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Sustainability Frontiers: Inner Transformation and Imaginaries

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about the Sustainability Frontiers conference, written by Laila Mendy. The first can be read here, the second post can be read here, and click here for the third.

Diego Galafassi curated the next session and explained how this session appeared to be cross-cutting, noting how the idea of the imagination and imaginaries had been brought up throughout conversations in the conference. Galafassi introduced the topic, shortly explaining that imagination and creativity is a real component and important skill for transformation. He was joined by panellists Myanna Lahsen, Henrik Karlsson and Lara Houston.

Myanna Lahsen began, following the same structure as the earlier sessions, with a five minute intervention into the theme from her own field. She probed the idea of the individual when it comes to inner transformations, suggesting that this is an important component but also a significant hurdle in societal change. As a cultural anthropologist by training, Lahsen explained that looking at who counts and where impact happens in democracies gives an indication that it is the economic elites, business-oriented organisations and interest groups who matter. So when it comes to the idea of inner transformation, scaling that is critical.

What may seem inner and private, she suggested however, is deeply social and political. This is where Sustainability science is struggling to work. There is a tendency to put faith into groups of people and assume that people will mobilise around an issue; scaling happens through the numbers. Social activism is assumed to be progressive, but we know this is not always the case. Little attention has given to how people come to know what they know in the first place. Lahsen argued that the political economy and market place of ideas is neglected in this field.

Lahsen then explained this issue in the context of mass media communications. Cognitive sciences show that repetition is needed to shape people and give them the ability to collectively frame an issue. This, arguably, is not understood as a power agent. Yet much of media is owned by the same groups who legitimise certain political issues through their own agendas. The example of Brasil was given, where the media was not recognised in terms of power. Addressing this gap is critical for social action: social marketing can lead to change, she said, without leaving the movements pushing an issue without support.

Henrik Karlsson followed with a presentation on the diversity in futures in literature and fiction. He started by plotting a matrix with general images of a desired future, prompted by his reaction to a Chinese participant in a Thai workshop who said sustainability is only possible with a strong leader. This table is imitated below:

Replicated from Karlsson’s presentation at Sustainability Frontiers.
The dotted arrow indicates “wishful thinking” from the West on the behalf of China’s future.

The figure above demonstrated how there is an assumption about what other (groups of) people might find desirable when discussing sustainable futures. He had assumed that China would move to the upper right quadrant. This began a search for the different forms of futures and what could be understood as desirable. Was it to maximise happiness? Human utility? Or perhaps it was about minimising suffering.

Asking different groups of environmental philosophers will get you different ideas on what means can be justified for the ends of sustainability futures, he explained. He quoted a Finnish philosopher, Pentti Linkola, whom Karlsson described as an eco-fascist for making the statement that “We still have a chance to be cruel. But if we are not cruel today all is lost.”

It was not only literature that had such provocative ideas of the future. Karlsson offered an image from a recent exhibition which probed the questions about whether the future needed us. The idea of human extinction, though, is not necessarily something he wants people to aim for when opening up ideas about alternative futures. Rather this was mentioned merely to provoke new ways of thinking about what wider possibilities could exist.

The final presentation came from Lara Houston who discussed creative practises for futures transformations. This included different forms of aesthetic, experiential, multi-sensory and embodied experiences to enable transformations to sustainability.

One exemplification of this, The Hollogram, was elaborated on in the presentation during which it was described as having enabled a collective imagining of sustainability transformations through expanding shared meanings and feelings. The experience demonstrated how knowledge politics can be misunderstood in sustainability sciences. The idea of empathy was brought up here in how it can be motivating for mobilising action towards sustainability during processes of change.

The impact was a transformation on the understanding of relationships, particularly of friendship. The experience had challenged cultures of financialisation, in which some forms of friendship can be considered transactional. The move away from these modes of relationships may, it was argued, lead towards a shift in more sustainable living.

In the plenary, Galafassi asked the panellists to think more on imaginations as a type of transformative capacity. Houston responded first by discussing imaginaries in the context of art installations. Imagination points towards an individual cognitive experience, but this is done within a shared collective. Lahsen had similar approaches, this time considered in terms of agency and obstacles in new technologies and media systems. There are ways to overcome obstacles to opening up ideas and capacities, such as public wisdom councils. Social marketing really works, but there is aversion to this. Polarisation is happening, but these technologies can be used for good: VR empathy, for example. See the Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science for more examples. For Karlsson much of this discussion concerned interdisciplinary partnerships. He suggested that throughout history, academia has had better practises for moving across disciplines. These should be explored again today.

Sustainability Frontiers Conference: Degrowth

This blog is part of a short series written by Laila Mendy, PhD student at NRHU, as she attended the Sustainability Frontiers conference.

The third session of the day, and the topic of the second blog post, relates to postgrowth economics and the alternatives to GDP-focused growth mentalities. Below is a short summary of the panel discussion and reflections.

Mine Islar moderated a discussion between Eric Kemp-Benedict, Jennifer Hinton, and Giorgos Kallis. The session began with an introduction to the idea that degrowth, postgrowth and other “agnostic” ideas may have the potential to close the gap between economic interests and biodiversity. The panelists each presented their understandings of how to approach this potential and the implications of leaving the current economic system in place.

Eric Kemp-Benedict began by explaining how helpful he finds Kate Raworth’s idea of doughnut economics and how it frames human-nature relations in terms of human needs but more than that needed to survive, but enough to flourish. There are, he says, two questions raised by the doughnut framing. The first is “What political and economic systems are consistent with this?” and the second considers “How do we get there?”

GDP has been a useful but incomplete measure for politics and policy-making. Today we know that in many parts of the world people do not have enough to survive, let alone thrive. Meeting their needs, he argued, requires significant development of technologies that must be created, maintained and improved. On the other hand, there is research that demonstrates the limits to how comfortable and happy wealthier parts of the world live. In short, we have some places where people have not enough to live well, and others who have too much. This is coupled with the arbitrary nature of what is calculated within GDP, in terms of labour or work: home-based childcare is not, maintaining the home is not*.

Kemp-Benedict pushed the arbitrary nature of GDP, explaining that while employment rates and gas prices are of immediate interest to people, particularly in terms of inflation as it erodes wealth and steps into the political-economy dimension, stock market inflation is generally not of concern for most people, other than populating the 24 hour news cycle. Based on this assessment, GDP should not be replaced by another similar measure, but rather should reorient the question to understand what ways of living are consistent with sustainability. Political decision-making tools should reflect that reality, rather than this fairly arbitrary measure.

