Reactions from civil society to announcements from the UN/COP26 Climate Ambition Summit

12 December 2020

12 December 2020: Today the United Nations, the United Kingdom and France co-hosted the Climate Ambition Summit 2020, in partnership with Chile and Italy. Over 70 countries participated in the virtual summit. Below are quotes from Climate Action Network members in reaction to some of the announcements made by governments.

Stephanie Draper, CEO of the UK international development network Bond: 
“Today’s announcement to stop funding fossil fuels overseas, including ODA, is a welcome step forward from last week’s NDC announcement. This is a critical part of taking responsibility for the UK’s fair share of climate action. It is a step that we hope to see other countries making at today’s #climateambitionsummit2020 and in the build up to COP26. Today’s summit must embrace this massive opportunity to support clean energy for all, to support adaptation and enable a more resilient and healthier future for us all.”

Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe:
“The EU’s new climate target is a vital and necessary step to help limit the escalating climate crisis. However, given the profound existential threat we are facing,  the EU will need to go beyond the agreed target of at least 55% net emissions reductions by 2030. Science is clear that at least a 65% emission cut is the way forward. In order to lead the way and convince other major emitters to foster their climate ambition ahead of COP26 next year, the EU must align its climate ambition with the 1.5°C objective of the Paris Agreement.”

Olga Boiko, CAN EECCA coordinator, Ukraine:
“It surely seems like Ukraine has good intentions for its climate action, but the implementation is often weak. The country has shown interest in creating its own Green Deal and is working closely with the EU on climate policy. Unfortunately, since 2015 its emissions grew. The first Ukrainian NDC was formulated in such a way that it allowed the growth of emissions. Ukraine is about to launch its second NDC which should lead to actual decrease of emissions. As a long term goal Ukraine considers carbon neutrality until 2070 which is not enough. To avoid the drastic effects of the climate crisis Ukraine has to become carbon neutral until 2050.” 

Tim Gore, Head of Climate Policy at Oxfam:
“The Climate Ambition Summit lacked real ambition. World leaders must step up in the next 12 critical months to pull the world back from the brink of catastrophic climate change.” “Commitments to near-term emissions cuts are still insufficient to limit warming to the 1.5C Paris goal, and the summit was all but silent on the question of new funds to lower income countries to help them adapt to climate change and decarbonise their economies.”
“We must not stumble from COVID-19 disaster into climate calamity.  During 2020, and with around 1C of global heating, climate change has fuelled deadly cyclones and storms in Asia and Central America, damaging floods in the UK and across Europe, huge locust swarms that have devastated crops across Africa and unprecedented heatwaves and wildfires across Australia and the US. 
“We are all affected but it is low income and marginalized people who are hardest hit, despite contributing the least to global emissions. We need a fair and green post-COVID recovery to slash emissions while delivering millions of decent jobs, building more sustainable and resilient economies that work for everyone.”  

Amalia Hambartsumyan, NGO Khazer, Armenia:
“During COP21 Armenia announced its clear commitments to limit greenhouse gas emissions for the entire period from 2015 to 2050 and achieve a neutral level in 2050. However, at the stage of implementation there are no signs of achieving these goals. The government’s commitment to create an internal financial mechanism to implement climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in 2018 has failed. The afforestation plans to increase the territory covered by forests from 11% to 20.1% are also not being implemented. The development of the new NDC is near completion, however, unlike the INDC adopted in 2015, civil society organizations were not involved and did not participate in the development of the new NDC.”

Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s climate policy lead:
“It was good to see so many world leaders announcing revised national climate plans as part of the Paris Agreement. As we mark the 5th anniversary of the accord it’s significant to see that, despite the past four years of Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine it, there remains so many other heads of state that want to step up and take action to address the climate crisis.  In the same way that the Paris Agreement has proved resilient, this weekend’s summit has shown it is also dynamic. The pledges made in Paris in 2015 were a welcome first step but only put us on track to a world of 3C. What made the Paris Agreement fit for purpose was the requirement for countries to strengthen these pledges at least every five years and it’s good to see so many doing just that.

