This month, the UK welcomed the countries of the world to Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26 – our moment to get the world on track to address the enormous threat of climate change.
About 25,000 people from 197 countries, including 120 world leaders, came together in the UK, demonstrating that countries can rise above their differences to unite against the common threat of climate change. They agreed on the Glasgow Climate Pact which will accelerate the pace of climate action – and keep our goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius alive.
Countries also succeeded in completing the Paris Rulebook – the guidelines for how the Paris Agreement is delivered, after six arduous years of negotiations. This includes agreement on Article 6 (the framework for countries to exchange carbon credits through the UNFCCC), as well as common timeframes (length of time frames for national commitments) and the Enhanced Transparency Framework (how to track and communicate progress on climate commitments).
It was the overarching objective of the UK’s COP26 presidency, when we set off on this journey two years ago, to keep 1.5C alive. As COP26 president Alok Sharma said at end of the conference “1.5°C is alive, but its pulse is weak”, and will only be delivered with concerted and immediate global efforts over the next decade.
The Glasgow Climate Pact, while a historic agreement, will be judged on whether countries meet and deliver on the commitments they made at COP26 across mitigation, adaptation and finance. For countries across ASEAN, particularly those that are most climate vulnerable, it is particularly vital that the following commitments made in Glasgow are delivered:
• Countries agreed to revisit their 2030 emissions reductions targets to bring them in line the1.5C target by COP27.
• Countries agreed to phase-down unabated coal power and phase-out inefficient fuel subsidies – a COP first.
• Countries agreed to launch the Glasgow-Sharm el Sheikh Work Programme on the Global Goal on Adaptation, and developed countries have agreed to at least double climate finance for adaptation to developing countries by 2025.
• COP26 emphasised the status of Loss and Damage as a critical pillar of climate action but dialogue is continuing on the proposal from developing countries to setup a dedicated financing facility.
• COP26 also provided clarity and improved transparency on the mobilisation of the $100 billion finance goal, which is expected to be met in 2023.
Agreeing this pact was not an easy process, and certainly not one confined to the formal negotiation halls. It is the culmination of tireless negotiations, artful diplomacy, and listening to the voices of youth, academia, civil society, media and the private sector – especially those most impacted by climate change.
We welcome the new climate ambitions set by countries during COP26, especially by our Southeast Asian friends and partners.
Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam signed the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement, committing to scaling up clean power and ensuring a just transition away from coal. Indonesia signed too, excluding clause 3; but as part of its commitment to reach net zero by 2060, or sooner with international assistance, Indonesia will consider accelerating coal phase out into the 2040s, conditional on agreeing additional international financial and technical assistance.
Singapore joined the world’s largest alliance on phasing out coal, the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA), becoming the first country in Asia to do so. At the sub-national level, the city of Ormoc and the provinces of Guimaras and Negros Occidental in the Philippines also joined the PPCA.
Indonesia and the Philippines also announced pioneering partnerships with the Asian Development Bank to support the early retirement of coal plants. Laos, Philippines and Vietnam will continue multilateral dialogues under the Energy Transition Council, also taken forward in Indonesia under the Friends of Indonesia Renewable Energy (FIRE) dialogues co-chaired by Indonesia, the UK, Denmark and Germany.
Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam pledged to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam have endorsed the Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use, an important step forward in conserving the region’s natural assets – which is home to nearly 15 per cent of the world’s tropical forests.
The UK government will continue to work closely with ASEAN on climate action in this region, particularly to mobilise the new initiatives and commitments from COP26. UK International Climate Finance has been doubled to £11.6 billion ($15.48 billion) over the period 2021 to 2025, and at COP26, the UK announced new support for Southeast Asia:
• Around £110 million of support will go to the ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility, managed by the Asian Development Bank. It will increase access to finance for critical infrastructure for ASEAN countries, and support the development of sustainable infrastructure projects such as renewable energy, clean transportation or urban infrastructure in developing countries across the region.
• The UK announced over £290 million in new funding for adaptation, including £274 million announced for the UK’s Climate Action for a Resilient Asia (CARA) programme. CARA will help strengthen climate resilience across the Indo-Pacific, including in Southeast Asia.
• The £27.5 million Urban Climate Action Programme was launched, and with it new funding to support developing cities and regions to transition to net zero by 2050 through low-emission public transport systems, renewable energy generation, sustainable waste management, and climate-smart buildings.
• The UK announced funding of £500 million to support the implementation of the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) roadmap, co-chaired by the UK and Indonesia. Under FACT, 28 countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia, agreed on a Roadmap to protect forests while promoting development and trade.
Over $130 trillion of private finance is now committed to science-based net zero targets and near term milestones, through the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), led by Mark Carney. We are pleased that DBS, Singapore Exchange and CIMB Malaysia have joined GFANZ.
When the UK took on the COP26 mantle, in partnership with Italy, nearly two years ago, only 30 per cent of the world was covered by net zero targets. This figure is now at around 90 per cent globally – and for the first time includes the majority of ASEAN member states (75 per cent of ASEAN’s economy).
We are so pleased to see Brunei and Vietnam commit to net zero by 2050, joining Laos and Malaysia. Indonesia has also committed to reaching net zero by 2060 or sooner. At COP26, Thailand also announced its intent to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, and net zero by 2065.
We truly hope that this demonstration of ambition will spur other ASEAN countries to come forward with their own commitments, and am optimistic that our support to the Philippines and Cambodia long-term climate strategies will support those countries in charting their pathways to net zero.
Keeping the momentum beyond COP26 is essential for the Southeast Asian region, which is disproportionally impacted by climate change. It is vital to recognise both the important role the region has to play in our collective climate goals, as well as what is at stake if we do not succeed.
We hope we can count on our partners across ASEAN to use this year to accelerate their climate action through revisiting their 2030 targets in their Nationally Determined Contributions, ensuring that our short-term targets place us firmly on the path to achieving net zero and keeping 1.5C alive. As ASEAN’s newest Dialogue Partner, we look forward to embedding our cooperation on climate change in our long term relationship with ASEAN.
To quote COP26 President Alok Sharma on the task ahead, he said: “It is up to all of us to sustain our lodestar of keeping 1.5C within reach and to continue our efforts to get finance flowing and boost adaptation. After the collective dedication which has delivered the Glasgow Climate Pact, our work here cannot be wasted.”
We still have unfinished business. The UK remains committed to continuing our close partnership on climate change through the UK’s COP26 presidency year and beyond. We look forward to more exciting collaboration ahead with our friends at the ASEAN Secretariat and across ASEAN countries.
Collectively we have got to deliver on the promises set out in Glasgow, and the hard work starts now.
Ken O’Flaherty is COP26 regional ambassador to Asia-Pacific. Jon Lambe is UK ambassador to ASEAN.
THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK