Comment on Climate Ambition Summit

Experts comment on the upcoming Climate Ambition Summit, to be co-hosted by the UN, UK and France on 12 December

By George Smeeton

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Attendees at a media briefing today ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit, to be co-hosted by the UN, UK and France on 12 December, heard from the panelists of the challenges facing the UK as host of next year’s UN climate summit, COP26.

Laurent Fabius, President of the Paris climate summit (COP21), said: “Paris was a success because of a coming together of three planets, science, civil society and government. I would say that since 2015 science and technology have acted pretty well, civil society is a bit complex but some success especially in terms of finance but, and a big but, is the third planet, government. So, a particular responsibility is on the governments; the responsibility is to encourage not only long-term objectives but middle-term and short-term commitments, and there lies the event of the 12th December.”

He added: “There is no vaccine against climate warming, but there is an antidote, and the antidote is the full implementation of the Paris Agreement; the main objective is now to deliver.”

Amber Rudd, former UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and UK lead at COP21, said: “In terms of looking at advice for the UK Government going ahead into Glasgow, I think they really need to step up the diplomatic effort. I have said before that I think it should be run from the Foreign Office, I worry that the BEIS department has enough going on with Covid and Brexit and looking back on how the French managed it, I think the diplomatic effort is so central to any success.

“When we look ahead to the NDCs and the leadership that the UK needs to provide there, I’m particularly interested in seeing some confirmation from the UK government about participating in a trading mechanism. When we leave the European Union what is going to happen to the ETS and our involvement in it? Is there going to be a replacement? How will it work? I think that’s going to be just as critical.”

On international aid, Ms Rudd said: “A country that really understood the seriousness and the honour and the responsibility of hosting COP26 next year would not be cutting its international aid right now. It may go to the criticism that this country may not be taking this seriously enough the responsibility it has for Glasgow next year.”

Adair Turner, Senior Fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) and Chair, the Energy Transitions Commission, said: “We are not on a short-term path to deal with this problem. That means what happens in the 2020s is absolutely vital in two respects. One, we have got to take the measures during the 2020s which make that zero by 2050 possible and there are some things we have to do, in particular, drive green electrification which are essential to that.

“But secondly, we have actually got to get emissions down a lot in the 2020s themselves because of course what matters is the stock in the atmosphere, what people call the area under the curve of all the different flows not just what the flow will be in 2050. Third point, what that means is that what is said in the NDCs, which have a time scale out to 2030, is absolutely crucial.”

“We need to have a very strong sense of the mix of actions required in the 2020s to put us on a path (to net zero). The most important across the world is rapid decarbonisation of our electricity systems.

“There is no way to a zero carbon economy which doesn’t involve deep electrification of our economies and complete decarbonisation of those and when the UK Climate Committee comes out next week with its sixth carbon budget, look for a commitment of at least complete decarbonisation of the UK electricity system by 2035 because unless you get, as a developed economy, to pretty much complete decarbonisation of your electricity system by about 2035, you will not be on a path to zero carbon across the whole of your economy by 2050.”

Prof. Saleemul Huq, Director, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), said: “The world has changed since Paris; five years on it has not changed for the better, it has changed for the worst. And in the climate change context one of those changes is the fact that the year 2020 will not just be remembered as the year of Covid 19 but also the year that we have entered into a climate changed world. Every year from now is going to get hotter and hotter, and we are seeing right now in this year the impacts of attributable human-induced climate change in the super wildfires in California and Australia, super cyclone Anpnan that hit us recently and a series of nearly 30 hurricanes in the Caribbean.”

On loss and damage, he said: “At COP25 we went in to two days of overtime and in the end we didn’t resolve the issue of how we are going to fund the victims of loss and damage. I think COP26 is going to have to take this on as an issue, if it does not do that then it makes COPs irrelevant to the issue at stake which is protecting the people on the planet, particularly the most vulnerable people on the planet from the impacts of climate change which they have not caused, they are the victims.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be co-hosting a “landmark global event” on climate change on 12 December, the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The Summit will be an important global moment on the road to COP26, as well as providing an early indicator of the scale of the UK Government’s own ambition as COP26 President, with a new climate target expected shortly. ECIU Director Richard Black has written analysis what might be expected of the UK’s NDC, or Nationally Determined Contribution, available here. A background briefing on the Climate Ambition Summit is available here.