To the second question, he raised the issue of decoupling GDP from material throughput (and therefore environmental impact). If it can not be, then the only direction is through degrowth. However, this has not happened in the past as, seemingly, it is not politically palatable. Therefore, he concludes, other roots might be worth investigating to break the GDP material flow, including other political interventions.

Jennifer Hinton intervened here by explaining how most sustainability researchers approach the fields in terms of meeting needs now and into the future within the ecological boundaries of the planet. This approach, she says, does not clarify the role of the economy in sustainable society. We are living within the context of economic growth as the prevailing dominant narrative. Even in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), economic growth is a key measure of success. Economic growth is seen as necessary to lift people out of poverty, to produce technologies for reduction of environmental impact. There is, here, a profound assumption that society can decouple growth from environmental impact. But, Hinton stated, evidence points out that over the last few decades this has not occurred: the rich have been getting richer, the poor remain in poverty (in a global context) and there is, as of yet, no evidence that the economy can decouple from environmental impacts. By contrast as the economy has grown the environmental condition has worsened.

Hinton moved to the main thesis that economies should be reorganised to not drive for growth, and therefore the field starts with a post-growth ideology. She explained that there is more to postgrowth than degrowth, and gave examples from eco-feminism and ecological economics which pluralises the realm. How does it address sustainability, then, she asked?

Firstly, get rid the assumption that wealth equates happiness, needs could instead be emphasised. Secondly, money is a means not an end and should not be considered a measurement of success. Here she brought up the master servant binary: the economy must be relegated to servant. Third, is to consider methods for meeting needs outside of the market. Hinton gave examples of community sharing, swapping and mutual aid. Importantly, she summarised, postgrowth can entail higher levels of well-being, particularly when the harm of consumerism to both people and planet are understood.

Consumerism is not an instinctual aspect of human nature, she said in reference to the decolonial scholars from the first part of the day, but rather socio- and eco- justice is at the heart of postgrowth mentalities. In such a framing those who do not currently have access to all of their needs would be given the opportunities to increase their consumption, while those who currently live with excess would be required to learn to live with a lot less.

Hinton’s intervention finished with the suggestion that different proposals and interventions, which included democratic decision-making processes, material sufficiency, local production and consumption and share economies. These are concrete initiatives and seeds that exist, though at the margins or in the niche. Could these become mainstream? Well, she concluded, change in complex systems happens at nonlinear rates: “change is already underway, who knows when we might reach a tipping point?” she finished.

Giogos Kallis was the final panelist and pointed out that it had been 50 years since the book “Limits to Growth” had been published and that while many of their models and variables are since out of date – consider, for example, the computing power existing then in comparison to today – much of their models considered resources, food output, population growth rate and built a variety of scenarios. One of these scenarios was considered a business-as-usual future, where business growth and GDP growth would increase. This scenario is more-or-less, he claimed, what we have followed and lived through to today.

Kallis explained that the field of Degrowth finds similar patterns to those described in the Limits to Growth work. It finds that even taking into account the best possible efficiency increase, radically cleaner and greener technologies, these developments are not enough to keep us within the bounds of the system. Rather, they just postpone the inevitable collapse. The only stabilisation scenarios that the field of degrowth can develop considered the combination of technological improvements with the reduction of material output and population growth.

Despite the tricky conclusions from degrowth research, the more politically palatable models developed today, which are both used within the IPCC and in national roadmaps towards Net Zero around the world, add carbon reduction as a variable. Yet, without addressing continued GDP and population growth, they must be underpinned by the rapid development and widespread implementation of negative emissions technologies. This assumption, according to Kallis, however, has been dismissed as highly unlikely by climate scientists around the world.

At this point the panel ended and turned to questions from the audience. The first was directed towards Hinton and asked for more on the idea of turning money to a means from being the ends. Hinton argued that in today’s context money is a measure of success at multiple levels from the household income to GDP. However, money could become one of many means to satisfy needs. She nodded towards the idea of the 9 universal needs, including (but not limited to) subsistence, protection, leisure, freedom. These needs can only be met to some extent by money and material, and in the cases of freedom and leisure chasing money may be more harmful than good. Better means might be to invest in community development, take care of family bonds or connect with surrounding nature.

Kallis followed on from this answer, suggesting that we consider ideas from ecological economics. He proposed the analogy of measuring colour in kilos. However, Kallis was more pessimistic about the idea of change occurring: there is something powerful about monetary force in society, he said, and was not satisfied with the idea of a simple move away from money as ends.

Kemp-Benedict had the last word on this and echoed the idea of nonlinear rates of change, but pulled back to the idea of what creates money. When he hears about the idea of money as an ends, he considers the idea of debt in livelihoods and of monetary valuation. This discussion is about moving away from, what he argued, how money is created by providing loans underpinned by collateral and private property rights.


To pull this conversation into the ongoing work done at CCL regarding societal transformations to sustainable and fair fossil free futures, there are several interesting points. Firstly, each of these researchers agree that change is nonlinear and occurs within different temporalities. Kallis discussed the urgency of addressing climate change while Hinton admitted that societal changes are generally slower.

Secondly, there is the idea of something existing that does not particularly exist in the global level. These seeds and initiatives exist and are growing, yet global carbon emissions continue to rise, GDP continues to grow. Despite the emissions reductions measures within countries and some regions making some impact, on a global scale these are far from sufficient. I would also say that these economies do not exist in a vacuum. In Sweden there might be community share economies and clothes swaps, but this occurs within a society with a robust and growing housing market and loan inflation, and rapidly growing digitalisation.

The final intervention from Kemp-Benedict relates to my challenge of working to overcome delay in change. Processes of incumbency in the global economic structure, surely, would resist such niche efforts to change. Indeed, decades of research has discussed the different strategies used to resist regime change (see this paper, for example). And so too do these researchers sound pessimistic about the likelihood of such small and strongly resisted alternative economies coming to the mainstream.

Each of the researchers sound hopeful, without indicating how they imagine getting there. It almost seems careless or suspended beyond an attempt at answering this issue. I am reminded of Andy Stirling’s ideas of moving away from the idea of technocratic control to care in times of socio-technical transitions and change (See the STEPS center blog here). Perhaps, if such an approach is so common for those working in this field, the idea of overcoming delay is feeding too much into a narrative of control and therefore unhelpful in such rigid structures. Taking a more emancipatory-care approach could instead mean more to nurture the niche and allow change to emerge at its own pace.


*For more on this, the fourth Zennström Professor, Stefania Barca, initiated a project in 2021 addressing this exact issue. Read more here.