 “However although we saw more than 70 world leaders making new commitments that still leaves many more that are yet to do so.  It’s shameful that countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia have so far failed to come forward with new pledges and risk catastrophe for themselves and vulnerable communities around the world.  With countries both rich and poor committing to new climate plans these rich polluters have no excuse to continue to bury their heads in the sand. “Their new year’s resolution should be to rectify this as soon as possible in 2021.”

Mohamed Adow, Director of climate and energy think tank, Power Shift Africa:
“New and improved national climate pledges would be a fitting 5th birthday present for the Paris Agreement and a sign to the world’s vulnerable people that leaders are listening and acting to tackle the climate crisis.  But it’s striking how many others are still missing when the urgency of addressing climate breakdown has never been clearer.  Covid-19 may have occupied the headlines but 2020 has seen floods, hurricanes and droughts continue apace throughout the world.   

“It’s clear that the end of the fossil fuel era is coming but the question is will it come soon enough for the most vulnerable people who are suffering from climate change right now. More and more countries are setting net-zero emission dates.  But it’s one thing to set a net-zero date for decades into the future and another thing to enact policies right now that will get us there.  That is what must be on the agenda for all countries in 2021.” 

Susann Scherbarth, Climate Justice Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe:
“The EU is congratulating itself for its climate policies and for its efforts to raise its ten-year decarbonisation target, but Europe’s leaders have lost sight of equity. Europe has pumped out much of the carbon warming the atmosphere today – yet, while EU policies are evolving, our leaders are still not doing Europe’s fair share of action to halt the climate crisis and fulfil the agreement they made in Paris five years ago. It’s the planet and people around the world worst hit by climate chaos who will suffer.”

Meena Raman, of Sabahat Alam Malaysia/ Friends of the Earth Malaysia and Third World Network:
“For far too long, the failure of the rich world to honour its climate commitments in a meaningful way under the UN Climate Convention has been a story of broken promises. Any celebration of the Paris moment rings hollow, and smacks of yet another effort to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. The truth is that the global North is very far from doing its fair share, not only on emissions reductions, but also on enabling adequate adaptation, addressing loss and damage in poor countries and in providing real climate finance. Pledges of net-zero targets are yet another effort at fooling us into believing that these targets are ambitious, when in fact, they are too little too late and misleading. ‘Net zero’ is a dangerous concept conveniently used by polluting companies and governments to evade their responsibility for reducing emissions. They plan to use our peoples’ lands, forests, lakes and territories in the global South as their carbon sinks. These ecosystems are not carbon sinks for the perpetrators of the climate crisis!

Graham Gordon, Head of Policy at Catholic aid agency CAFOD, [reacting to the Government’s latest announcement to end UK spending on fossil fuels overseas]:
“This is a huge step forward in the UK’s leadership on climate change. We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to stop funding fossil fuels overseas as soon as possible, and before next year’s COP 26 in Glasgow. We urge other governments and businesses to make ambitious commitments to keep global warming well below 1.5 degrees to protect current and future generations.” 

Dr Ruth Valerio, director of global advocacy and influencing at Tearfund: 
“This is a world-leading announcement, and sets a standard that other countries should follow. Around the world, the climate crisis is already destroying people’s homes, health and livelihoods, so it’s absolutely right for the government to scrap support for the dirty fuels driving this destruction.”

Mattias Söderberg, Climate advisor at DanChurchAid and spokesperson of ACT Alliance:
“It is inspiring to listen to presentations about new commitments to mitigate climate change. These actions are most welcome. However, bold commitments of climate finance, and support to both adaptation and loss and damage are also urgently needed. For vulnerable countries and communities increased resilience is a matter of survival.” 

Li Shuo, Senior Global Policy Officer, Greenpeace East Asia:
“Xi Jinping’s statement at the Paris Agreement’s fifth birthday is an incremental step forward. It demonstrates good will, while at the same time invites further international engagement in 2021. Tonight, China salutes the Paris Agreement, but no one should open a whole bottle of champagne.
Xi’s statement will increase China’s effort to reduce carbon intensity and will ensure rapid growth of wind and solar energy over the next decade. However, Beijing has the potential to do more. Making its emissions peak earlier than 2025 is still something it should strive for.
Meanwhile, a lot needs to happen at the domestic front. China’s COVID recovery is anything but green. With its growing coal fleet and increasing emissions from steel and cement industries, the country is falling back to its old addiction to fossil energy and infrastructure investment. An urgent rehabilitation is needed to preserve the glimmer of progress ignited at the Paris climate summit.
Five years from Paris, China’s record is mixed. Our climate urgency can’t afford more small steps. 2021 should see the country galloping into the low carbon future.”

