While COP26 came dangerously close to a “Copenhagen” breakdown over a lack of trust in the process due to last minute changes in the final text, the meeting concluded on November 13 at nearly midnight as approximately 200 countries agreed to the “Glasgow Climate Pact,” reports USCIB Senior Vice President Norine Kennedy.
According to Kennedy, throughout the final week of the intense two-week session, views had remained divided on substantive issues, most of which linked in some way to unmet finance needs, and also concerned gaps in pledged greenhouse gas reductions compared to scientific assessments of actions necessary to limit dangerous warming.
Following recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports of current national action pledges, the pressure was on to keep “1.5°C alive” and to finalize the outstanding elements – notably “Article 6” on carbon markets – of the Rulebook (the practical guidance for implementing The Paris Agreement).
“This meeting took place under numerous challenging circumstances,” added Kennedy. It was the first, major UN in-person meeting during the pandemic, held under stringent public health measures which included daily testing for all participants. COP26 was also taking place during a period of economic headwinds and uncertainty coupled with, higher energy prices. Outspoken climate campaigners inside the meeting areas and protesters outside, along with a higher-than-expected participation of more than thirty-thousand participants kept the pressure on. On the other hand, a record number of business participants on hand, including during the World Leaders Climate Summit, which comprised the first three days of the COP, signaled clear business support for ambitious climate action.
USCIB staff and members organized two U.S. business events in the final week:
- A virtual USCIB side-event on “Infrastructure, Innovation and Investment for a Sustainable and Resilient Recovery,” featuring speakers from Duke University, General Motors and Generate Capital and
- A Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF) side-event on where business can make a running start to advance economy-wide action on climate change, in preparation for COP27. Speakers from Business at OECD (BIAC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE), the Mohamed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection and WorldSteel shared perspectives on converging employment, trade and energy transition policies, working with the private sector.
“In spite of unparalleled support by U.S. companies for an ambitious outcome, working with the Administration, we were disappointed by scant mention of business in the Glasgow conclusions,” stated Kennedy. “The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) served as the focal point for business at COP26, debuting new ICC papers on carbon pricing and on sustainable trade finance.”
Looking ahead to the next major UN climate meeting in Egypt in 2022, several thorny issues remain, including lingering dissatisfaction with lack of adequate finance and questions about whether high-emitting countries (such as U.S., China, India) will be able to offer enhanced pledges of emissions reductions. USCIB members will be preparing recommendations to inform the UN “Global Stocktake,” which will form a basis for future action, and continue to advocate for economy-wide approaches inside and outside the UNFCCC that advance energy access and security and substantively engage U.S. business knowhow and innovation.
USCIB’s COP26 Concluding Statement can be found here.