This blog is part of a short series written by Laila Mendy, PhD student at NRHU, as she attends the Sustainability Frontiers conference. Click here for part three on Digitalisation

Sustainability Frontiers: Decolonising Sustainability

This blog is part of a short series written by Laila Mendy, PhD student at NRHU, as she attended the Sustainability Frontiers conference.

Opening and Decolonial Perspective on Sustainability Science:

The day began with a demonstration of what much of decolonial scholars have been arguing for: by centring the perspectives and insights from decolonial scholars and indigenous researchers in the sustainability sciences conversation. Vasna Rasamar curated an panel discussion with Professor Lyla Mehta, Professor Bagele Chilisa, and Senior Lecturer Anna-Lill Drugge, all concerned with addressing what they see as a sustaining weakness of the sustainability sciences: the reproduction of colonial dynamics, practises and norms.

Rasamar began by asking each of the speakers to present what they consider to be an ongoing frontier in sustainability. These are summarised shortly below:

From Lyla Mehta: The term “Sustainability” came from German forestry management in the 1800s, which wanted to explore ways to continue resource extraction into the long term. From there it was consolidated and instrumentalised with – and alongside- other colonial practises of territory grabbing, othering and racialised categorisation, and removal of- and restriction of access to- indigenous peoples. Such practices adhere in much mainstream sustainable development today where, in the name of emissions reductions and conservation, indigenous and local communities continue to be restricted from living in their homes. Mehta highlighted instances of these in the REDD+ programme and other climate mitigation measures. In order to recognise that colonial practise is embedded in common socio-envionmental control mechanisms, there are three considerations to take:

  1. Firstly, seeking out hidden ways of knowing and being in this world. What knowledges and practises exist beyond the mainstream?
  2. Countering the narrative that unexploited land is waste. Grasslands, Mehta used as an example, are important contributors to biodiversity in South East Asia, and do not indicate wasted opportunity for afforestation or agricultural development
  3. To consider new ways of doing research: what are the assumptions underpinning much of what we problematise in development studies? Perhaps the grazing animal is contributing to soil health and the local eco-system.

Mehta concluded by explaining that decolonising sustainability science is also about looking at the institutions surrounding academia and considering how relationships and ways of working might be projecting harmful norms. Consider here, for example, the ways in which gender relations, power, race and ethnicity, sexuality, the languages spoken and – of particular relevance to the PhD student in Sweden today – the passports we hold. All these considerations implicate who might be invited to the discussion and how groups are convened.

For Bagele Chilisa the presentation considered how pervasive dogmas in Western thought were restricting people to see beyond certain assumptions of existence and reality. Building from what Mehta had initiated, Chilisa explained how decolonialism must address these dogmas in sustainability as understood in Western terms to not only open up for alternatives but to go beyond.

Firstly, Chilisa explained that Descartes and the idea of the individual could be pinpointed at the base of much practise and understanding in Western academia. The community and the people are forgotten: it is the individual that counts. Such an approach does not take into account the ways in which people are part of their community and part of the environment in which they live. This is problematic as teachings from the fields of Environmental Justice may not be heard beyond concern for the individual.

Secondly, the approaches to sustainability in Western academia can generally be categorised through four main approaches: the post-positivist turn to explain, predict and control; the conservative; the transformative; and the pragmatic.

Thirdly, that the environment is other-ised in Sustainability science, disregarding the essential embedded-ness of people and, therefore, discounting the valuable contributions that the environment can make towards knowledge creation.

Chilisa ended by asking open questions to the audience: what is development and for whom? What does it mean to live a good life? And, more fundamentally, how can we see and understand each other in a system that more and more pushes us as individuals?

The final speaker is Senior-Lecturer in Umeå, focusing on the Sami peoples. Anna-Lill Drugge, offered a similar list of three for the decolonial challenge in Sustainability science. Drugge’s approach focused more specifically on the experience of the Sami in Sweden, but might resonate with other peoples around the world.

The first insight looked at the exploitation of natural resources. Drugge explained that much of the green transition in Sweden poses the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy as the solution to the sustainability and climate issues. However, Drugge points out that too few reflect on which land and which natural resources are chosen in this transition. In the case of wind power, many of the potential areas of interest for development are on indigenous land. Despite the continued dependence on these areas for Sami livelihoods, development often goes ahead. Here, Drugge concludes, it is important to simply raise awareness of ongoing colonial structures in decision-making. Decolonialism is not possible if colonialism is not addressed first.

Secondly, the history of many research fields are problematic and foundational to ongoing conflicts today. Drugge explained that in recent history in Sweden the study of race biology categorised Sami people, separating the mountainous peoples from the forest peoples and contributing to existing conflicts to this day. Recognising the roots of today’s conflicts in historical processes of research was, for Drugge, another important insight for the decolonialism of Sustainability science.

Thirdly Drugge explained that the lack of knowledge meant these challenges will continue in to the future. Much Swedish knowledge of Sami people is based on stereotypes, due to a neglect on the subject in the national curricular. In the long run, these students will work in the green transition of tomorrow, which risk carrying and replicating colonial assumptions into the future.


The second block of the Decolonial session discussed questions posed by the moderator and the audience. The discussion mainly concerned concrete tools, approaches and methodologies to implement decolonial thinking in practise in academia.

Drugge began by admitting that doing is particularly challenging, but the first step is to acknowledge the field and work of indigenous scholars, particularly those whose work concerns relationships. These are not only important in sustainability and in relation to indigenous people, she suggested, but concern research ethics more widely.

Chilisa echoed this by explaining that many of the tools available can help communities and groups avoid the check-boxing so common in sustainability – think, why is the commissioner doing this study and will it actually be used? – and rather looks at the processes and intentions behind them.

Thirdly, Mehta cautioned against thinking in terms of a tool box and a check box, positioning decolonialism as an ongoing processes of self-awareness that should not be turned into another buzzword – not unlike what has happened to sustainability. That said, she went on to suggest methodologies from feminism for methods to raise the voices of the unheard and make visible the invisible, as well as practises from the field of Science and Technology Studies. Within the academic institutions themselves, it is making aware that power imbalances exist and continue to exist when those with the best of intentions can perpetuate inequality infrastructures.


In relation to my own doctoral work, much from this discussion has resonated with me. I am currently working on the idea of “overcoming delay” in the quest to reach Net Zero 2045 in Sweden. Considering recent review on the thirty years of political and scientific work done on climate change and the failure to bend the emissions curve, this feels like an important piece of work to contribute towards overcoming inertia and to avoid a tobacco industry-like conflict with climate policy-making. But there are deeper challenges in taking such a stance towards the future and towards the goal itself.

