The recent 26th Conference of Parties (COP 26) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was a venue for a number of parties to make agreements on climate action. These agreements were not part of the formal negotiations at COP 26 but were made by governments, businesses and other parties whose representatives met on the periphery of the conference to discuss climate actions.
The U.S. is not a party to all of these agreements but because of their international provenance, the U.S. should be joining them as part of the worldwide effort to address climate change and keep temperature increases below 1.5C. The agreements are described below and, where noted, the need for U.S. action is described.
- France, Sweden and Ireland have joined a Denmark and Costa Rica-led alliance of countries committed to ending future oil and gas production within their borders. Portugal, California and New Zealand stopped shy of that pledge, but committed to “significant concrete steps” to curb oil and gas production. The U.S. should adopt the California standards nationwide.
- The new Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) was hailed as important by campaigners who have been pushing for a global treaty on stopping fossil fuel extraction, modelled on nuclear weapons proliferation treaties. The U.S. should join BOGA to participate in discussions on how to stop all future fossil fuel extraction.
- On coal: Twenty-eight new countries, subnational governments, and private sector entities joined the Power Past Coal Alliance, and over 40 countries signed the statement, greatly expanding the group of countries that have committed to stop building new coal plants and to begin to retire their existing fleets. Major philanthropic and research organizations agreed to strengthen their efforts to accelerate this transition, with Bloomberg Philanthropies announcing a huge project aiming to close 25 percent of the world’s remaining coal plants—and all proposed plants—by 2025. The U.S. needs to join this agreement and plan for regulations to close coal plants. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and President Biden’s Clean Energy Plan both addressed this goal, but courts and Senator Manchin’s opposition have stymied their efforts. We must indicate our support for reinstating these plans by executive action.
- On methane: More than 100 countries agreed to cut their methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 under an initiative led by the United States and the European Union. And a coalition of major philanthropic organizations promised to fund more than $328 million to reduce methane emissions around the world. The U.S. has already joined this agreement and indicated a willingness to clean up old oil wells leaking methane as a part of the infrastructure bill; this effort needs to expand to address leakage at all fossil fuel facilities.
- On zero-emission vehicles: More than 100 governments, fleet owners and vehicle manufacturers, pledged to sell only zero-emissions vehicles by 2040 globally, and by 2035 in leading markets. However, while leading US vehicle manufacturers and three US states joined the pledge, the US federal government did not. Some states, including Washington and California, have clean car laws and will comply but the U.S. as a whole does not; the Biden Administration must adopt this approach for future legislation.
- On forest conservation: More than 100 countries signed an agreement to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030, and that includes $19.2 billion in public and private funding to support land conservation efforts. The U.S. joined this agreement and must incorporate reforestation goals into domestic and international funding provisions.
- On fossil fuels: Almost forty countries, including the United States, pledged to end their international support for fossil fuels. Nearly 500 global financial services firms across 45 countries agreed to align $130 trillion – approximately 40 percent of global financial assets – with the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement, including staying within the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit. The U.S. should monitor international finance and foreign aid to ensure that no funds are used for fossil fuel exploration or production. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has drafted rules described in a New York Times article that would require U.S. companies to disclose more climate risks; we need to monitor its implementation and possible court challenges.
Take Action: Send a message to President Biden at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ commending him and Climate Envoy John Kerry for joining the methane, forest and fossil fuel finance agreements. Then suggest that the U.S. should join the other countries that pledged to end future oil and gas production, stop approving future fossil fuel extraction and use including coal power, and join with states that require clean cars.