2021-04 13
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National Transparency Reports: Countries’ Actions Provide Basis For Raising Ambition



Credit: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay UN Climate Change News, 13 April – The measures described in recent transparency reports by both developing and developed countries provide a solid basis for further scaling up much needed ambition to meet the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting global temperature increases to no more than 1.5C by the end of the century. The Biennial Update Reports (BURs) by developing countries and the Biennial Reports (BRs) by developed countries provide a status update on climate actions before 2020, as well as a signal of future actions to be implemented by 2030 and beyond.  Submitted reports were subject to an established technical analysis and review processes and have shown considerable progress made by countries. Submissions by developing countries Developing countries, including the least developed countries and small island developing states, are stepping up their efforts to communicate the BURs and engage in the technical analysis of those reports on a regular basis to increase transparency of their climate actions and related support. An increasing number of countries are participating in the process with subsequent BURs, after successfully completing the technical analysis of their first BURs. Recently, Singapore became the first-ever Party to engage in the process for the fourth time in the latest round of technical analysis.   The recent rounds of technical analysis show the growing efforts of developing countries in climate action. While the majority of actions are focused on the energy sector, Parties are also making efforts and plans to reduce GHG emissions from other sectors, including waste, agriculture and forestry. Some of the developing countries have introduced carbon pricing as a cross-cutting measure to strengthen their mitigation efforts. Among the ones that participated in the technical analysis in 2020-2021, Argentina and Singapore provided updates on their carbon tax, while the Republic of Korea provided information on its national emission trading scheme. Developing countries are also making efforts to improve transparency of their data by using more recent methodologies from the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories and more up-to-date global warming potential values than those mandated in the existing guidelines.  Furthermore, developing countries are providing additional information through a stand-alone national inventory report and technical annex on REDD+ submitted in conjunction with the BURs. REDD+ refers to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. The technical analysis rounds held in 2020-2021 included the analysis of 8 national inventory reports and 6 technical annexes on REDD+. Submissions by developed countries The recent reviews of developed countries’ BRs showed a clear scaling up of efforts beyond 2020 commitments.  While the national circumstances of the countries reviewed differ greatly – from individual economies in transition to regional blocs like the EU, it is clear that many countries are ramping up efforts for 2030 and beyond.  For example, as incoming presidency of COP26, the UK’s fourth BR outlines actions it is taking to show leadership and raise ambition for greater international climate action.  As the world’s leader in offshore wind energy installation and with a suite of domestic programmes to decarbonize the transport sector, the UK has successfully reduced its national GHG emissions by 42 per cent between 1990 and 2017, including a reduction in use of coal-fired electricity from 40 per cent to 5 per cent.  Looking forward, the UK is now focused on deeper cuts over the longer-term, as outlined in its December 2020 commitment to a 68 per cent reduction (a substantial increase above its previous target of 53 per cent reduction) in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990, and supported by its 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution. A second example is Slovenia’s efforts to overachieve its 2020 emissions reduction target and set in place a long-term strategy to promote investment in low-emission buildings.  By contributing to EU-wide initiatives and implementing national policies, such as the National Environment and Climate Plan (NECP) and the Long-Term Climate Strategy, this economy in transition is aspiring to achieve net zero emissions in the building sector by 2050 by improving energy efficiency, installing centralized heating systems and scaling up the deployment of renewable energy technologies. Reflecting on the overall quality of reporting in the fourth BRs and the recent rounds of BURs, the secretariat found that reports had improved in both their completeness and transparency of information reported, and that the assessment of Parties reports was completed more consistently – in part due to the adoption of standardized assessment tools and approaches.   The reviews showed that countries have made progress in establishing solid technical systems as a basis for climate action, meaning that they can raise their ambition with confidence. What is needed now is the determination and political will to capture and reflect this in their new or updated national climate action plans in 2021. Despite the challenges of working virtually across time-zones and continents, tasks were completed successfully and mostly in time, thanks to the dedication of the experts involved and the introduction of new tools and approaches to support the process.  Marcela Itzel Olguin-Alvarez, a lead reviewer from Mexico, reflected, “I want to take this opportunity to thank the Secretariat and the experts on the team for the great opportunity to share with and learn from so many people from different cultures, professional backgrounds, ages and experiences. Because of that diversity, being part of this group is simply amazing, and on top of that, the common goal is one of the most complex and urgent ones to address today.” Moving forward on transparency The technical analyses and reviews conducted so far provide critical inputs into the next stages of transparency processes.  For developing countries, as part of International Consultation and Analysis, the interactive process will conclude with Facilitative Sharing of Views (FSV), organized in the form of a workshop under the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).  For developed countries, as part of International Assessment and Review, this will involve online interaction with other Parties to clarify reported information, followed by an in-session Multilateral Assessment (MA). Together, these parallel processes serve to share best practices and highlight innovative policies and measures, with the aim of increasing climate ambition and action, and form the foundation of the current UNFCCC transparency system.  Fifteen developing countries will undergo FSV at the next workshop and twenty developed countries will undergo MA at the next session. The final BURs for developing countries are due by 31 December 2024, with the aim of completing the final FSV between 2024 and 2026. The fifth and final BRs of developed countries will be submitted in conjunction with the eighth National Communications starting in April 2022, but not later than end of 2022.  Multilateral Assessment will then take place 2023-2024.  Under the Enhanced Transparency Framework of the Paris Agreement, BRs and BURs will be superseded by Biennial Transparency Reports, or BTRs, the first of which are due by 31 December 2024.  Similarly, in the coming years, the MA and FSV processes will be superseded by the Facilitative Multilateral Consideration of Progress. Since March 2020, UN Climate Change has virtually coordinated the technical analysis of 28 BURs from developing countries and the technical review of 41 BRs from developed countries, which underscores the deep commitment of both countries and experts to upholding critical transparency processes in challenging times. Source:UN Author:UN Date:April 13, 2021