Firstly, the idea of overcoming delay towards a future assumes certain futures are viable and desirable, and that others are not. To overcome delay towards a certain future is, arguably, to depoliticise it. I think this is problematic because it questions the democratic nature of futures-making. With such an urgent need for emissions reductions, slowing down and questioning the idea of whose contribution towards such goals and targets is important. It indicates which voices are excluded and which injustices may be carried in to the future for the good of action on climate change?

Such a cause for concern in terms of time is strengthened by the implication of place in the goal of Net Zero itself. Climate neutrality indicates a necessary shift in infrastructure, which for Sweden may well mean a continued expansion of renewable energy development into Sami land. It also suggests that off-setting emissions beyond Sweden could perpetuate certain colonial mindsets about land access globally, its usage and whose claims to land are more important.

I am not sure how to reconcile the decolonial lens with the urgency narrative of climate action. However, the discussion this morning gave much food for thought on this conflict.

This blog is part of a short series written by Laila Mendy, PhD student at NRHU, as she attends the Sustainability Frontiers conference. Click here for part two on Degrowth

Sustainability Frontiers: Digitalisation and Sustainability Transitions

The fourth session at Sustainability Frontiers discussed Digitalisation and Sustainability Transitions, and will be the third in the series of blog posts about this conference written by Laila Mendy, PhD student at NRHU, Uppsala University. The first can be read here and the second post can be read here.

Somya Joshi moderated a conversation between Stefan Daume, Maja Essebo and Andrea Owe. Joshi introduced the hope and parallel concern about the relationships between technological development and innovation and the environment. She then invited each speaker to present their approach to this issue.

Stefan Daume began on the idea of digitalisation from the perspective of disruptive technologies and AI for Sustainability science. He pointed out the meta-quality of the conversation and how the online conference structure can facilitate fantastic connections around the globe more quickly and without attributed transport emissions.

Daume’s research spans the mature forms of technologies to the niche and cutting edge. He suggested that the internet acts as a mature tool for sustainability and pointed towards Greta Thunberg’s social movement enabled through the availability of social media. He considered open access research as another form.

To the more cutting edge innovations, he introduces the idea of AI, block chain and crypto. AI, he argues, has been around since the era of Alan Turing. Today’s machine learning, however, has the gigantic accessibility of computing powers available in the cloud. That said, these systems are not just virtual. He explained that there is an embodied and material element as these consume resources to run and are often designed to serve existing dominant interests.

The second intervention was given by Maja Essebo, who came from the point of storytelling and looking at how algorithmic technologies are not only disseminating stories but also storytelling themselves. A side note was given here, though, is that this is more about machine learning than AI.

Looking at the elements of storytelling you have character creation, the plot, events connected by relationships, place and more. Character creation is where machine learning technologies get particularly interesting. These technologies are interested in a group of people to understand what common characteristics occur within certain sets of the population. An example was given that individuals who liked KitKat pages were more likely to join anti-semitic hate groups. Such a connection would not necessarily be imagined by a human, but a machine noticed this trend.

Her conclusion was that algorithmic processes are performing character creation by noticing these trends and connections. But she is not sure how. These technologies are finding these connections in a black box. They are given input instructions such as “go look, go see, go search”, but how they solve that problem is not really clear. What the creator thinks is a fairly clear task can have wider interpretations by the machine.

There are two reactions from Sustainability scientists when they learn about the scale of stories these technologies are creating: interest and disgust. They might want to stay away from these technologies but, she concluded, the algorithms will not stay away from them.

The final presentation was given by Andrea Owe, who explained that the biases of humans are fed into AI. She started from the point that sustainability has complex socio-political associations and is more than a natural or technological issue. Much sustainability science is done from an anthropocentric approach, she claimed, which posits that humans are distinct and more important than the rest of the natural world. With that she argued that AI discourse needs to break away from those systems of thought.

Owe’s concern was that non-human animals and the natural environment is neglected in the field of AI ethics, which as of yet has mainly focused on the social implications of AI structures. The non-human is not considered in concepts of justice, but only appear to some extent as beneficiary of sustainability. This is a significant blind spot when developing AI for sustainability as it is neglecting how the environment is considered in those systems.

The presentation concluded by reiterating the concern in terms of environmental footprint: when selecting which AI to pursue a footprint might indicate that certain forms of AI should not be developed in the first place. This requires full and thorough life-cycle analysis during development stage. She finished by reiterating that while sexism and racism is perpetuated by AI and is, to some extent, being addressed, the abuse of nature must be addressed in research.

After the panellists presented their opening statements they were given the opportunity to respond to a number of questions. Much was said about the idea of agency in story telling: that it is not full agency, but that there are aspects within the black box issue. Daume continued by explaining that inbuilt biases certainly exist and in multiple forms including training data bias, transfer bias, and also interpretation bias by the people using the AI. Owe explained the challenge of interjecting ethics in systems we are still struggling to grapple with. She summarised in ways that echoed the decolonial scholars from the first session: ethics is not a to do list, and ethics washing is widespread. For ecological and environmental ethics in AI, the research is very new and underdeveloped.

A second theme of questions emerged from the audience Q and A which asked about whether – and how – AI can change human-nature relations. Owe pointed to incredible work being done by indigenous communities around the world who are developing their own AI based on their own data.

My own question was raised at this point, which concerned the reconciliation of technological acceleration with the degrowth of the economy. Owe suggested she was pessimistic about decoupling technological innovation from environmental impact. Essebo, however, offered a more optimistic framing, suggesting that these technologies can enable economic transitions at a more rapid rate. Daume reiterated this in terms of broadening access and participation but cautioned that the platforms on which these tools rely are provided for by companies who are not motivated by sustainability. They also, he said, have long been recognised for their emissions but there are now some transitions to more sustainable practices such as submerged data centres.


This was the third in a series of blog posts about the Sustainability Frontiers conference. Click here to read the fourth on Inner Transformation and Imaginaries.

Klimatledarskap för klimatmål

Alla behöver vara med på tåget för att klimatmålen ska kunna nås i tid. Men fortfarande debatterar världens länder om hur ansvaret för klimatlösningarna bör fördelas. Forskare delaktiga i nätverket Uppsala University Sustainability Initiatives (UUSI), menar dock att det finns en nyckel till framgång: klimatledarskap, skriver Uppsala universitet i en nyhetsartikel.

