potential to halve the cost of implementing national emissions targets, saving an estimated $250 billion a year in 2030, and to facilitate the removal of around 5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year at no additional cost.

But without the right rules in place, Article 6 could weaken countries’ climate pledges and increase emissions.

“Depending on how the rules are structured, Article 6 could help the world avoid dangerous levels of global warming…or let countries off the hook from making meaningful emissions cuts,” said Yamide Dagnet, director of climate negotiations at the World Resources Institute.

“The integrity of the Paris Agreement and countries’ climate commitments hang in the balance,” she added.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE RESOLVED?
One of the European Union’s main concerns is how any emission reductions made via carbon markets would be accounted for.

The EU and other countries want to ensure there is no double counting, whereby the emission reduction is counted both by the country that has bought the credit and the country where the emission reduction has taken place.

“The main issue is how carbon credits are applied and accounted to meet national emissions targets and to avoid double counting, an issue that was flagged at the recent G7 summit,” Caroline May, head of sustainability and environment for Europe, Middle East and Asia at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, said.

Leaders of the G7 nations in June said in a communique that they recognised the potential of “high integrity” carbon markets but stopped short of addressing the issue of double counting.

“It is hoped that negotiations in Glasgow will lead to a final agreement being reached on this critical issue,” May added.

Negotiators are also at odds over what to do with billions of carbon credits generated under the Clean Development Mechanism, called CERs, designed to help countries meet commitments under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Brazil, South Korea, China and India account for almost 85% of all CERs issued to date.

Other countries say that allowing these credits to be carried over would potentially flood the market with credits for past accomplishments and not advance future emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement.

Technology best way to achieve climate target: Australia PM

CANBERRA: A net zero carbon emissions target by 2050 would be a “great positive” for Australia if it can be achieved through technology and not a carbon price, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday as he pressures government colleagues to commit to more ambitious action ahead of a climate summit.

Morrison last week agreed to attend next month’s climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, but his government colleagues have yet to approve the commitment he wants to net zero.

“If you have a credible plan with the proper transparencies Australia’s well known for, then it can be a great positive for Australia,” Morrison told Parliament, referring to the net zero target.

“If you have the right plan, if you have technology, not taxes,” Morrison added.

Morrison was a minister in the conservative coalition government that in 2014 repealed a carbon tax introduced by a center-left Labor Party government. The coalition continues to oppose any measures that would penalize polluters through a carbon price or tax.

The rural-based junior coalition partner, the Nationals party, are the major obstacle to Australia adopting net zero.

Nationals lawmakers have debated cabinet’s draft climate policy for the past three days but remained bitterly pided by Tuesday.

They were shown government modeling on Tuesday that predicted the economic impacts of more ambitious climate targets.

Nationals senator Matt Canavan was among the lawmakers who did not believe the modeling.

“The party room here is being gaslighted and that’s kind of ironic given it’s being gaslighted by people who want to end the use of fossil fuels,” Canavan said.

The government rejected opposition calls to make the modeling public.

Morrison said the world’s responses would have “significant impacts on rural and regional Australia, but they also present significant opportunities.”

“The plans that the government are considering will ensure that we can deal with both the costs and the benefits, because we understand there are impacts, that this is not a road that is only, where you’ll find opportunities,” Morrison said.

Morrison said he would make his government’s plans public before the next election, which is due by May.

Australia has not budged from its 2015 pledge at the Paris climate conference to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030, despite many countries adopting far more ambitious targets.

Morrison is unlikely to persuade his colleagues to agree to a new 2030 target before he goes to Glasgow.

Reducing emissions is a politically fraught issue in Australia, which is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal and liquified natural gas. The nation is also one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita because of its heavy reliance on coal-fired power.

The conservative government’s lack of ambition on climate change is regarded as a reason behind the government’s surprise reelection in 2019 and strong voter support in coal-rich Queensland state.

Morrison had argued that the Labor opposition’s pledge to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve zero emissions by 2050 would wreck the economy.

Climate holdout Australia sets 2050 net zero emissions target

SYDNEY: Coal-rich Australia unveiled a much-delayed 2050 net zero emissions target Tuesday, in a plan that pointedly dodged thorny details or near-term goals ahead of a landmark UN climate summit.

Widely seen as a climate laggard, Australia is one of the world’s largest coal and gas exporters.

For the last eight years, its conservative government has resisted action to reduce emissions, routinely approving new coal projects and peddling scepticism about climate change.

Under domestic and international pressure, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday announced a shift in approach and acknowledged the “world is changing”.

Australians want policy that “does the right thing on climate change”, he said, adding the phenomenon “is real, it’s happening. We understand it and we recognise it.”

Just how Australia will get to net zero by 2050 carbon emissions remains unclear, with the government refusing to release its modelling.

The plan would invest US$15 billion in low-emission technologies over the next decade, but it also leans heavily on unproven technologies and carbon offsets, which critics deride as an accounting gimmick.

And Morrison was keen to stress he was not dropping long-running support for the country’s lucrative fossil fuel industry.

“It will not shut down our coal or gas production or exports,” Morrison told a press conference. “It will not cost jobs, not in farming, mining or gas.”

While backing away from demands for more ambitious 2030 targets, Morrison said he expects Australia to “meet and beat” the previously agreed goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent on 2005 levels.

He said Australia was now projected to cut emissions 30-35 percent by 2030.

“That is something we actually think we are going to achieve. The actions of Australia speak louder than the words about us,” he added.

The announcement comes just days before Morrison departs for next month’s United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Australia’s reluctance to act had been criticised by close allies such as the United States and Britain, as well as Pacific island neighbours that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The coalition government has also found itself increasingly out of step with Australians’ attitudes as they suffered a series of climate-worsened droughts, bushfires and floods.

A 2021 poll by the Lowy Institute think tank found 78 percent of Australians back a 2050 net zero target, while 63 percent support a national ban on new coal mines.

The country’s greatest natural tourist drawcard, the Great Barrier Reef, has been badly damaged by waves of mass coral bleaching as ocean temperatures rise.

Mark Kenny, a professor at the Australian Studies Institute in Canberra, said domestic and international pressures had made it “more and more unviable for the coalition to cling to its essentially denialist position”.

But Kenny warned Australia’s announcement amounted to little more than a shift in rhetoric for the resource-reliant nation.

“This commitment is not significant in reality. I think if the world takes this seriously, they have been sold a pup,” he told AFP.

Tuesday’s 2050 commitment trails behind more ambitious announcements from Australian states and corporations, including mining giant Rio Tinto.

Australia’s major coal customers such as India and China have already indicated they will phase out thermal coal, and technological advances have made the future of metallurgical coal — used to make steel — increasingly uncertain.

Ahead of the 12-day Glasgow summit, the UN says more than 130 countries have set or are considering a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, a target it says is “imperative” to safeguard a livable climate.