Jamie Williams, Senior Policy Advisor, Islamic Relief Worldwide:
“It is gratifying to hear world leaders reflecting the general understanding that to avoid cataclysm, the world must progressively reduce its man-made greenhouse gas emissions to zero. But we are already living with climate breakdown.  To avoid disaster, we must also reduce people’s vulnerability to zero.  Zero vulnerability is a goal and the world should not let up in its efforts until it is achieved. All must  work progressively towards this end, reducing the number of people who are vulnerable, and increasing the resistance of others as we proceed. Nobody must be left behind. Eradicating poverty would create the platform needed to eliminate people’s vulnerability to climate breakdown. Ambition means ZERO VULNERABILITY, starting with the world’s most impoverished, hard to reach and excluded people. It can be done.  It must be done.”

Lucile Dufour, International Policy Officer, Réseau Action Climat France:
“Speaking at the Ambition Climate Summit, President Macron praised the progress of climate action since the adoption of the Paris Accord. But he avoided a much less glorious reality: both in terms of national and international action, France is not honoring the legacy of the COP21. Much more efforts must be done at the national level to align ambition with the new European target, to reduce GHG emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This should start by supporting the full implementation of the Citizens Assembly on Climate recommandations.
Moreover, President Macron announced that France will maintain its levels of climate finance over the next years. This is clearly not enough to respond to the growing needs of the most vulnerable countries.”

Masayoshi Iyoda, Kiko Network, CAN-Japan:
“It is not possible to meet the 1.5°C goal just by declaring a 2050 net zero target. We need a clear milestone. Japan must raise the 2030 target to at least a 50% reduction in GHG emissions (compared to 1990), and formulate an energy mix without nuclear and coal-fired power toward COP26.”

Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, CAN-Rac, Canada:
“Taking action on the climate crisis is as essential to saving lives as taking action on COVID-19. We welcome Prime Minister Trudeau’s acknowledgement of the need to accelerate climate action as the world continues to respond to the pandemic. It is good to see policies that can, if implemented quickly and with the greatest stringency possible, take Canada’s climate ambitions further than our current insufficient Paris pledge. It is also good to see a significant investment of $15B in climate action. However, these numbers pale in comparison to commitments being made by like-minded countries. As we also saw today, subnational action is an essential to increase ambition: provinces and territories have to step up their game to push Canada’s climate action to where they need to be. And all governments need to bring much larger investments to the table to get the transformative changes we need – including a significant boost to Canada’s international climate finance contributions.”

Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia:
“India recommitted its nationally determined contributions and urged all countries to review and revise their targets. My country has the potential to embark on a green sustainable energy pathway but the cautious approach to move ahead defeats the opportunity to create more jobs, sustainable energy mix and a resilient society. India should challenge itself to do more as the world reaches almost a 1.2 degree Celsius temperature rise. Time to move away from fossil fuels and say no to coal expansion. South Asia as a region should build a renewable energy trade regime and seek to lead on an international non-proliferation treaty on fossil fuels.” 

Emilia Runeberg from FINGO (Finnish Development NGOs): 
“Prime Minister Sanna Marin reaffirmed that increasing international climate finance is part of her government program. However, Finland has set no long term targets (quantitative or qualitative) for its climate finance, the amounts are determined annually based on overall government budget negotiations, hence there is the great fluctuation and lack of predictability. Also, the majority of Finnish climate finance is given as loans and to private sector actors, and not as grants. In the next few years, it is crucial to ensure that climate finance amounts are new and additional to Finland’s development cooperation budget, possible increases in climate finance would not come at the expense of shrinking funds for development cooperation.” 

