COP26: six things you need to know from Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day

The final day of COP26 proceedings for non-state actors (11 November) was dedicated to Cities, Regions and the Built Environment. Here, edie rounds up the day's big announcements in this space, and summarises the state of play as negotiations enter their final hours.

COP26: six things you need to know from Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day

Pictured: Nicola Sturgeon

After a day dedicated to Transport on Wednesday (10 November), the COP26 agenda for today was dedicated to the built environment and to local communities. It has been the last full, official day of the Summit; tomorrow, the only people remaining will be event officials, negotiators and their teams, as nations work non-stop on the final texts.

With this in mind, it’s likely that today was the last day for big sector-specific announcements from the UNFCCC and related bodies. Additionally, all eyes were on the negotiations to see whether 1.5C would really be kept alive as promised.

Here, edie summarises six of the day’s major stories in brief.

1) ‘Near-final’ draft documents experience delays

Yesterday, we were told by COP26 President Alok Sharma to expect “near-final” draft documents on all elements of negotiations overnight. While some parts were uploaded in the small hours, the documents still were not there in time for the informal stocktake meeting at 11am.

At that meeting, Sharma has he was “concerned about the number of items outstanding on finance” and added that Article 6 “also needs greater impetus”. He called for negotiators to continue on in the “spirit of cooperation” with the “currency of compromise” to deliver “another gear shift”.

The documents had still not arrived at the time of publishing and are now expected overnight, with many journalists who have attended past COPs predicting that talks are likely to roll over into Saturday.

A letter out this evening from a group known as the Friends of COP26 – with members including diplomats, academics, and government advisers – outlines a very long to-do list before negotiations conclude. The letter implores negotiators to keep mentions of mitigation, fossil fuels and 1.5C, as deleting them would be a sign the “code red” warning from the IPCC is not being taken seriously.

It also states that the text, at present, is “imbalanced”, with much more work to be done in the areas of climate finance, adaptation, aligning the entire financial system with net-zero, loss and damage, and ensuring accountability for all of the above.

2) UK launches Urban Climate Action Programme

A spotlight was shone on the ways in which cities contribute to the climate crisis and are acutely exposed to it today.

Urban buildings account for 40% of global carbon emissions each year and the value chains of cities are attributable to 68% of all global annual greenhouse has emissions, by UN estimates. The body also estimates that 1.6 billion people living in cities will be regularly exposed to extremely high temperatures and over 800 million people living in cities across the world will be vulnerable to sea level rises and coastal flooding by 2050.

The UK Government has responded by launching an Urban Climate Action Programme (UCAP), which will provide £27.5m to at least 15 cities in developing countries across a three-year period. Germany signalled its support for the initiative post-launch, so there may well be more funding added.

Cities including Lagos, Johannesburg, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Lima, Bogota and Mexico City will be among those set to benefit from the initial funding, which will be used to decarbonise public transport systems and energy systems, improve climate risk assessments and make waste management more sustainable.

Read edie’s full story here.

3) Cities and regions join Race to Zero and Race to Resilience

These round-ups from edie have, on previous days of COP26, included news that 60% of the UK’s largest listed businesses are now signed on to the Race to Zero and that the Race to Resilience – first launched in January – is also growing at a pace.

Today, High-Level Champion for Climate Action Nigel Topping confirmed that 1,049 cities and local governments are now participating in the Race to Zero. These collectively represent more than 722 million people. Additionally, 109 regions, cities and states have signed up to Race to Resilience. One of the newest members is India’s largest state by GDP, Maharashtra, where more than 124 million people live.

In related news, The Under 2 Coalition announced that 68 cities, states and regions had signed up to a range of new cross-sector actions – to be taken this decade – to decrease emissions, increase climate resilience and protect biodiviersity. The Coalition covers 260 governments representing 50% of the economy and, shortly before COP26, updated its membership criteria in line with a 1.5C temperature pathway.

4) UK Green Building Council plots sector’s net-zero pathway

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has unveiled its much-anticipated Whole Life Carbon Roadmap – a tool to help businesses across the built environment sector measure and cut carbon from materials, processes, operation and demolition.

Of particular interest will be the details for measuring, reporting and reducing embodied carbon. UKGBC, as is the case with many national Green Building Councils, has provided information on measuring and reducing operational emissions for several years and has dedicated much work in recent years to the need to reduce embodied carbon to net-zero by 2050.

The roadmap also includes several major calls to action for policymakers for the delivery of its net-zero-by-2050 scenario for the sector, in which annual emissions fall from 180 mt of CO2e in 2018 to less than 20 Mt of CO2e by mid-century.

Click here for edie’s full story.

5) Absences from Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance raise eyebrows

Denmark and Costa Rica this afternoon launched their highly anticipated alliance requiring nations to set an end date for new oil and gas licensing and plans to phase out existing capacity. The Alliance includes Wales, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Greenland, California and Quebec.

Many in the room had questions on why many governments which are not oil and gas producers had joined and why the world’s largest producers, such as the US, Russia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Norway and the UK, were not present.

To the former, the argument was made for the need to keep undrilled fields undrilled. To the latter, Costa Rica’s environment minister Andrea Meza said: “This is about early movers. It is about having courage. This is just the starting point, with few countries – maybe not the big oil producers, but those who have the courage to do something”. Danish climate and energy minister Dan Jørgensen said the initiative is already in dialogue with “many other countries”.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday, on a speedy visit to Glasgow, that the UK “would see” what Costa Rica and Denmark were proposing with their new Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance – despite the fact that it had been confirmed the UK would not join immediately. He stated in a press conference that the hydrocarbon age is coming to an end. However, he then gave a separate interview stating that hydrocarbons have a long future – so long as we “liberate the hydrogen from the carbon”. This has been widely criticized.

6) Antonio Gutteres, Vanessa Nakate, deliver rousing speeches at high-level event

In the final major event of the non-state actor agenda at COP26 this afternoon, a session called ‘Racing to a Better World’ was held, featuring speakers including Sharma, Topping, Patricia Espinosa, Nicola Sturgeon, Sadiq Khan, Antonio Gutteres and Vanessa Nakate.

The event was held to publish a new five-year plan for enhancing the ambition of the Marrakesh Partnership, which serves to unite national and non-state actors. Many have spoken about how this COP has featured the most involvement of non-state actors to date, and how this is welcome, given that top-level international and national commitments will require action on the ground this decade.

Aside from this five-year plan, the speeches from Gutteres and Nakate were the talk of the afternoon, with both receiving frenzied claps and the latter receiving a standing ovation.

Gutteres said nations with net-zero promises will have them “ringing hollow” if they continue to offer fossil fuel subsidies and fail to set credible interim plans for delivery, with a focus on decarbonisation this decade.  He urged attendees to recognize the “glaring injustice for the developing world” in the climate crisis. He also welcomed young activists for holding leaders’ “feet to the fire”.

Nakate did just that with her speech. She said: “There have been 25 COPs before this one. And every year, leaders come to these climate negotiations with an array of new pledges, commitments and promises. And as each COP comes and goes, emissions continue to rise.

“This year will be no different. CO2 emissions are forecast to jump in 2021 by the second-biggest annual rise in history.

So, I hope you can understand why many of the activists who are here in Glasgow – and millions of activists who could not be here – do not see the success that is being applauded within these halls.”

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from COP26 with edie’s Live Blog and Daily COP26 Covered Podcast Series. 

Sarah George

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