Important announcements on the Earth, Economy, and the Tech Sector from week 1 of COP26.
Updated from our last bulletin, 105 countries have now pledged to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Methane is a significantly more effective greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (80x), albeit with a less sustained duration in the atmosphere. It is thought to contribute to around 50% of current warming observed in global temperatures.
Cutting back methane buys the planet more time, however, it can't be seen as a replacement for CO2 reductions. This large group of countries also excludes the worst emitters of methane, China, India, and Russia, each with poor records on containing the GHG. Commitments by western nations may be a positive step, but consensus on action requires consensus on issue.
World leaders have promised to end deforestation by 2030 in a move to tackle the widespread degradation of global forests as carbon sinks. This pledge includes the commitment of almost 14bn of public and private funds. Signatories include Brazil, responsible for large tracts of the Amazon rainforest degradation observed in past decades. The hope is that this will create consensus over the trade of forest products reducing the commercial viability of unsustainable extraction.
Experts have welcomed the move but warned that a previous deal in 2014 had failed to slow deforestation at all and that these commitments need to be delivered on. If successful, this measure will help sequester carbon in the environment which could help fight climate change. Biodiversity goals can also be met through the halting of deforestation. There are already signs of cracks in this agreement, however, as Indonesia has called the pledge unfair, suggesting it would be an impediment to the nations development.
UK businesses have taken the lead at COP26 in the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign. This is the largest ever global alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Nearly half of the 5,200 companies that have signed up to this initiative are British businesses.
Although only a start, it has demonstrated the intent of the private sector in addressing their emissions. It is hoped that signing up with this initiative can also reduce running costs, save money, and attract new customers for small businesses.
This news was announced in tandem with Treasury announcements on Mandatory Climate-related Financial Disclosures, Climate Finance for developing nations and environmental initiatives against greenwashing.
Hydrogen looks like it will have a significant role in reducing emissions, not just in its use for heating homes and cooking, but as a substitute for natural gas in both industrial processes and as transport fuel. Some are even suggesting that by 2050 the Hydrogen economy could be as large as Oil & Gas are today. The NHS has even unveiled new hydrogen-electric ambulances, a clear indication of the intentions for Hydrogen's place in future transport infrastructure.
Wind-to-hydrogen is also being touted as a solution to the issue of generating green hydrogen (free of CO2 emissions). Aker have announced a project to utilise 10GW of offshore wind to produce enough green hydrogen to power 40% of the total milage of local UK buses, as well as enough synthetic fuel to make 750 round trips from the UK to New York. Despite still being in early stages of development, projects like this show what is possible when innovators think outside the box about our energy future.
Prime Minister Advocates for Bold Compromises
Just ahead of COP26 week two, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for ministers and negotiator to pull together and drive for the line in securing ambitious action on climate change. Talks continue in Glasgow to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C, with ministers expecting current actions to miss that target. This comes with the backdrop of large protests across the country calling for tougher climate action, the news that the fossil fuel industry is disproportionately represented in the COP26 delegation, and concerns over the financial commitments to developing nations most at risk of climate related harm.
Accusations of greenwashing and industry lobbying may be met by more stringent announcements this week, as civil society organisations maintain pressure on the UK government and the wider conference.
Please look out for more news and announcements from COP26 on the techUK insights page.