COP26: Some progress, but not nearly enough

After the dramatic final hours of negotiations, the most important issues at COP26 in Glasgow have now been decided. The decisions have led to key steps forward in international climate policy, but they are not enough to achieve the climate goals. (This is a translation of the original Swedish-language post that can be found here)

When it comes to emissions reductions there are clear statements about the importance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, which in practice means a stronger interpretation of the goal from the Paris Agreement. Parties will now sharpen their NDCs more often and in coordination with the pact. Global emissions reductions of 45% from 2010 to 2030 has been quantified, agreed upon and included in the text. The use of coal and fossil fuel subsidies will also be reduced, a first for international climate agreements. The agreements reached at Glasgow also included the implementation of emissions trading schemes in line with the Paris Agreement.

In addition to the Glasgow agreement itself, known as the Glasgow Climate Pact, groups of countries have also agreed on measures relating to, among other things, methane emissions, deforestation and coal power. Several countries have also advanced their positions, the most significant being India’s commitments to Net Zero by 2070. Overall, there was a sense of cooperation and ambition in the negotiations.

These decisions and promises will, at best, mean that global warming will evidently reach at 1.8-1.9 degrees, according to preliminary calculations. This is a great improvement from what it looked like before the start of COP26 and even more so compared to when the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015.

But the progress is not nearly enough to meet the 1.5-degree goal. Emissions reductions must increase and at a significantly faster rate than currently anticipated. The UN decisions in Glasgow also rely completely on implementation at the national level, but this is of course always a given in international agreements. All countries must now do far more.

Implementation in nations and global regions also needs to occur with higher ambitions than that which is expressed in the agreement. For example, the language surrounding coal phase-downs and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and the agreement on emissions trading are clearly weak. Different countries have held up different issues. Coal and subsidies for fossil fuels need to be phased out completely. This is something that all countries can do without need of a UN decision. And rules for emissions trading can also be improved

On the issue of financing for both emission reductions and adaptation measures, more resources have been allocated before and during COP26. Most significantly new commitments have been made to double the financing for climate adaptation. The negotiations also led towards some steps forward to address Loss and Damage, the issue of compensation for climate damage in developing countries that arise even with climate adaptation measures in place.

But even on these points, the agreement is far from sufficient. The target of $100 billion in annual climate funding by 2020 has not been met. That figure is also a whole order of magnitude too little. There was also no effective process for dealing with the issue of Loss and Damage, let alone any financing to speak of. The countries that have the least impact on the climate are seriously affected, while those that primarily cause the damage are not prepared to pay the costs that arise.

It is clear that the Glasgow summit is a step forward. Yet it is also clear that the agreement was weakened on several key issues on the table. And it is even clearer that this progress is not nearly enough. There are plenty of reasons to be critical and, further, it is deeply unethical that developed countries do not offer more. That said, despite disagreements on several issues and despite some countries taking sides on individual issues, the world actually agrees on the importance of accelerating climate work.

Reviewing Loss & Damage at COP26

What is it, what happened and why does it matter?

This article was written by Angelica Johansson as a guest blog for Climate Change Leadership at Uppsala University. Previously a student in the Climate Change Leadership course, Angelica is now a PhD Candidate working on the ERC funded project: the Politics of Climate Change Loss and Damage with the University College of London’s Political Science Department.

***

If there was one thing clear at COP26, it was that without significant and immediate mitigation measures, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations will be continue to rise to dangerous levels. Moreover average temperature rise to the present day has already led to irreversible impacts, beyond what we can adapt to. People living in the global South, indigenous peoples and vulnerable communities are less able to adapt to (in essence – to bounce back from) the negative climate impacts. These impacts are often manifested as droughts, floods, storms and cyclones. In the UNFCCC terminology, such catastrophic climate changes impact that push the limit of what can be adapted to are referred to as ‘loss and damage.’ Loss and Damage is understood by some as a third pillar of climate action, together with mitigation and adaptation (Roberts and Huq, 2015).

Loss and Damage was institutionalised as a policy field in the UNFCCC in 2013 through the establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism (the WIM). Its institutionalisation was further strengthened in 2015 through the inclusion of Article 8 in the Paris Agreement, which called for averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change (UNFCCC, 2015, p. 12). The WIM guides the implementation of Article 8 and is mandated to enhance knowledge, strengthen dialogue, as well as action and support through finance, technology and capacity building (UNFCCC, 2021a). While the work of the Executive Committee of the WIM has focused on the two first parts of its mandate, (that is, the enhancement of knowledge and the strengthening of dialogue), the progress to address loss and damage has been criticised for being too slow. For example, the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition argues that the WIM has failed to address the losses and damages in vulnerable countries and that the WIM lacks the resources to fully deliver its mandate.

At COP26, the Loss and Damage agenda focused on the operationalisation of the Santiago Network; the institutional governance of the WIM (should the WIM be governed under the UNFCCC Convention, the Paris Agreement or both?); and finally (but definitely not the least) Loss and Damage finance.

The Santiago Network was established at COP25 in 2019 and can be described as the operational arm of the WIM. As the Santiago Network is a relatively new institutional addition to the WIM, the negotiating countries used COP26 to decide what the function of the network would be. Discussions on the Santiago Network’s functions started during COP’s first week – at the same time as the World Leaders Summit (UNFCCC, 2021b). As a result, observers were excluded from the negotiation space and were left to watch the negotiation on the COP26 platform – a tool designed for observers to follow the negotiations digitally. The negotiating parties managed to agree on the functions of the Santiago Network, but unsurprisingly with some difficulty. Before an agreement was reached, parties had different preferred options on how to operationalise the Santiago Network. The negotiating block containing mainly developing countries and emerging economies, G77+China, wanted to discuss the Santiago Network’s functions and form separately, based on a logic where one first decides to go from point A to point B (i.e. the function) and then decides how to arrive at point B (i.e. the institutional set-up). While the US and EU initially wanted to discuss form and function together, the outcome ultimately reveled that whilst the functions were finalised, the institutional form of the SN will only be discussed in June at the intersessional meeting.

For many countries, particularly within the Global South, there is a lot riding on Loss and Damage negotiations and, as with many aspects of the COP processes, a strong geopolitical charge underpins these talks. During informal consultations, the spokesperson for G77+China made a notable intervention with political undertones describing the functions as a means of transport. He said that one could go by walking, biking, by tuk-tuk or SUV, and highlighted that SUV’s are a very popular car in countries like the EU and the US. He finished his intervention by suggesting that one could also use a tank and that tanks have been imported in many of G77’s countries in the Middle East. There was an audible gasp in the room as this point was made.

