Carbon is the big bad element at this COP26. David Antonioli is CEO of Verra, a non-government organisation that works on developing standards for carbon offset projects across the world. Antonioli, who addressed several sessions on the carbon markets at the COP26 summit has worked as a global climate change adviser to the US Government and has led major joint ventures relevant to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). An interview:
The big work of this summit is to fine-tune mitigation credit markets. Which are the important points that need to be addressed?
It is important to finally adopt the international rules for country-to-country cooperation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. This can greatly reduce the cost of climate action and lay the groundwork for countries to increase their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) ambitions. Recent work by the International Emissions Trading Association and the University of Maryland suggests the savings are so significant that countries could double the ambition of the first round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) at no additional cost.
Without further international rules, countries could still transfer mitigation outcomes under Article 6.2; however, there would be no guidance on how to account for transfers or how to report on them. Inevitably, there would be less transparency, lower confidence in what governments are doing, and ultimately less certainty in the accounting of NDCs and whether we are reaching the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals.
The negotiations on the Article 6 rules need to:
- Agree on how to account for emission reductions and removals that are driven through cooperation between countries and shared between them
- Establish rules to operationalize the new global crediting mechanism under Article 6.4—the new governing body can also be elected here in Glasgow so they can get to work immediately afterwards
- Recognize the enormous funding that can flow towards developing countries through carbon markets and how this can be put to work in climate mitigation but also in adaptation measures and accelerating sustainable development
How possible are net-zero targets that countries are announcing?
With reliable and predictable ambition and finance from governments as the backbone of our global fight against climate change, these targets are feasible. To reach them, countries need to accelerate progress: Decarbonise their electricity supplies through renewable energy and end the use of coal, shift to electric cars and other zero-emission fuels, grow new forests instead of allowing deforestation to continue, and change our eating habits to focus on lower-emission foods.
Market-based solutions play a critical role in this context as well. The trading of emission reductions and removals can direct funding to activities that reduce or remove emissions today while improving lives and protecting biodiversity.
If these solutions are appropriately deployed, they can serve as a bridge for reaching net-zero targets.
Renewables are not as green as they appear. Establishing wind and solar plants itself is an emission heavy process. Add to it biodiversity loss, and new waste created by discarded panels. Any thoughts?
There are emissions associated with all activities and setting up renewable energy projects is no exception. What is important is that renewable energy infrastructure does not continue to emit CO2 throughout its entire lifetime. Once projects are set up, the climate will see benefits every day due to the sharp reduction in energy use from fossil fuels.
Between the new goalposts of the global North and the development requirements of the developing world, where's the meeting point?
Carbon markets can be an important meeting point, either through country-to-country cooperation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement or through the voluntary carbon market. Such cooperation can be valuable to both developed and developing countries. It can provide urgently needed finance and know-how to help implement climate action and sustainable development on the ground, including for education, livelihoods, health services etc, while greatly reducing the cost of climate action and laying the groundwork for countries to increase their NDC ambition.
What statement are you expecting at the end of the meet?
Governments need to create reliable and predictable ambition and finance. This has to form the backbone of our fight against climate change. Countries need to collectively reaffirm their joint commitment to reaching net-zero global emissions by 2050 and commit to concrete steps to accelerate progress: ending the use of coal, moving away from other fossil fuels and towards renewables and electric cars, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. It is essential that the richer countries of the world give assurance on how they will meet their pledge to provide $100 billion each year.