TENG Fei: Getting real on Paris Climate Change Commitments is the cornerstone of a successful COP26

  • Prof. TENG Fei is Deputy Director of Energy Environment Economy Institute, Tsinghua University. This article is his speech at the webinar themed “Climate judo: how can the impact of the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis be turned into effective action on climate change?”orgnized by Ditchley Foundation.

    Firstly, I would like to briefly introduce the progress of China’s climate action and then move to how the COP26 at Glasgow at the end of this year should be a success. US special envoy Kerry emphasized the ambition gap yesterday in his intervention and call for countries to increase their ambition and translate commitments into concrete action plans. I agree with him on the importance of closing ambition gap, however I will argue that closing other gaps on implementation, carbon finance and technology development and transfer are equally important for a successful COP in Glasgow.

    On the progress of China’s climate action, as you may know, China announced its target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 at Sep 22 2020. At the same time, China also announced and enhanced NDC with an earlier peaking year, increased share of non-fossil energy and tremendous efforts on renewable capacity and investment. For example, with the new target, the overall wind turbine and solar PV generation capacity in China will achieve more than 1200 GW by year 2030, larger than the entire installed generation capacity today in US, and also larger than the entire installed wind and solar capacity today all over the world. China is translating its climate goal into concrete action plans, particularly by integrating it into the 14th Five-Year Plan.

    Then I will move to my views on what should be a successful COP26.


    1、Both ambitions and implementation are equally important to achieve the goal of Paris Agreement.

    UNDP Emission Gap report clearly show that there is an ambition gap between countries commitment and the goal of Paris Agreement. However, recent studies also told us that there is an implementation gap. If we add the Paris commitment from all countries together, and if all of those commitment are implemented, then this would lead to a reduction of around 17% by 2030. However, the current national implementation of climate polices only can lead to around 5% reduction in emission by 2030.

    Therefore, we need a significant increase in both ambition and implementation to achieve the Paris goals. And the implementation is even more important than the ambition, because without implementation, the ambition is just a sand castle, nothing else. One recent policy priority is to lock-in those net zero emission targets through legislation. More than 100 countries have now set carbon neutrality targets, and these countries account for 44% of global emissions. With the addition of US, the figure will expand to about 60%. However only few of them, including UK, Denmark, Germany and Sweden have past legislation with net zero emission target. More countries should pass climate legislation with net zero emission targets in the future. The climate laws will serve as a firewall to prevent political instability due to partisan dispute in key countries such as US and some umbrella countries. With those climate legislation, enhanced climate governance will help narrow the ambition gap and implementation gap by ensuring close coordination across various stakeholders and interest groups within country.

    2、Unfinished goal of 100 billion carbon finance

    The commitment by developed countries to mobilize jointly $100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020 has been central to the climate negotiation since 2009.  As such, delivering on this commitment is an important symbol of trust. However, the recent review of climate finance is clear that developed countries failed to deliver this 100-billion target. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic the world was ‘off-track’ not only to meet the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, but also the climate finance goal of 100 billion per year by 2020. And a clear carbon finance commitment from developed countries for 2030 is still missing.

    COVID-19 has caused severe harm to mankind all over the world.  Developing countries have been particularly hit, and many are facing significant finance pressures, increasing debt crisis and depression of economic growth.  The implication is that public climate finance needs to be ramped up, and increasingly targeted towards the mobilization of private investment at trillion-dollar scale.

    2021 will be a critical year. The urgent implementation of 100 billion carbon finance and a much higher 2030 target is critical to sustain trust between developed and developing countries, maintain momentum in the run-up to COP26, and ensure the possibility to achieve global carbon neutrality by mid-Century. At this historical moment, what we need is for greater ambition in climate finance, especially public finance, not less.

    3、The Gap of Technology Investment, Development and Transfer

    In Paris, major countries also came together to start an initiatives called “Mission innovation”, with a view to double the double their clean energy innovation investments by 2020. However, a recent review of progress shows that the fourth-year increase corresponds to a 60% increase in investment above the baselines of those MI members that reported. Therefore, we are not only facing the gap of implementation, ambition, carbon finance, but also the gap of technology investment.

    Low carbon technology collaboration between countries is significant to climate change, and is a key priority for all countries.

    Without sufficient R&D investment and technology transfer, the prospect of achieving PA will be cloudy. Key players, such as China, US and EU should engage each other actively on concrete, collaborative projects that promote clean and efficient energy, sustainability, energy storage, the deep decarbonization of carbon emissions in industry sectors, and negative emission technologies. Such technology cooperation could be through various bilateral or multilateral channels. One good example is the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) which was a pioneering research and development (R&D) consortium bringing together governments, key policymakers, researchers, and industry to develop a long-term platform for joint R&D on sustainable energy. Such successful experience could be replicated in the climate change area and could be applicable worldwide.

    To summarize, we believe that focusing only on ambition will not lead a success in Glasgow. A successful COP26 must deliver a balanced and comprehensive solution for closing those four gaps together, ambitions, implementation, carbon finance and technology development and transfer.



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