The Climate Column

We know almost for a fact that Cop26 will fail – this is why

Guterres, Carney and Sharma: there is a week left. Will you allow humanity to destroy itself or will you step up to this existential moment in history?, writes Donnachadh McCarthy

Friday 05 November 2021 15:56
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<p>‘A ban on all new investments in fossil fuels is the <em>minimum</em> outcome needed from Cop26’ </p>

‘A ban on all new investments in fossil fuels is the minimum outcome needed from Cop26’

We almost know for a fact that Cop26 will fail.

Why? Because there is a terrible silent lie being propagated by the British government and the United Nations: they know we have to ban all new fossil fuel investments as a crucial step to have any hope of staying below a 1.5C rise in temperatures – yet the three key players setting the agenda have refused to table a ban at the conference.

Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General; Alok Sharma, UK appointed President of Cop26 and Mark Carney, the UN Special Envoy on climate finance; have all been challenged on their failure to table the ban.

Guterres, in his response to August’s chilling IPCC report on the now unfolding lethal climate impacts of rising carbon emissions, rightly said: “Countries should end all new fossil fuel exploration and production” but gave only a date of the end of 2021 for ending new coal investments. “There must be no new coal plants built after 2021,” he wrote.

At a subsequent UN briefing, I asked if they would table a ban on all new fossil fuel investments at Cop26. A highly-placed UN official literally laughed at the idea – and proceeded to disparage the IEA report. All he seemed to want to talk about was the late delivery in developing world climate finance. While this is important, it will not stop global emissions posing an existential threat to the global south.

I then submitted a media inquiry to the Secretary General’s press office. For weeks, they kindly tried to get an official statement for me – but in the end were only able to provide an off-the-record opinion.

Finally, last week, I attended the joint press conference that Guterres and Inger Andersen – the executive director of the United Nations Environmental Programme – gave at the launch of the UNEP Emissions Gap Report. The report said that globally, government climate commitments were running at a level that were only a seventh of the efforts needed to stay under 1.5C.

I again asked in the light of this: would the UN be calling for a ban on all new fossil fuel investments at Cop26?

Andersen made clear in her reply that they would not be calling for such a ban, but would be focusing instead on encouraging more investments in renewables. She said governments must show leadership and stop fudging. But when I asked was it not she who was fudging, she talked about how – when hospitals and lights were able to continue to work after turning-off all fossil fuels – then would be the point to stop investing!

She point-blank refused to answer my follow-up, in which I enquired how we can possibly reach net zero 2050 if we invest another $5 trillion dollars in new fossil fuels over the coming decade.

As many as 70 NGOs then challenged Mark Carney on his refusal to include the ban on all new fossil fuels investments by the global financial industry, in his UN promoted GFANZ initiative.

This currently requires the participating financial institutions to phase out all new investments by 2050. Many of the world’s worst fossil fuel financing banks have already signed the pledge, including HSBC, Citi and Morgan Stanley.

The problem is that it allows them to potentially continue to pour billions of dollars into new fossil fuel projects all over the world over the coming decades – while maintaining they are “committed to net zero 2050”. The NGOs have accused Carney of allowing GFANZ to be a potential colossal greenwashing scam.

Carney’s own personal business role, as vice-president of the $500 billion Brookfield Asset Management, has also come in for greenwashing criticism, after he claimed it was “net zero” due to its renewable investments, ignoring their billions of dollars in shale oil, coal and gas. Carney later walked his claim backwards, stating that he acknoweldged that it was not credible to use so-called avoided emissions to claim net zero.

Carney at Cop26 should instead propose that all governments agree to instruct their central banks to ban all new fossil fuel investments by the national financial industries they regulate.

Finally, Andrew Marr challenged Alok Sharma in an interview on Sunday asking how the UK could – as president of Cop26 – have credibility when the government were approving new coal, oil and gas fields? Sharma refused to answer the question, despite the UK’s financial sector being globally responsible for a staggering 15 per cent of fossil fuel investments.

A new report by Friends of the Earth recently revealed that about 40 UK new coal, oil and gas projects are in the pipeline – whose emissions alone would equate to three times the UK’s entire emissions. And a proposed gas project supported by the UK government in Mozambique would emit more emissions than the entire EU airline industry in a year!

A study in the journal Naturereported that we have to keep nearly 80 per cent of existing coal reserves and nearly 60 per cent of oil and gas in the ground, if we are to have even a 50 per cent chance to avoid the 1.5C catastrophic rise in temperatures.

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This is why The Independent’s latest climate campaign is our call to stop all new investments in fossil fuels. A wide coalition – from major global institutions including the IEA and EIB, to climate protectors Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion – are calling for this fundamental first step to be adopted.

Guterres, Carney and Sharma: there is a week left. Will you allow humanity to destroy itself or will you step up to this existential moment in history and finally call on world leaders to stop the lies and fudges and call for this essential first step to a positive zero carbon world?

A ban on all new investments in fossil fuels is the minimum outcome needed from Cop26.

The Independent has launched a petition calling on world leaders to take meaningful action on the climate crisis immediately.Sign the petition by using the form below and we thank you for your support.

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