The second Loss and Damage item on the agenda was that of the governance of the WIM. The WIM is currently governed under the UNFCCC Convention – the COP – as well as the Paris Agreement – the CMA. At COP25 in Madrid 2019, some countries proposed that the WIM should solely be governed under the CMA. This proposition was strongly opposed by developing countries and for COP26 they asked for the governance structure to remain jointly between the COP and the CMA (PowershiftAfrica, 2021). In Glasgow, we expected this issue to be further discussed (Calliari, 2021). However, during the World Leaders Summit and the first days of the negotiations, rumours started circulating inside the venue around how ministers had decided to postpone the governance issue until COP27. These rumours proved to be founded as the CMA decision text notes that the governance issue did not reach an outcome and will be further discussed next year.

The final Loss and Damage item discussed at COP26 was that of finance. Developing countries have called for Loss and Damage finance for years (Fielder Cook et al., 2019) and it also remained a priority at this COP (PowershiftAfrica, 2021). G77+China proposed the creation of a finance facility which would provide funds and help address the losses and damages incurred as a result of negative climate impacts (Farand, 2021). The Scottish Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon supported the G77+China’s call for Loss and Damage finance and pledged £2m for Loss and Damage specifically in the Scottish Climate Justice Fund and called for other rich countries to follow (ScotGOV, 2021). To build up pressure for Loss and Damage finance further, a group of philanthropists committed $3m to kick-start the finance facility if the negotiating parties agreed to set it up (CIFF, 2021), and Wallonia decided to earmark €1m for Loss and Damage (TheBrusselsTimes, 2021).

Despite these efforts, the proposal did not gain traction in the plenary. Instead, the call for a ‘Glasgow Finance Facility’ faced strong opposition from the US and the EU (Weise and Mathiesen, 2021), and in the final text, the ‘Glasgow Finance Facility’ became a ‘Glasgow Dialogue’ in which negotiating parties and other stakeholders will discuss the arrangement for funding of activities to avert, minimise and address Loss and Damage. Small Island Developing States, such as the Maldives expressed fear over the dialogue being a delaying tactic (Weise and Mathiesen, 2021), where practical and financial assistance to those impacted by climate change will take even longer before it reaches those on the ground.

To conclude, while COP26 progressed the WIM through the agreement of the SN functions, its third mandate -to address loss and damage – remains under prioritised, and important funding decisions have been kicked down the line again. The Glasgow Climate Pact recognises the science and the urgency for action, yet leaves the countries responsible for causing climate change and its attributable impacts free from taking responsibility for their emissions.

References

CALLIARI, E. 2021. What is at stake for Loss and Damage at COP 26? Available from: http://www.climate-loss-damage.eu/international-negotiations/what-is-at-stake-for-loss-and-damage-at-cop-26/ [Accessed 16 November 2021].

CIFF. 2021. Philantropies Offer Kick-start Funds for Prospective Glasgow Loss & Damage Facility to Support Vulnerbale Countries Suffering From Climate Change [Online]. Online: Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. Available: https://ciff.org/news/philanthropies-offer-kick-start-funds-for-prospective-glasgow-loss-damage-facility-to-support-vulnerable-countries-suffering-from-climate-change/ [Accessed 12 November 2021].

FARAND, C. 2021. Climate reparations become a crunch issue as Cop26 goes into overtime [Online]. Online: Climate Home News. Available: https://www.climatechangenews.com/2021/11/12/climate-reparations-crunch-issue-cop26-goes-overtime/ [Accessed 12 November 2021].

FIELDER COOK, L., MENKE, I., JOHANSSON, A. & ALEKSANDROVA, M. 2019. RINGO report of the 10th meeting of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanisms for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (‘ExCom 10’) [Online]. Online: RINGO. Available: https://ringosnet.wordpress.com/wim-excomm/ [Accessed 16 November 2021].

POWERSHIFTAFRICA 2021. COP 26: Delivering the Paris Agreement – A five-point pland for solidarity, fairness and prosperity. Online: Powershift Africa.

ROBERTS, E. & HUQ, S. 2015. Coming full circle: the history of loss and damage under the UNFCCC. International Journal of Global Warming, 8, 141-157.

SCOTGOV. 2021. Scotland to boost climate funding [Online]. Online: Scottish Government. Available: https://www.gov.scot/news/scotland-to-boost-climate-funding/ [Accessed 11 November 2021].

THEBRUSSELSTIMES. 2021. COP26: Wallonia earmarks one million euros for loss and damages [Online]. Online: The Brussels Times. Available: https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/193568/cop26-wallonia-earmarks-one-million-euros-for-loss-and-damages/ [Accessed 14 November 2021].

UKGOV. 2021. PM address at COP26 World Leaders Summit Opening Ceremony [Online]. Online: UK Government. Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-address-at-cop26-world-leaders-summit-opening-ceremony [Accessed 08 November 2021].

UNFCCC. 2015. Paris Agreement [Online]. Online: UNFCCC. Available: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf [Accessed 08 November 2021].

UNFCCC. 2021a. Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM) [Online]. Online: UNFCCC. Available: https://cop23.unfccc.int/topics/adaptation-and-resilience/workstreams/loss-and-damage-ld/warsaw-international-mechanism-for-loss-and-damage-associated-with-climate-change-impacts-wim [Accessed 05 January 2021].

UNFCCC. 2021b. The World Leaders Summit at COP 26 [Online]. Online: UNFCCC. Available: https://unfccc.int/cop26/world-leaders-summit [Accessed 15 November 2021].

WEISE, Z. & MATHIESEN, K. 2021. EU, US block effort for climate disaster funding at COP26 [Online]. Online: Politico. Available: https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-us-block-financial-support-climate-change-cop26/ [Accessed 13 November 2021].

COP26: Framsteg som inte räcker

Efter drama i slutskedet är nu de viktigaste besluten på klimatmötet i Glasgow fattade. Besluten innebär flera viktiga steg framåt i den internationella klimatpolitiken. Men de räcker inte för att nå klimatmålen.

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När det gäller utsläppsminskning så finns klara skrivningar om vikten av att begränsa uppvärmningen till 1,5 grader, vilket i praktiken innebär en skärpt tolkning av målen i Parisavtalet. Länderna ska framöver skärpa sina nationella planer oftare och koordinerat. En ny kvantifiering om behovet av att minska utsläppen av koldioxid med 45 procent mellan 2010 och 2030 är inskriven. Kolanvändning och subventioner till fossila bränslen ska minskas, ett konstaterande som tidigare saknats i klimatavtalen. Mötet enades också i frågan om hur utsläppshandel i linje med Parisavtalet ska genomföras.