Sven Harmeling, CARE International, Global Policy Lead, Climate Change and Resilience:
” In the Climate Ambition Summit, Chancellor Merkel committed to initiate an international process on climate finance for post-2020 ahead of the COP26. This is an important step to fill an important gap in the process and would potentially contribute to have a successful COP26, if it leads to a clear increase of climate funds in next years. Unfortunately, she failed to send an early clear signal for a strong future rise of Germany’s climate finance.”

Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace International Executive Director: 
“While the celebration of the Paris Agreement emphasizes the importance of multilateral cooperation, it also makes clear how far away we are from seeing the kind of leadership we need;  leadership that listens to the science and dramatically cuts emissions to give everyone everywhere —  especially our youth —  a fair chance for a green and peaceful world. The meeting today was nowhere close to showing that leadership. Many countries contributing to the Climate Ambition Summit ignored the ‘ambition’ part and apparently still lack the moral courage to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.”

Santiago Aldana, Climalab, Colombia:
“We celebrate Colombia’s new commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas contribution by 51% by 2030. However, it is worrying that President Duque did not outline how it expects to meet these fulfillments through the different sectors. Similarly, it is worrisome that no differential approach is named for the fulfillment of commitments such as gender, human rights and climate justice. Finally, it is worrying that an effective climate coherence is not visualized. There is talk of an energy transition but the government remains committed to implementing fracking. It talks of planting trees, but the rate of deforestation increases. There is talk of electric mobility, but little and nothing is said about sustainable transport measures.” 

Dr. Abid Suleri, CANSA Board Co-Chair and ED, SDPI:
“Pakistan has demonstrated much required high political will, and its decision to stop any future Coal expansion is welcomed. Such ambitious commitments create space for energy transition in the country. A responsible democracy always keeps priorities for its future generation ahead by committing to climate neutral and resilient sustainable development.”

Adrián Martínez Blanco, La Ruta del Clima, Director:
“Costa Rica’s climate action ambition remains strong. As President Alvarado mentions, “Climate Change is about Human Rights.” Justice and Resilience are key elements to achieve wider spread wellbeing.  Current efforts to lead climate policy towards a 1.5°C  pathway and the inclusion of a solid agenda on adaptation are strategic for the development of Costa Rica. However, clear and structural actions must follow these compromises that ensure the achievement of both a low emissions economy and social justice.  In Costa Rica, Climate impacts are the greatest threat to our future. The government’s priorities should reflect the need for climate justice and the call for international accountability for loss and damage from climate change.” 

Roque Pedace, FOROBA, Argentina:
“It is an auspicious announcement from Argentina – a 26% decrease is something important. It’s not enough for a 1.5-degree pathway, but it puts us on the right track. The government must clarify how it intends to achieve this and also how – given the external debt situation – it will finance this type of investment both in mitigation and adaptation.” 

CAN West and Central Africa (CANWA):
“We positively welcome Niger’s decision to submit a new NDC and reduce its emissions from 3.5 to 5% by 2030, through the development of renewable energy, reforestation, and sustainable agriculture.We invite  Niger and other countries from the Sahel to seize the opportunity to review their NDCs and develop effective energy strategies that effectively build on their high potential for renewables.”

Vuningoma Faustin of Rwanda Climate Change and Development Network (RCCDN):
“If enough resources are invested in green technologies, the targets announced by Rwanda would be achievable. There is a need, however, to mainstream climate and sustainable development into related policies like agriculture to reduce emissions from inorganic chemical fertilisers. The NDC’s targets should not be seen in isolation from other related sector policies and strategies. Production systems, especially in agriculture, should be revised to adopt agro-ecology for climate resilience. Renewable energy technologies to reduce charcoal and firewood for cooking energy has to be emphasised.”

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF International global climate and energy lead:
“Today, world leaders reinforced the urgency with which the world must tackle the climate crisis, the scale of action required, and the breadth of systemic change needed. Key developed and developing countries are starting to set the pace for the world and injecting the much needed climate and nature momentum in the key year head. The world has  to make up for lost time and do more, especially the high carbon emitting countries. We have only one year until COP26 when the next crucial decisions must be agreed. We must ensure that the signals from this Summit become beacons of direction and delivery in 2021”.