2021-04 06
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Countries in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa Are Ready to Step up Climate Action



Credit: Solar panels in Thailand / Getty Images UN Climate Change News, 6 April 2021 - Most countries in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa aim to increase ambition to tackle climate change through new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are eager to share knowledge about how to best achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. This was the key finding of a virtual meeting, co-organized by UN Climate Change and NDC-Partnership, to share good practices about how countries can update their climate action plans under the Paris Agreement (NDCs). Earlier this year, UN Climate Change published the initial NDC Synthesis Report covering NDCs from 75 Parties to the UNFCCC who communicated a new or updated NDC before the end of last year.  The report shows that governments are far from reaching their climate goals and urgently need to accelerate their actions to achieve these goals.  However, a survey carried out by Regional Collaboration Center (RCC) Bangkok and RCC Dubai last year, as well as the initial NDC Synthesis Report, show there is significant potential and willingness of countries to make use of lessons learned from regional neighbors. Virtual meeting highlights need for urgent action The recent virtual meeting to address the situation was attended by over 125 participants from 32 countries in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), in addition to twelve development partners and development finance institutions. UN Climate Change Director James Grabert warned that: “While it is encouraging to hear growing commitments to net-zero emissions by 2050 around the world, such long-term goals must be translated into immediate actions and NDCs”.  UK Ambassador Ken O’Flaherty highlighted the achievements of the Maldives in setting targets for net-zero emissions. In addition, he highlighted exemplary government consultations to enhance climate ambitions in the NDC in Pakistan, announcements on moratoriums to prevent the building of new coal power stations in the Philippines, and the planned increase of renewable energy share to 80% by 2030 in Sri Lanka, despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, he urged governments to submit more ambitious NDCs. Romeo Bertolini, Head of the Bonn Office, Support Unit, NDC Partnership stated that: “The Partnership is currently working with a number of countries in preparing their NDC action plans. These plans will shape the scale and reach of climate action in the global south in the years to come”.   Participants in the meeting heard that new and updated NDCs indicate that more governments have integrated strategies to build resilience to the unavoidable impacts of climate change into their climate action plans. This is significant, as adaptation to climate change is a central goal of the Paris Agreement.   Overcoming obstacles to climate action Delegates described common and unique technical, financial, legal, political and cultural barriers that the countries face in their NDC implementation process. These can be overcome by learning from one another’s experience, where there are similar socio-economic national circumstances. For example, introducing carbon pricing in developing countries and in countries whose economy is dependent on fossil fuels, requires reflection on the pros and consequences of such a tool and provide means of implementation to countries that will be impacted by it. Similarly, peer-to-peer learning can be part of the exercise on mapping availability of climate finance and building capacity to access climate finance. The need to act swiftly to deliver climate commitments requires inclusive stakeholder engagement. This means incentivizing the private sector, mainstreaming gender inclusiveness in NDC planning and implementation, and empowering marginalized groups in societies.    Finance is key to climate action Collaborating with development partners and development finance institutions can support the implementation of enhanced climate action plans. Twelve development partners and development financial institutions from Asia and MENA elaborated their support programs for NDC implementation, as well as stakeholder engagement and coordination. For example, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is supporting NDC implementation through the development of NDC Roadmaps and financial planning – both carbon and climate finance. Green Finance is still at the margins, but needs to be mainstreamed into development programs. Further examples of how development partners have supported capacity building of different countries include the Climate Investment Platform, Green Investment Facility for Lebanon, and Global Environment Facility (GEF)- and Green Climate Fund (GCF)-approved projects for different sectors for countries in the region. Country representatives agreed that climate finance is still a key factor in all regions to implement climate plans and policies. Innovative financing such as credit enhancement measures can be catalytic in removing barriers and stimulating investments. These funds must be channeled to build carbon-neutral and resilient societies, especially in developing countries, and planning processes such as the Regional Climate Weeks can provide the necessary momentum. Source:UN Author:UN Date:April 6, 2021

