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CERAWeek Conversations: Bridging gaps on the road to COP26

13 August 2021 IHS Markit Energy Expert

For COP26 to be successful, participants will have to bridge economic gaps widened by the COVID-19 pandemic and affirm enforceable, tougher targets for GHG emissions reductions.

In a wide-ranging panel discussion organized by CERAWeek by IHS Markit, three former government energy and environmental leaders discussed the key challenges that COP26 conferees will face. (Full video is here.)

Heading into the November meeting in Glasgow, countries that comprise nearly 75% of global emissions and 80% of global GDP have committed to net-zero emissions through their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, noted Carlos Pascual, senior vice president, global energy, IHS Markit, who led the discussion.

"Many countries are looking at COP26 as the foundational point that will help translate those aspirations into action," said Pascual, the former US ambassador to Mexico and Ukraine.

But this week's report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows how even those pledges could fall short of what's needed to avoid a global temperature increase of greater than 1.5-2 degrees C, he said.

Pascual spoke with:

  • Mary Nichols, distinguished visiting fellow, Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy, and former chair of the California Air Resources Board;
  • Ernest Moniz, CEO, Energy Futures Initiative, and former US Secretary of Energy;
  • Laurence Tubiana, CEO, European Climate Foundation, and the lead French diplomat for the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"Success" at COP26 will be judged by whether nations' NDCs to reduce emissions are strong enough, said Moniz. For the US, it will be "extremely difficult" to reach the new 2030 goal declared by President Joe Biden of 50-52% emissions reductions from 2005 levels, Moniz said, but he added that "elements of bipartisanship" that are emerging, such as the infrastructure bill that passed the US Senate this week, showing glimmers of hope.

Tubiana was sanguine about the prospects of lining up long-term targets. "What is really good is that the progress on the long-term target is there. COP26 has to capitalize on the short-term actions consistent with the net-zero goals that more than 115 countries have adopted and with an element of credibility," he said.

However, he noted that the Paris Agreement was signed five years ago, and as the IPCC report makes clear, the impacts of climate change have arrived. "So, we need to have a financial package that supports the losses and damages that climate change is really [causing] already," he said.

One thing to watch, said Nichols, is "the increasing drumbeat of demand for action coming from the private sector, not just a handful of major global players but much larger numbers of companies adopting pledges."

While adding that the private sector has a great deal of work to do—including agreeing on how to measure net zero—Nichols said the level of commitment nonetheless "gives us a tremendous opening to work with new partners. The table is set for a very successful COP if the leaders there are able and willing to listen to what's rising up from their grassroots."


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