Mario Calfera, Amigos del Viento, Uruguay:
“Neutrality in 2050 is too long-term. Neutrality does not imply zero emissions. It is striking that the studies that are being carried out to reduce emissions in the livestock sector (meat and milk) are not mentioned. Will they stop being financed in the new budget?The NDCs of the agricultural sector reflected and published in a plan, although they are from 2019, belong to the previous government. They are listed as “already submitted”.

Although they are State policies that had almost unanimous parliamentary support, the way in which they are mentioned seems like “res judicata”, it seems that there are no intentions to improve anything and it is precisely in this sector where climate action is most needed in Uruguay.The announced plans on coasts and transportation have the potential to provide greater hope for climate action: coasts in adaptation and transportation in mitigation. It is possible that in these sectors of the economy civil society has been heard.

Nathaniel Keohane, Senior Vice President for Climate, Environmental Defense Fund:
“Today’s event helped crystallize the recent momentum toward enhanced climate ambition. Five years after the Paris Agreement was signed, and with the ‘Paris rulebook’ in place, the accord still provides a valuable framework for action. But one thing is as true now as it was five years ago: Success lies not in the text of the agreement, but in the commitments countries make to cut emissions and the actions they take to meet them. Much more ambition is needed to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change.
“The good news is that the last three months have seen a notable upswing in momentum on climate action, driven by the EU’s commitment to reduce emissions 55% below 1990 by 2030, China’s 2060 carbon neutrality pledge, the UK’s target of reducing emissions 68% by 2030, and net-zero-by-2050 goals by Korea and Japan. All eyes will be on the U.S. once President-elect Biden takes office on January 20, 2021.”

Nithi Nesadurai, Regional Coordinator, Climate Action Network Southeast Asia:
“As signatories to the Paris Agreement, governments in Southeast Asia (ASEAN) committed themselves to transition to low carbon development. In addition, they committed to engage with multi-stakeholders, including civil society organisations, when developing policies, strategies and action plans to address climate change.
Based on evidence that transitioning to low-carbon development, raising climate ambition and just energy transition is good for the economy, countries in ASEAN can lead by example. As the first step new coal projects should be banned. Decisions to do so by a government, national electricity utility and major bank in the region are encouraging.
Impetus for ASEAN to act will be greater if industrialised countries which have emitted the most carbon into the atmosphere, do their fair share of action on the basis of equity. This includes taking deeper emissions reduction, phasing out coal, and providing finance and technology transfer to developing countries. Unfortunately, evidence of such leadership is lacking.”

Nick Mabey, Chief Executive, E3G:
“The UK’s announcement to stop funding fossil fuel exports sets a new gold standard for what serious climate ambition looks like. The UK has been a major player in global fossil fuel extraction for decades; this radical shift shows how the economics of energy are changing and that future prosperity lies in clean energy exports.”
Rachel Kennerley, Friends of the Earth climate campaigner:
“It is great that the PM has recognised we can’t continue to fund climate wrecking oil and gas overseas. Ending investment in all overseas fossil fuel projects will help us meet our climate commitments, but there can be no exceptions. “Under the new rules announced today, a climate-wrecking gas mega-project in Mozambique that has displaced thousands of people would be in doubt, yet the decision to spend $1billion on this project was decided just a few months ago. “We think that the decision to fund this project was illegal, so Friends of the Earth is challenging the government’s decision in the courts. This is because we think the government is in breach of international standards on the environment and human rights and has failed to properly consider climate change.”
Friends of the Earth says emissions must be slashed here and overseas and use our wealth to help other countries adapt to the impacts of climate breakdown while we still can. A way to achieve this is investing public money in renewables projects, with huge job creation prospects. People at the sharp end of climate disaster who experience devastating flood, drought, and crop failure have done the least to cause this crisis. As a country with a legacy of pumping out climate-wrecking pollution, the U.K should use our relative wealth to help other countries cope with climate breakdown.
There’s still a chance for the government to end all support for fossil fuel projects overseas, with no exceptions, before the UK hosts the U.N climate talks at the end of 2021.

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