2021-03 29
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Russia’s Far East in Race to Net Zero Emissions



Credit: Jason Blackeye / Unsplash UN Climate Change News, 29 March 2021 – As the world gears up for the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow in November - the most important since the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement – an encouraging signal in global efforts to tackle the climate crisis has come from the remote far east of Russia. In January, a pilot carbon emissions trading scheme was given the go-ahead on the country’s largest island of Sakhalin as part of a roadmap to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2025. Russia is considering scaling up the results of this initiative to cover all its territory, a boost for global efforts to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century – an essential prerequisite to achieving the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement, which is to limit the global average temperature rise to as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The country is experiencing the impacts of accelerating climate change. Exceptional and prolonged heat in Siberia last year fueled unprecedented Arctic fires. Sea ice coverage is decreasing along the Russian Arctic coast and melting permafrost has severe implications for infrastructure. Emissions trading perceived to be a major opportunity An emissions trading system (ETS) usually caps the total level of greenhouse gas emissions for countries or companies and allows those with low emissions to sell their extra allowances to a larger emitter. Emitting less CO2 means paying less for allowances, meaning that climate action is an investment that pays off. Emissions trading is an effective means of carbon pricing – putting a price on planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions – and is increasingly recognised as an essential instrument to transition to a low-carbon economy. UN Secretary-General António Guterres is among the strongest advocates of the policy. Emissions trading schemes can be established as climate policy instruments at the national level and the regional level. ETS programmes are currently in place in Europe, North and South America, and parts of Asia, and are being considered in several other regions. The European Union emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) is the world's first major carbon market, and the biggest to date. In setting up the first system of its kind in the country, Russia plans to use the best practices of existing emissions trading schemes from around the world and aims to later integrate its ETS into the global and regional market, following a current trend. The choice of Sakhalin region is an ambitious one, given that the economy of the region, which is home to about half a million people, is currently largely based on fossil-fuel extraction, including coal. Sakhalin could already be net-zero by 2025 According to Sakhalin’s net-zero plan, an inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions and natural carbon sequestration potential will be carried out by August, before an emissions trading system is set up to begin operating in mid-2022 with the aim of achieving a net-zero target by 2025. Besides emissions trading and a ban on all petrol and diesel cars by 2035, the region also aims to develop blue and green hydrogen production and promote sustainable management of its forests. Another market-based climate action system to be launched in 2021 will collect satellite and drone data on the CO₂ absorption capacity of forests in the Far East. This will allow companies to lease sections of forest from the Russian government in order to invest in planting new trees and protect existing ones. If the investment is proven to increase the absorption of greenhouse gases, the company can create a carbon credit to be traded on a digital platform. These initiatives are taking place against the backdrop of a surge in new wind power plants in Russia, as outlined in a recent German FES-foundation study. The study shows that although Russia does not yet count among the major wind power nations, 2020 brought 700 Megawatt of new installations. Source:UN Author:UN Date:March 29, 2021

