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Sunday, December 5, 2021

China is the final giant piece of a surprisingly successful Cop26

The Chinese delegation had to come up with something to avoid being the villain, a role it played in Copenhagen in 2009 and now deems a mistake, but it is too simple to reduce this to political greenwashing.

China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua was a leader of the country’s “green GDP” movement 20 years ago, with the backing of an up-and-coming regional leader in Zhejiang called Xi Jinping.

China was the giant missing piece in Alok Sharma’s plan for Glasgow. India had already pledged to reach 50pc clean power by 2030, bringing peak emissions into sight this decade. Carbon Brief says Narendra Modi’s speech in Glasgow is worth 0.2 degrees lopped off global warming, if delivered. A good day’s work.

Climate Action Tracker poured a bucket of ice cold water over Cop26 earlier this week, concluding that the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted so far put the world on a 2.4 degree trajectory. This hit global headlines and has fed the false story of an empty summit.

The International Energy Agency said the figure falls to 1.8 degrees if you take into account all the 2030 and net-zero pledges that have been pouring in each day. China pulls down the trajectory yet further.

Climate number crunching should be taken with a pinch of salt. Scientists do not agree on carbon cycle feedbacks or the tipping points. Nobody agrees – or can know – what new technology is coming and how far the costs will fall. What we do know is that almost every forecast by official agencies and governments on renewable costs have been wildly wrong for the last 15 years. The technology has blindsided them.

My presumption is that markets armed with Mark Carney’s $130 trillion (£97 trillion) credit card will now blindside them again, pulling forward the Great Disruption with brutal dispatch. Morten Bo Christiansen from the global shipping giant Maersk said his company had until very recently thought it impossible to build its first vessel powered by zero-carbon methanol before 2030. “We’ve since learned a lot,” he said.

He explained to a stunned audience in Glasgow that Maersk now plans to build the first one in 2023, with more to follow rapidly in 2024 and 2025, and will never again order a ship that burns dirty bunker fuel. Its entire 740 ship fleet will progressively go net zero. Another 3pc of global emissions once thought unreachable before 2040 are moving into the “doable” category

The last 24 hours of Cop26 will see bare-knuckled brinkmanship. There is simmering anger that the $100bn financing pledge for poor countries has not yet been nailed down. The Saudis will battle to expunge words in Sharma’s draft text that “call upon parties to accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels”.

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