COP26: Agreement on rules for counting emissions reductions achieved abroad

Bern, 14.11.2021 - The 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) came to a close in Glasgow on 13 November. Key issues included the global warming limit of 1.5 degrees, robust rules for counting and reporting international transfers of emissions reductions, and dealing with loss and damage caused by climate change. Countries agreed on rules that exclude the double counting of emissions reductions achieved abroad, thereby resolving the outstanding technical issues of the Paris Agreement. Switzerland campaigned strongly at COP26 to prevent such double counting, having previously committed to strict emissions trading rules in several bilateral agreements.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow ended on 13 November. Under the Paris Agreement, nations must take concrete steps from 2020 to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with a view to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. At COP26, Switzerland advocated for strong rules to ensure that the Paris Agreement is implemented effectively. "It became clear in Glasgow that the world is saying goodbye to oil, coal and gas," said Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga before the press as the climate talks came to an end. She noted that, while progress had been made on certain points, "we cannot be truly satisfied with the outcome of this COP."

National climate targets
Countries were called upon at COP26 to strengthen their emissions targets for 2030 by the end of 2022. In the final text adopted, parties also agreed for the first time to reduce 'unabated' coal power, i.e. where emissions are not technically reduced, as well as inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels like oil and gas. While Switzerland welcomes this development, it had advocated at the conference for the complete dismantling of all fossil fuel subsidies and a phase-out of all use of coal.

Emissions reductions achieved abroad
A solution was reached on international transfers of emissions reductions, with delegates agreeing on rules that prevent double counting between the countries involved. The agreement also avoids double counting of emissions reductions between nations and the CORSIA emissions trading system for aviation. Private individuals may participate in this market through voluntary climate-reducing activities without double counting, although such reductions cannot be counted towards their countries' climate targets. This represents a success for Switzerland, which campaigned at the conference against double counting and has demonstrated through bilateral climate protection agreements that such arrangements are possible.

Switzerland remains committed to ensuring robust climate protection rules in the future, as reflected in the various bilateral climate agreements signed with partner countries since 2020. During the conference Switzerland entered into two more such agreements, with Vanuatu and Dominica.

Transparency in emissions reporting
Another key element of the Paris Agreement is the transparency with which countries monitor and report their progress in reducing emissions. The parties reached agreement at COP26 on how to report their emissions reductions and any support for or from other countries in achieving them. A simplified reporting standard is to apply for countries that can demonstrate insufficient capacities to report such data. This is a positive outcome for Switzerland as transparency rules are crucial for building trust between the parties.

New post-2025 finance goal
Switzerland campaigned at COP26 for increased climate protection investments worldwide and called on all countries in a position to provide support to do so. A new climate finance goal from 2025 is to be set by 2024 and include both public and private investment.

During the conference, Switzerland pledged over CHF 50 million in finance for the UN Adaptation Fund, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the Least Developed Countries Fund, the Climate Investment Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's High Impact Partnership on Climate Action. Through these contributions, Switzerland underscores its resolve to pay its fair share towards international climate financing.

Climate-related loss and damage
Another key issue was how to deal with loss and damage incurred by countries vulnerable to climate change, e.g. through flooding or crop failures. Here it was agreed that, by 2025, industrialised countries are to double their 2019 level of climate finance provided for adaptation measures. The parties decided not to create any new mechanism for funding technical assistance following climate-related loss and damage. Switzerland had advocated at the conference for strengthening the existing instruments and institutions available for climate change loss and damage. The new pact also agrees to simplify and enhance developing countries' access to such finance.

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