2021-03 17
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Urban Climate Action the Focus of Zero Carbon City Forum



Credit: Chuttersnap / Unsplash UN Climate Change News, 17 March – The Zero Carbon City International Forum, hosted by the Government of Japan, got underway today with the aim of boosting the work done by cities in their quest for net zero emissions. The 2-day Forum provides a platform for cities and organizations from across the globe to share concrete efforts to accelerate the transformation towards a resilient and decarbonized society by 2050 at the latest. It is being held with the support of UN Climate Change, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES.) Speaking at the opening of the event, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, recognized the government of Japan for its recent climate change progress, including Prime Minister Suga’s announcement that Japan will work towards becoming a carbon neutral society by 2050. Whilst outlining the keys to success at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in November (see the full speech below), she stressed the important role of non-State actors such as cities in successfully tackling climate change: “Reaching net-zero, especially in cities, is a vital part of achieving our long-term goals under the Paris Agreement.” According to the United Nations, cities consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy, and account for more than 70% of global heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has said that “Cities are where the climate battle will largely be won or lost.” Cities and regions join the race to zero greenhouse gas emissions An increasing number of cities are already engaging in the fight against climate change, participating in initiatives including the UN’s global Race to Zero Campaign. 454 cities have already joined the campaign, which was launched in June 2020 with the aim of rallying leadership and support from a broad range of stakeholders to accelerate the shift to decarbonization. At the virtual meeting, several cities and regions presented their plans. For example, the German city of Bonn, host of the UN Climate change Secretariat, aims to be carbon neutral by 2035. Kuala Lumpur plans to be low carbon by 2030 and "carbon neutral ready" by 2040. And London's Race to Zero target is to become a zero carbon city by 2030. But there is much work still to be done, and most major economies have yet to step up to the plate. The recent Initial NDC Synthesis Report compiled by UN Climate Change on national climate action plans – NDCs - shows that countries are way off track to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to as close as possible to 1.5° Celsius by the end of the century. “Never has global expectation and political commitment been so far apart. It’s time to close that gap,” said Ms. Espinosa in her address to the meeting. See the full speech of Ms. Espinosa below: It’s a pleasure to be here and I thank Minister Koizumi for organizing this forum and bringing together this diverse group of State and non-State participants from around the world. A few years ago, UN Climate Change developed a concept we call “inclusive multilateralism” — a recognition that national governments alone cannot address climate change. Success is only possible when State and non-State actors — including civil society and especially the most vulnerable amongst us — are an active part of finding solutions to climate change. This meeting exemplifies the spirit of inclusive multilateralism and especially the very important role of cities. I recognize the Government of Japan for its recent climate change progress, including Prime Minister Suga’s announcement that Japan will work towards becoming a carbon-neutral society by 2050. The public and private sectors are responding. More than 200 local and regional governments in Japan are committing to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. It shows how leadership and collaboration can accelerate measures to achieve decarbonisation. Dear friends, Reaching net-zero, especially in cities, is a vital part of achieving our long-term climate goals under the Paris Agreement. Success in 2050, however, is impossible without first completing the work of today — of 2021. That work includes finally moving the Paris Agreement from adoption to implementation. It has been on the table for five long years. Yet we cannot get to implementation unless we achieve success at COP26 this coming November. Right now, nations are woefully behind. To be clear, they were behind before the pandemic began. While we’ve seen recent signs of momentum, nations simply haven’t done enough to complete work under the Paris Agreement. Nor have they sufficiently raised climate ambition under it. An example is the recent NDC Synthesis Report, measuring the combined impact of national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement. It shows that current levels of climate ambition are very far from putting nations on a pathway that will meet the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperatures to 1.5C by the end of the century. At the current rate, nations will achieve only less than a 1% reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. The IPCC as we know calls for that reduction to be 45% lower. That must change in 2021 and major emitters must lead. Faced with a global pandemic and an existential climate change emergency, delay is inexcusable. COP26, held only a few months from now, must be a success. It’s a credibility test for our fight against the climate emergency. In my view, there are four keys to success at COP26. First, promises made must be promises kept. That means pledges Parties made before 2020 must be honoured and completed. That means strong NDCs submitted this year and especially by major emitters. It’s also true of the pledge by developed nations to mobilize $100 billion annually to developing nations by 2020. Second, it’s time to wrap up outstanding negotiations and implement the Paris Agreement. The clock has run out. Implementation is needed at all levels, especially within cities. More people are living in cities than at any point in history. They want, and deserve to live in areas that are clean, green and healthy. The heavy lifting will be done by people such as urban planners, architects material suppliers and many others. But they must be supported by national and local policy and investment. We need those policies now. If we want to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, we’re talking about a time period of about thirty years. That’s the general life-span of buildings being constructed now. Policies are needed for more than buildings. City infrastructure needs to actively encourage people to adopt sustainable habits such as walking to work, recycling household waste, adopting a more circular economy and more. These are only a few quick examples of how implementing the Paris Agreement — and with clear plans spelled out in ambitious NDCs — can accelerate the transformations throughout society we urgently need, and especially in our cities. The third key for success at COP26 is to raise ambition in mitigation, adaptation and finance. The best time to raise climate ambition was yesterday. The next best time is today. Never has global expectation and political commitment been so far apart. It’s time to close that gap. And when we’re talking about raising ambition, we’re not just talking about mitigation, but also adaptation and resilience and finance. Fourth, we must leave no voice or solution behind. We must re-engage with observers and Non-Party Stakeholders in a unity of purpose. Our brand of inclusive multilateralism is the only way forward. Everyone has a role to play and everyone must be involved. We see that today. Dear friends, Let us seize this moment. Let us reach not just across borders to do it, but across jurisdictions and generations, cultures and races. Let us build strong, resilient and sustainable cities. Let us achieve zero emissions in 2050 and make COP26 a success this November. Let us work to complete outstanding negotiations under the Paris Agreement, move it from adoption to implementation, boost our climate ambition and ensure all voices are heard during this crucial year. And let us build forward, build a better future, a green future, a clean future, and a future that is healthy, safe, resilient, sustainable and prosperous for all people. Thank you. Source:UN Author:UN Date:March 17, 2021

