COP26 latest: UK’s Johnson says China being pushed to accelerate emissions cuts to 2025
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COP26 latest: UK’s Johnson says China being pushed to accelerate emissions cuts to 2025

Adrienne Klasa and Emiliya Mychasuk

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Boris Johnson says China being pushed to accelerate emissions cuts to 2025

Jim Pickard in Glasgow

UK prime minister Boris Johnson
UK prime minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference at COP26 © Christopher Furlong/Getty

President Xi Jinping is being pushed to accelerate China’s target for starting to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 2030 to 2025, Boris Johnson has said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The UK prime minister and host of COP26 said China — the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter on an annual basis — had set a target of “2030 or before” for hitting peak carbon dioxide emissions but was being pressed to accelerate that timeline.

“When you listen to what he [President Xi] says, the question is how much before that, that’s the issue we are discussing with China because there’s a difference between 2025 and 2030,” Johnson said.

“You bet we need more progress from China . . . and everyone here at this gathering.”

Johnson said it was reasonable for Xi to refuse to come to Glasgow in person because of the pandemic and pointed out that Beijing had sent a “very high-level team”.

The prime minister also warned that failure to mitigate climate change would lead to “economic catastrophe”. He said it was easy to get “caught up in exaggerated enthusiasm” in the early days of the conference, warning that there were still two weeks of detailed negotiations to follow.

“We must take care to guard against false hope and not to think in any way that the job is done because there is still a very long way to go,” he said.

Among the positive signs was the fact that so many countries had now set net zero targets in recent months, he added.

Johnson admitted that the developed world was late in delivering its target of $100bn of climate finance, which was supposed to be achieved by 2020. Instead the current target is 2023, although recent commitments by countries including the UK and Japan could enable the target to be reached by 2022.

Europe to invest €1bn in clean technologies such as green hydrogen

Mehreen Khan in Brussels, Nathalie Thomas in Edinburgh and Jim Pickard in Glasgow

© Jim Pickard

Europe will aim to get new climate technologies to market faster under a €1bn public and private investment scheme announced by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen at COP26 on Tuesday.

The EU Catalyst programme, launched in partnership with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and the European Investment Bank, will finance and commercialise breakthrough clean technologies, such as green hydrogen.

“It is innovation that leads the way,” von der Leyen said of the programme on Tuesday, which she added would finance “industries’ innovation, breakthrough innovation, to bring the newest climate technologies to the market in Europe”.

The EU has named green hydrogen as a vital technology in the continent’s path to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The catalyst partnership will begin selecting projects for funding from next year.

Brussels last year launched a “hydrogen alliance” with European industry to help ramp up the production of expensive clean hydrogen, which it sees as a critical way of reducing CO2 emissions in the steel industry and road haulage, which are harder to decarbonise.

Money will also go to projects to develop sustainable aviation fuels that do not yet exist at scalable levels for long-haul commercial flights and are far more expensive than traditional highly polluting kerosene. Carbon capture and storage technologies will also be eligible for investment.

At a small press conference later in the afternoon, Gates said that the fund was intended to reduce the “green premium” – the estimated $5tn a year cost gap between often cheaper fossil fuels and more expensive renewable technology. 

“Innovation can bear a lot of the burden of trying to reduce the affordability gap to do these things,” he said. 

Brussels will contribute money from the EU budget and hopes to leverage three euros of private capital for every euro of public money. Half of all financing for projects will be raised by the partnership, with the other half from private investment.

Over 100 countries sign up to US and EU-led pledge to slash methane emissions

Myles McCormick

© REUTERS

The US and EU officially launched their global methane pledge in Glasgow on Tuesday, announcing that more than 100 countries had committed to slashing emissions of the potent greenhouse gas.

Under the pledge, countries agree to reduce methane pollution by 30 per cent by the end of the decade from 2020 levels.

Washington and Brussels have been cajoling countries into signing on to the deal since it was initially announced in September with an initial nine members. However, many big polluters have yet to sign on.

“With this global pledge we are making COP26 the moment when the world moves from aspiration to action,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told delegates.

Methane, which is emitted from sectors including energy and agriculture, lingers in the atmosphere for less time than carbon dioxide but has more than 80 times the warming potential over a 20 year period, making it crucial to efforts to tackle climate change.

The launch was accompanied by a host of new commitments from countries to tackle methane pollution. President Joe Biden announced the US would tighten and expand rules forcing oil and gas companies to monitor and fix leaks of the gas.

Von der Leyen said the European Commission would put forward regulations next month to limit venting and flaring and improve leak detection.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, said his country would implement rules to cut emissions from its oil and gas sector by three quarters from 2012 levels by the end of the decade.

Japan’s Kishida promises up to $10bn in new climate funds for developing countries

Jim Pickard in Glasgow

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida
Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida flew in to Glasgow fresh from a successful election to make the commitment at COP26 © Hannah McKay/Pool/AFP/Getty

Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, has promised up to $10bn in additional climate finance for developing countries during his address at COP26.