Utöver själva överenskommelsen har grupper av länder enats om åtgärder som rör bland annat metanutsläpp, avskogning och kolkraft. Flera länder har också flyttat fram sina positioner, mest betydelsefullt är Indiens utfästelser. Överlag så fanns ofta en god vilja till förhandlingar och samverkan.

Dessa beslut och löften gör i bästa fall att den globala uppvärmningen på sikt stannar vid 1,8-1,9, enligt preliminära beräkningar. Det är en stor förbättring jämfört med hur det såg ut före mötet och särskilt jämfört med läget då Parisavtalet antogs.

Men framstegen räcker inte alls för att klara 1,5-gradersmålet. Utsläppen måste minska långt mer och avsevärt snabbare än vad som pekats ut. FN-besluten i Glasgow är också helt beroende av nationellt genomförande, men det är förstås alltid givet vid internationella överenskommelser. Alla länder måste nu göra långt mer.

Genomförandet i nationer och landgrupperingar behöver dessutom ske med högre ambitioner än vad som uttrycks i överenskommelsen. Exempelvis är skrivningarna om såväl kol och subventioner, som utsläppshandel klart svaga. Olika länder blockerade i olika frågor. Kol och subventioner till fossila bränslen behöver fasas ut helt. Det är något som alla länder kan göra även utan FN-beslut. Och regler för utsläppshandel går också att förbättra.

I frågan om finansiering till utsläppsminskningar och anpassningsåtgärder har mer resurser skjutits till inför och under mötet och nya utfästelser är gjorda, inte minst att dubblera finansieringen till klimatanpassning. Mötet tog också vissa steg framåt för att hantera frågan om ersättning för klimatskador i s.k. utvecklingsländer som uppstår även om klimatanpassning har skett.

Men också på dessa punkter är överenskommelsen långt ifrån tillräcklig. Målet om 100 miljarder dollar i årlig klimatfinansiering vid år 2020 är ännu inte uppfyllt. Den siffran är dessutom en hel storleksordning för låg. Någon effektiv process för att hantera frågan om skadeersättning blev heller inte av, än mindre någon finansiering att tala om. De länder som påverkar klimatet minst är värst drabbade, medan de som framförallt orsakar skadorna inte är beredda att betala de kostnader som uppstår. Det står klart att Glasgowmötet innebär framsteg. Men det är också tydligt att överenskommelsen blev ganska svag i flera frågor som låg på bordet. Och det är ännu tydligare att framstegen inte alls räcker. Det finns därför gott stöd för att vara kritisk och det är djupt oetiskt att de s.k. utvecklade länderna inte bjuder till mer. Men trots oenighet i flera frågor, och trots att vissa länder satte sig på tvären i enskilda frågor, så är världen faktiskt enig om vikten av att accelerera klimatarbetet.

COP26 Live: Nearing Gavel Time

As we near the close of COP26 let’s take stock of the core changes this afternoon:

  • G77 and China have conceded on the Glasgow Loss and Damage facility. Speakers from these blocs and the LDCs, Ailac, AOSIS and Africa Group spoke regretfully in their interventions but highlighted that going forward with a text was more important.
  • Doubled adaptation finance was highlighted as one of the key successes, as well as the inclusion of ratcheting ambition every year.
  • The draft continues to refer to fossil fuels in text and coal is mentioned in particular with regards to phase outs.
  • Ongoing discussions over the language surrounding “phase out” and coal, driven by India on the grounds of subsidies supporting access to fuel for low income populations.

Alok Sharma asserts that the conclusion is imminent and COP26 will be closed this afternoon. Ongoing discussions on the floor, colloquially known as “huddles”, continue however, so delays may continue.


Follow us live on twitter for direct updates throughout the afternoon.

Watch this afternoon’s closing plenary

COP26 Live: Civil Society anxious in final hours

Chair of COP26 Alok Sharma continues to press that later this afternoon a draft will be agreed upon and COP26 closed. Civil society giants such as Climate Action Network International, however, sees ongoing deliberation around several of their core concerns.

The Cover Decision

LOSS AND DAMAGE

Loss and Damage is headlining as a clear division, with activists and many policy advisers and environmental lawyers calling for unity in face of strong pressure. British environmental lawyer and climate policy expert at the UNFCCC, Farhana Yamin calls for leadership from LDC countries on this issue to “save COP26” . With so much evidently on the line where Loss and Damage is concerned, and given the appeals from the likes of Tuvalu and Kenya in the Stocktaking plenary yesterday, it is hard to see that consensus will be reached any time soon.

Mohamed Adow, climate policy expert and director of Nairobi-based climate change thinktank “Power Shift Africa”, took a harder line towards these negotiations, accusing wealthier countries of avoiding responsibility.

COAL PHASE OUT AND FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES

India has raised concern over the language surrounding coal phase outs, with support from other parties. Ongoing discussions on this issue continue.

Article 6

The biggest huddle taking place was on Article 6 with two key issues emerging. Firstly, reinserting the REDD+ language into the text, something the Rainforest nations want, but the US and others appear to oppose. Secondly, how to handle ‘Share of Proceeds’ under 6.2. Kerry reportedly told AGN and G77 negotiators to drop this as as sticking point, for fear it would collapse the deal. In return, he offered to double adaptation finance. The G77 is apparently now meeting to discuss what is on the table.

Adaptation Finance

No agreement yet reached.


The Mood

Much action on social media as speculation mounts and concerns hit peak levels. Civil society and observers sit in the overflow plenary watching screens to follow debates and negotiations live and in parallel. The speculation and ongoing frustration at accessibility has questions rising over the nature of these negotiations and inclusivity. Policy adviser and climate justice strategist, Alex Rafalowicz, summarises his views:

Follow the twitter thread from CCL coordinator, Isabel Baudish, for commentary and live updates.

COP26 Live: Two key changes in Saturday morning draft

It’s Saturday morning in Glasgow and the third edition of the COP26 cover decision is out. The latest amendments can be tracked here.

