January 18, 2022 10:36 pm

Energy Day at COP26: more voices against coal, gas and oil

On Wednesday, the sun broke through the clouds over Glasgow as delegations and participants prepared for “energy day” at COP26, one of the most important thematic sessions of the UN Climate Change Conference. .

The UN News team, which traveled from the center of the city in a special electric bus provided by the organizers, met, upon arrival at the venue, with activists at the gates calling on countries to end their support. to coal, gas and oil.

Some of them were even dressed as Pikachu, the small pet rodent from the Japanese anime Pokémon, which in the series is capable of launching shocks of electricity. Others, armed with posters in different languages, demanded from their megaphones climate justice: “No more fossil fuels.”

Commitments to coal

UNDP / Anette Andresen

The inhabitants of the Peruvian village of Sibayo use a solar powered spinning machine.

Inside the Scottish Event Campus, the main meeting of the day began with the co-hosts of COP26 echoing the words of the General secretary of the UN, António Guterres: “relegate coal to history”.

Conference President Alok Sharma announced the new “Global Declaration on the Transition to Clean Energy”, a commitment to end investments in coal, increase clean energy, carry out a just transition and eliminate energy coal by the 2030s in the major economies, and by the 2040s in the rest.

The commitment has 77 signatories, including 46 countries such as Poland, Vietnam and Chile, 23 of which have committed, for the first time, to end the use of coal as an energy source, he explained.

“All of this contributes to promoting a world of zero emissions. We know that there is more to do, it is up to all of us, governments, companies, financial institutions and civil society, and we must continue to make the moment possible through alliances and coalitions. it glimpses the demise of coal. I think we are reaching a point where coal power will go down in history, “Sharma said in the plenary room.

Sadly, the largest coal funders, China, Japan and Korea have been left out of the declaration; even though they have in the past pledged to stop funding overseas coal generation by the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, the alliance Powering Past Coal, which aims to achieve a sustainable and economically inclusive carbon phase-out, today welcomed new members, including 7 countries and 14 financial institutions.

Yesterday, the governments of South Africa, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, together with the European Union, announced an ambitious new long-term “Partnership for Just Energy Transition” to support South Africa’s decarbonization efforts. US President Joe Biden and European Union Commissioner Ursula Von de-Leyen presented the initiative virtually during Wednesday’s events at COP26.

Is not sufficient

Although the commitments were somewhat encouraging, civil society organizations “are not clear” outside the plenary room.

In other press conferences, the German NGO Urgewald and the Climate Action Network expressed their despair at the current energy crisis.

“In the last two years we have seen an increase in policies on coal, but we have hardly seen anything substantial about oil and gas. The reason is that financial institutions that want to move away from fossil fuels face a huge The problem is the lack of information, “said the head of Urgewald’s finance campaign.

The environmental and human rights organization released its latest “Global Oil and Gas Exit List,” stating that 506 oil and gas producers plan to add 190 billion barrels of oil equivalent to their production portfolios in the next seven years.

“At least 96% of oil and gas producers want to expand their assets,” added the Urgewald representative. “The industry is on a reckless expansion course, with dirtier forms of production accounting for 50% of new projects.”

For his part, Jing Zhu, director of the energy justice program at the Center for Biological Diversity in the United States, recalled that “we no longer have time for fossil fuels.”

“We have seen the G20 going in the opposite direction. From 2018 to 2020 the G20 countries have allocated 188,000 million dollars for fossil fuels. That is 2.5 times the amount they have allocated for renewables; that’s an atrocity“, said.

A new commitment

The burning of fossil fuels emits a series of atmospheric pollutants that are harmful to both the environment and public health.

Unsplash / Andreas Felske

The burning of fossil fuels emits a series of atmospheric pollutants that are harmful to both the environment and public health.

However, Zhu cautiously announced good news during the press conference. A group of governments and public financial institutions around the world, including those in the United States, the European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom, have pledged to end direct support of the fossil fuel energy sector “without interruption” for late 2022.

The joint announcement made this morning promises an end to direct support for international fossil fuel projects “except in limited and clearly defined circumstances that are consistent with a global warming limit of 1.5 ° C and the goals of the Paris Agreement.” .

“This is the first political commitment to phase out funding, not only for coal, but also for oil and gas. If carried out, this would mean that the $ 18 billion a year spent on fossil fuels would go to renewable energy. “explained Zhu, who is also a member of the Climate Action Network.

The commitment, although historic, is not enough, he said, and called on China, Japan and Korea to join this initiative as well.

“We are facing our addiction to fossils. We urge an end to the development of fossil fuels around the world, nationally and internationally.”

Responding to journalists’ questions, the expert explained what “unbridled fossil fuel projects” mean, while harshly speaking to world leaders.

“Carbon capture and storage and other fossil fuel projects that have some kind of technical fix are allowed, which looks a lot like false promises of zero emissions by 2050. It is consistent with a lack of courageous leadership. At the same time, if we were to give them the benefit of the doubt, there is a commitment to clean energy, especially clean energy manufacturing, on the part of many of these countries. They see domestic investments as a potential advantage to their own. economies. The United States, for example, has its own plans to export that renewable energy, “Zhu added.

The energy problem

Damilola Ogunbiyi, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, also made a call to action during the main event on Wednesday. Remembered that the energy sector is responsible for two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions.

And yet “759 million people in the world still lack access to basic electricity, and more than 2.6 billion do not have access to hygienic solutions for cooking,” he stressed.

The special representative cited the recent United Nations Environment Program Emissions Gap Report, which indicates that we are headed for a dangerous 2.7 degree rise in global temperature by the end of the century, which would mean a threat to life as we know it today.

“We have to radically rethink the way we provide energy services; we must respond to the call of the UN Secretary General for coal to go down in history (…) As of 2021, there should be no new coal plants underway” Ogunbiyu urged.

According to him United Nations Development Program, an average of $ 423 billion of public funds are spent each year on fossil fuel subsidies and, despite international commitments, subsidies are not decreasing, but increasing.

These subsidies are a major obstacle to climate and sustainable development goals because they encourage investment in pollution and discourage the use of renewable energy.

“We are running out of time and we must not be decisive and commit to the collaboration and funding necessary to enable a just, equitable and inclusive energy transition for those who have contributed the least to climate change,” said the special representative.

Eliminating fossil fuels and taxing carbon will stimulate growth and innovation. Development agency studies show that this measure could provide up to 10 years of investment in innovation and green infrastructure, leading to growth and new, more secure jobs.


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