Was COP26 a success? Ask me again in a few years.
As expected, the COP failed to produce adequate finance for developing nations whilst the combined emissions pledges of the world’s governments do not, yet, come near to the cuts required to avoid catastrophic climate change. However, the “Paris Rulebook” was completed which means that countries can now get on with fulfilling their pledges instead of just talking about them. Furthermore, there were some promising additional agreements made by smaller group of countries to tackle deforestation, methane emissions and closedown of coal-fired power stations. If all implemented, these steps will make a dent in emissions well within this decade and so Glasgow may be remembered as a turning point. But, if pledges are not met, it will be remembered as another fortnight of all talk and no action. Time will tell.
That’s my general assessment but there are two further things about the COP26 outcomes that directly relate to CCL’s core policy of Climate Income.
First of all, as many of you probably saw, there was a last minute hiccup over “Calls [for] … the phase-out of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”, with “phase-out” being replaced at the very last minute by “phase-down” in the key decision document of the conference. This is being reported in the media as due to concerns in China and India about their need for coal but if you listened to what India actually said during its “intervention” the concern was just as much about subsidies; a concern that was also expressed by Iran. In fact, many middle-income nations are worried about being asked to remove subsidies, at the pump, that make petrol affordable to ordinary people in their countries. Removing such subsidies without massive social unrest is genuinely very difficult.
Our own James Collis (pictured, left, above with me) and other leading members of Citizens Climate International had the opportunity to discuss this with members of the delegation from a “global-south”, oil producing nation at COP26. They emphasised, in particular, how climate income offers a way out of this subsidy-trap. Quite simply the money used for the subsidy should be gradually converted into a dividend. The least well-off in society would find that their dividend was significantly larger than the price rise due to subsidy removal and the dividend would rise further as carbon-prices gradually replaced carbon subsidies. So, one thing I learned at COP was that Climate Income may be even more helpful to middle income nations than to rich ones.
The second climate income point to come out of COP26 was the unexpected call “requesting” countries to “revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets … by the end of 2022”. As the holders of the COP presidency proposing this, the UK can hardly avoid complying with the request and so expect frantic efforts from the UK government to find ways to strengthen UK commitments quickly. We need to be arguing that Climate Income is the way to do this. No other single policy can be brought in quickly and have such a large impact. It’s time for us to be sharpening our pencils again ready to write to our MPs!
Words and pics by Dave Waltham, CCE and CCL UK observer at the first week of COP26