COP26: Big promises, but meeting targets key

At the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP26, which took place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November, the participating nations made big promises. ASEAN nations gave targets for net zero emissions. Developed nations pledged large sums for climate causes. Now that the promises have been made, targets have been set, will nations be able to make good on them? The real question remains, how realistic are these targets?

ASEAN’s pledge

In a joint statement, ASEAN members committed to deal with the climate crisis by phasing out coal plants, reducing methane and setting net-zero emission targets.

But they also urged the developed countries to fulfil their commitment of mobilising $100 billion per year through 2025 to support climate risk mitigation.

The countries also stated that ASEAN surpassed its aspirational target in 2018 when it achieved a reduction in energy intensity by 21% and brought its renewable energy share to 13.9% of the total primary energy supply.

In addition, the nations have set a target of reduction in energy intensity by 30% under the Phase II (2021-2025) of the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation. Countries like the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam also signed the Global Methane Pledge that aims to cut 30% methane emissions globally by 2030.

In the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement signed by nations, renewable energy was the key focus. The goal here is to end coal, or shift away from coal-based power by 2040 or earlier. Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam were the signatories. However, the Philippines and Indonesia did not endorse a clause in the agreement that would prohibit issuance of permits for new coal power plants.

A lot of these promises rely on whether the developed nations stay true to their promises.

Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, said that his country will contribute steadily to the world’s netzero emissions goal. At the same time, he raised questions about the size of the developed nations’ contribution.

While net-zero is the goal, countries like Thailand lacked commitment to the real goals. Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha stressed during his COP26 appearance that climate change is a matter of ‘life and death’. Despite his big statements, Thailand did not sign any agreements to this effect.

To ensure the climate change risk reduction targets are met, developed nations need to pump in additional funds.

So far, the United States has pledged to double their funds to $11.4 billion per year by 2024 to help developing nations battle the climate change crisis. In addition, President Joe Biden has announced a fund allocation plan of $3 billion specifically for climate adaptation.

The UK, on the other hand, said that it will double its climate finance to $11.6 billion by 2025 to manage the climate change impact.

What lies ahead?

The developed world has already failed to meet their 2020 financing targets. An expert report commissioned by the United Nations (UN) said that even while the existing funding target has not been reached, more ambitious targets may be set by 2025. Here, the report pointed out, the private sector must step in to bridge the climate financing funding gap.

On the mobility front, electric vehicles are one alternative to reduce emissions. But inadequate charging infrastructure remains a challenge. Incentives to the private sector for EV investments remain key for success.

For ASEAN to achieve its goals, it is key to ensure that the short-term emissions targets are met. Funding remains adequate and the long-term zero emission plans stay intact.

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