Kishida, who was re-elected as leader only two days ago, said the extra $2bn a year over five years would be on top of an existing $60bn already announced in June by his predecessor.

Japan, a member of the G7 group of developed countries, has set a goal of reaching net zero carbon by 2050 and aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 46 per cent by 2030.

“Japan will press forward with efforts to reach net zero emissions in Asia, the engine of global economic growth,” Kishida said in his speech at the second-day leaders’ session of the climate talks.

Financial services net zero alliances “toothless”, say campaigners

Chris Flood

Promises to tackle climate change made by 300 of the world’s largest financial companies are “toothless” and “not fit for purpose”, according to a new report which criticises their failure to stop new investments in fossil fuel production.

Though six “net zero” alliances have been set up by banks, asset managers and other financial services providers, all of these groups are “failing to address the urgency of the climate crisis”, said Reclaim Finance, a non-profit environmental campaign group.

None of the six alliances, which are supported by 300 financial institutions that own or manage assets of around $90tn, require their members to end their support for new coal, oil and gas supply projects, said Reclaim Finance.

“The financial sector talks a big game on climate but its flagship initiatives are fundamentally flawed,” said Patrick McCully, senior analyst at Reclaim Finance.

The campaign group also criticised the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), an umbrella organisation chaired by Mark Carney, the UN special envoy for climate action and finance and the former governor of the Bank of England.

“GFANZ has produced no guidelines or position papers for its members, instead requiring them to follow the UN’s Race To Zero Campaign, which does not even mention fossil fuels in its criteria,” said McCully.

Western nations to provide South Africa with $8.5bn to speed end of coal power

Jim Pickard in Glasgow

Joe Biden, centre, flanked by president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and British prime minister Boris Johnson during a meeting on “the Build Back Better World” (B3W) initiative © AFP via Getty Images

US president Joe Biden has confirmed a new partnership between western nations and South Africa to provide $8.5bn to transform the country into a “clean energy economy” more swiftly.

The US President was speaking at an event alongside UK prime minister Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.

South Africa was currently the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Africa because of its reliance on coal power, Biden said.

Under the new agreement with the US, EU, UK, France and Germany, Johannesburg would close coal plants more quickly than currently scheduled while “supporting an equitable, inclusive transition” towards green energy, the president said.

The initiative was announced prematurely by von der Leyen four days ago.

Johnson had said he hopes that faster progress on phasing out coal use globally will be a major element of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. Coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, still accounts for a large proportion of China’s energy production and supplied nearly 90 per cent of South Africa’s electricity last year.

Biden, meanwhile, said more broadly that his “Build Back Better” venture would seek to mobilise trillions of dollars of capital towards green infrastructure around the world.

Marine reserve around Galápagos Islands to be expanded by 50%

Jim Pickard in Glasgow

© REUTERS

The Ecuadorean president has announced plans to expand the marine reserve around the Galápagos Islands by about 50 per cent.

President Guillermo Lasso told delegates at COP26 that he was setting up a new marine reserve of 60,000 square kilometres around the Galápagos, one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet.

This will be added to the existing 130,000 sq km marine reserve around the volcanic archipelago, which is famous for its unique flora and fauna including the land iguana, the Galápagos giant tortoise and Darwin’s finches, named for the seminal evolutionary biologist

Lasso was among scores of world leaders giving speeches at COP26 on Tuesday morning in the plenary room. He said the Galápagos Islands were “the jewel of our biodiversity” and needed fresh protections.

“Despite having an outstanding sustainable model it is confronting serious threats due to global warming, plastic waste and other imbalances which are undermining our biodiversity,” he said.

Momentum builds for pledges to cut methane emissions

Jim Pickard in Glasgow

© REUTERS

Thirty more countries are expected to sign up on Tuesday to an international agreement on tackling methane emissions, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

US president Joe Biden announced new rules to limit methane emissions from agriculture, landfill and old oil and gas sites late on Monday. His new set of measures include a requirement to plug leaks in oil wells and the launch of a new programme encouraging farmers to capture and sell methane.

That will be followed later on Tuesday by the announcement that more countries have joined an existing “Global Methane Pledge”, which was first announced in September with just nine founder nations including Italy and the UK. 

A Washington official told reporters on Monday night that over 90 countries have joined a global attempt to slash methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, compared to 2020 levels. Only last week there were just 60 countries signed up to the deal.

Those 90 countries include half of the top 30 methane emitters in the world including Brazil, the US official said. However Russia, India and China, three of the world’s largest emitters of the gas, are not known to have joined the pledge.

A UN report earlier this year warned that failure to tackle methane emissions, which are released in large part by agriculture and energy production, would make the Paris Agreement impossible to achieve. 

