COP26 put the world on a difficult path to net zero

InSIS Research Fellow, Jessica Omukuti, attended the recently completed COP26 in Glasgow and participated in several side events--one on intergenerational equity in net zero, a panel discussion on BBC World Service titled ‘Who pays to fix climate change?’.

Looking back, Jessica notes that although COP26 was generally considered a success, the outcomes of COP26 inadequately addressed the needs of developing countries and put the global goal of net zero on a difficult path.

Jessica adds:

‘COP26 failed to fully engage with the priorities of developing countries, specifically in relation to long-term financing for climate action. This will determine how and when the global temperature goal is reached through net zero emission reductions’

The Paris Agreement creates a provision of a later peaking of emissions and rapid reductions thereafter for developing countries, in alignment with their sustainable development goals. Whether these goals are achieved will depend on whether COP negotiations generate outcomes that ensure sufficient and predictable financing for climate action in the Global South which will in turn determine when these countries peak their emissions and the magnitude of rapid emission reductions that follow.

The failed US$100bn commitment emerging from COP26 and the promise to consider a long-term climate financing goal and arrangement at COP27, coupled with the history of non-delivery of COP commitments by developed countries means that developing countries will struggle to meet the conditional components of their revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This will lead to delays in setting and achieving long-term emission reduction targets by developing countries.

Jessica further notes:

‘It is essential that international negotiations on net zero focus on what is needed to achieve both short- and long-term climate targets at local and international levels. For instance, current climate finance commitments need to be proportional to the scale of investments that are needed to achieve the ambitious NDC targets and long-term emission development strategies that developing countries are being asked to develop’

The next rounds of climate change negotiations will likely see most developing countries make their long-term emission reduction commitments conditional on predictable and sustained climate finance flows from developed countries.

Jessica Omukuti leads research on Inclusive Net Zero at Oxford Net Zero.