Loss and Damage

A previously proposed “Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility” is absent from the latest draft. Facility appears to have been replaced with “dialogue”. Responses on social media from civil society shows a “deep concern“. First Zennström Professor in Climate Change Leadership, Doreen Stabinsky, considers these talks to have now essentially collapsed, with pushback reportedly coming from both EU and USA:

Changed Language on Fossil Fuels

Language on fossil fuels remains in this draft, but language surrounding them appears to be less ambitious (bold emphasis our own):

Calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of
technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low emission energy systems,
including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation and energy
efficiency measures, including accelerating efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal
power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, recognizing the need for support towards a just
transition;

On top of the changes in the second draft that qualified coal phase out with ‘unabated,’ and fossil fuel subsidies with ‘inefficient’ subsidies, the third draft has changed ‘accelerating the phaseout’ to ‘including accelerating efforts towards the phase-out’.

COP26 Live: Loss & damage make or break issue in new draft

Delegates, media and observers are now digesting the new texts, which hit the ground after a long night of over-time negotiations in Glasgow. Things have moved, but the crucial question is if they have moved enough. The US and EU still seem to resist clear finance to loss and damage, apart from technical assistance, making it a possible make or break issue at COP26.

The new texts, floated this morning, have moved on several key items: Finance for adaptation, loss and damage and article 6, on carbon markets.

On adaptation the cover texts now say that finance should at least double until 2025, compared to 2019. This is a step forward from the perspective of developing nations, but 2025 might be regarded as to late and the texts arguably still lacks clarity and a high-level mechanism to ratchet up finance to adaptation.

On loss and damage there is no decision on finance apart from technical assistance. Instead of establishing a new finance mechanism the cover texts suggest deciding to establish a dialogue. This is clearly weaker than what has been demanded by the block of small islands (AOSIS), LDCs and the larger group of developing nations (G77+China), making loss and damage the possible make or break issue in Glasgow.

On article 6 and carbon markets things have moved on some items, while not on others. Some heavily criticized loopholes, like having a two tier system with possible double counting, have been taken away, making cancellation of some carbon credits mandatory. The text also states that a new independent grievance mechanism should be established. On the other side old Kyoto credits can still be used, and critics still feel that the texts give too much room for cheating. A deal could be on it’s way, but it’s probably not there yet.

Finally, the calls to phase out ‘unabated’ coal power and ‘inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’ are still in the cover texts, but the texts now include ‘recognizing the need for support toward a just transition’, an inclusion which arguably is well motivated.

Parties will share their views at a stocktaking plenary scheduled for noon, with the UN hosts hoping to conclude the UN meeting in late afternoon. But it all depends on the reactions to the new drafts from key negotiation blocks…

COP26 Live: Finance key as negotiations run into overtime

UN climate negotiations in Glasgow are now running on overtime – as usual. COP26 was scheduled to end on Friday at 6 pm, but is now expected to last until Saturday afternoon. The day in Glasgow has exposed the differences on the new proposed texts for an agreement, centered on finance, in particular for adaptation and loss and damage, and rules for carbon markets.

As usual, the release of new text proposals on Friday morning was followed by a stocktaking in the afternoon, where countries and blocks of countries presented their views.

As for mitigation and the parts of the texts covering the need to ratcheting up pledges and climate action in the coming years, in order to keep the 1.5℃ target “alive”, there seem to be an emerging consensus. The new texts are defended by big players among the developed world – the EU, the US, Canada – vulnerable countries like small islands (AOSIS), the least developed countries (LDC) and the so called High Ambition Coalition.

European commissioner Frans Timmerman drew applause during the plenary by showing a picture of his one year old grandchild, emphasizing the need to pursue the 1.5℃ target and “avoiding a future which is unlivable”. He also admitted that rich nations have failed on delivering money to developing nations and claimed that the EU would step up on climate finance. 

US climate envoy John Kerry emphasized the need to reduce emissions by 45 percent during this decade and insisted that the texts on mitigation should not be watered down. He also admitted that the US was responsible for a large share of global emissions and called fossil subsidies “the definition of insanity”, needed to be phased out.

Other parties, like AOSIS and Norway, criticized that the unique mentioning of fossil fuels and call to phase out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies had been watered down and reframed to ‘unabated’ coal and ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies. The new words are probably demands from key fossil fuel dependent nations like Saudi Arabia.

Leaving mitigation as it is, the crucial remaining differences for an agreement in Glasgow are now on finance and on article 6, defining the rules for carbon markets and use of carbon credits.

African nations and the large block of developing countries and emerging economies, G77+China, underlined that the language on finance, and in particular on adaptation and loss and damage, is too weak and that increased ambitions on mitigation should be paired with increased ambition on finance and adaptation, in an equitable manner in line with the Paris Agreement, meaning that developed nations should take the lead. Frustration on missed promises by developed nations to deliver 100 billion dollars in climate finance by 2020 is still hovering over COP26.

LDC, AOSIS and representatives of small islands insisted on faster scale up of finance for adaptation, and AOSIS called finance for loss and damage a necessity for a deal in Glasgow. Many speakers also questioned why a recent proposal for a new financial mechanism for loss and damage, raised by G77+China, was absent in the text. As it stands, proposed finance for loss and damage only covers technical assistance, a fact which got Kenya’s representative to lash out: “We don’t need consultants flying around giving us advice. We need a real financial mechanism for loss and damage.”

So far, the EU and the US are holding back, both on demands to substantially raise finance on adaptation in the coming years and on the demands for a new financial mechanism for loss and damage. 

The demands for scaled up finance on adaptation and a financial mechanism for loss and damage from developing nations are both understandable and reasonable, Jens Ergon at CCL Uppsala University says. We are not talking about cash on the table in Glasgow, but trustable promises to deliver in the upcoming years. These issues, together with divergent views on carbon markets, are the key issues to solve in the hours to come.

Divergence on article 6 and carbon markets caused a stalemate at the last COP in Madrid two years ago, and could potentially do it again. AOSIS, G77+China and other groups demands that carbon markets should deliver “real emission reductions”, with mandatory cancelations of old carbon credits, while others, including Japan and the US, support a voluntary and less rigorous framework.

During Friday representatives of civil society criticized the new text for being too weak on many points, staging a walk-out of the COP26 and presenting a joint declaration with demands on the outcome. During a press conference in the afternoon the directors of Greenpeace, Oxfam and the umbrella organization Climate Action Network zoomed in on the same contested issues still under intense negotiations: Lack of finance for adaptation and loss and damage and the risk for skewed carbon markets.

New texts are supposed to be issued during the night and made available around 8 am in Saturday morning, followed by a new short stocktaking before 10 am and formal plenaries in Saturday afternoon. If they can resolve the differences, however, remains to be seen. If not, negotiations could potentially go on well into the weekend.

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