China defends president Xi’s written address to climate summit

Jim Pickard in Glasgow

Xi Jinping appeared by video stream at the G20 leaders summit in Rome on the weekend but sent only written text to the COP26 World Leaders. © AP

China has sought to justify president Xi Jinping giving a written statement to the COP26 summit on Monday rather than speaking in person, arguing that he had not been given a chance to deliver a video address.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters on Tuesday that the president had not been given a choice to interact with the summit through a different medium. Xi is not attending the Glasgow climate talks in person, although he has sent a delegation of negotiators from Beijing.

“As I understand it, the conference organisers did not provide the video link method,” he said.

During the opening speeches by world leaders on Monday — where more than 60 other presidents and prime ministers gave addresses — his contribution was limited to a written statement that did not offer any additional pledges.

China, which is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases on an annual basis, has committed to a net zero target by 2060 — a decade later than other major emitters such as the US, EU and UK.

Investors threaten votes against Big Four auditors over climate risks

Michael O’Dwyer

Investors managing assets worth about $4.5tn have accused the UK’s Big Four audit firms of failing to warn when companies’ financial statements omit the potential impact of the transition to net zero on their business.

In letters to the UK heads of Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC sent on Monday, a group of 24 institutional investors said that from next year the firms should expect more shareholders to vote against their reappointment as auditors if they do not challenge companies on the impact of decarbonisation on their accounts.

A September report by think-tank Carbon Tracker found that in 80 per cent of cases auditors did not appear to have assessed the effects of climate risks when auditing carbon-intensive companies.

“Companies that base their accounting assumptions on ‘business as usual’ risk misrepresenting their economic position,” wrote the investors, which included asset managers Sarasin & Partners, Aviva Investors and EOS, part of Federated Hermes.

Auditors that did not challenge these assumptions would be failing in their duty to shareholders, they said.

While much of the accounting industry’s climate focus has centred on setting new standards for climate disclosure by companies, the investors said existing rules required auditors of financial statements to consider material climate-related risks to companies’ business.

Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC said that material climate-related risks are considered in their audits of companies’ financial statements.

The firms said they have taken steps such as training auditors on factoring climate risks into their work.

UK environment secretary touts deforestation agreement as ‘major step forward’

Leke Oso Alabi

The UK’s environment secretary has said that the deforestation agreement struck late on the first day of COP26 is a “major step forward”, as countries around the world pledged to a phased ending to the destruction of forests.

“This is a really significant breakthrough,” George Eustice told Sky News on Tuesday. “We’ve now got over 100 countries covering around 85 per cent of the forests around the world committed to ending the net loss of forests by 2030.” 

“It includes key countries like Russia, which has got a huge area of forests and obviously Canada as well, but also some of the central African countries . . . and Brazil, which would surprise some people,” he added.

How the commitment will be enforced remains unclear, however. Deforestation in Brazil has risen sharply under president Jair Bolsonaro, who has also slashed the budget for environmental enforcement even after making a commitment to halt deforestation by 2030 in April.

The UK environment secretary later told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that some companies had also committed to increase due diligence on forrestry products in their supply chains.

“Here in the UK we’re introducing through our environment bill a new due diligence requirement on big manufacturers who make use of forest risk products . . . to make sure that those aren’t linked to illegal deforestation,” he said.

Eustice said they had secured commitments from 28 countries to introduce similar measures.

What to expect on Day 2: World leaders, B3W, and methane

Emiliya Mychasuk in Glasgow

British prime minister Boris Johnson during an Action on Forests and Land Use event on Tuesday after the leaders declaration on deforestation © Getty Images

The first day of COP26 in Glasgow brought a late flurry of country and forestry pledges, and the second day promises further declarations on a variety of topics, including a global methane agreement.

National leaders: On the second day of the World Leaders summit, the remaining half of the heads of state will deliver their addresses and commitments on global warming. Japan’s Kishida will be the last of the G7 leaders to stand before the plenary, arriving in Glasgow shortly after sealing his election victory over the weekend.

In the afternoon, Panama’s president Laurentino Cortizo will sign a ‘carbon negative declaration’ that “unites Panama, Bhutan and Suriname as the world’s only carbon negative countries”.

Boris and Biden and B3W UK prime minister Boris Johnson will attend a roundtable hosted by President Biden on the US administration’s Build Back Better World, known as B3W initiative to support green infrastructure in developing countries launched at the G7.

Methane: US president Joe Biden appeared empty-handed on the first day of COP, but overnight the US administration pushed through new methane rules that tee up a global push to cap the release of the potent greenhouse gas. Limiting methane releases provides arguably the best opportunity to limit global warming in the short term, notably by preventing leaks from gas flares and distribution.

Trees: More than 100 global leaders and 30 financial institutions are expected to give details about how they will enforce their commitment to halt deforestation by 2030 and eliminate it from portfolios by 2025, respectively.

The overnight release of the declaration sets up the framework for a flood of corporate and country briefings throughout today to promote the pledge.

Water The so-called Water and Climate Coalition Leaders will announce they are “committing to an integrated global water and climate agenda’ at an event hosted by the World Meteorological Organization with COP26 President Alok Sharma.

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