2021-03 10
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Asset Owners with $8.5 Trillion Commit to Net Zero Emissions



Credit: Daniel Dan outsideclick / Pixabay UN Climate Change News, 10 March – 22 asset owners with $1.2 trillion in assets have committed to cut the carbon emissions of their portfolios to net zero by 2050 or sooner as their contribution to decarbonize the global economy. The commitments were made at the launch of the ‘Net Zero Investment Framework’ by the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), designed to help deliver on the goal of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5°. With other investment leaders having already promised to aim for net zero emissions, today’s announcements mean that a total of 37 investors managing $8.5 trillion in assets are meanwhile putting the Framework into practice. “Investing in a net zero future is key to tackling the climate crisis and unlocking truly sustainable growth. It is actually in the interest of all," said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa. “I encourage others to join investors already showing leadership in using the Net Zero Investment Framework. The race to a net zero future is on and the benefits it offers are critically important.” Increased focus on the climate crisis from clients and governments has forced investors to confront the carbon emissions of the companies that they fund. Today’s commitments come at a crucial time, with only eight months left before the UK hosts the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow in November. More investor commitments are expected to follow, helping build momentum in the run-up to COP26. The Framework is also expected to be included in the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign, following the completion of an independent assessment process currently underway. “The global investment community has been called on to play its part in the transition to net zero – and it is answering that call,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. “This new swathe of net zero commitments from asset owners demonstrates the growing determination from investors to make important decisions to support a net zero and resilient future.” Building on IIGCC’s existing work to date, the finalized Framework is being published in partnership with other investor groups across North America, Asia and Australasia. It will be rolled out globally as the basis for investors worldwide to implement their net zero strategies. Source:UN Author:UN Date:March 10, 2021