COP26 allowed Norway and Canada to sharpen their climate tools

With the COP26 climate summit over, we could probably say we’ve arrived at a moment of truth for humanity. What did we achieve, and what’s next for countries like Norway and Canada? We’re both rich, industrialized countries with a history of high emissions, and both our governments are fully committed to act on the necessity to change. In democracies like ours, one might differ on how to fix the climate problem, but surely there can no longer be an “if” in this question.

What’s most important, COP26 did bring us an agreement, a benchmark for the future accountability of governments and business. Five years after the Paris Agreement, the 1.5 C target is alive, although “with a weak pulse,” as COP26 chairman Alok Sharma has said. Still, had there been no agreement, accountability targets could easily fragment. So, for all the compromise, editing, and less than ideal last-minute changes, we did get an updated set of commitments. For instance, the remainder of the Paris rulebook was adopted, including rules for international co-operation and trade to lower emissions.

As COP26 got underway, the single-biggest issue was probably climate financing. Norway came to Glasgow with a promise to double its financing by 2026 and triple its support of climate adaptation. Norway spends one per cent of its GDP on global development. In the future, we plan to align climate and development policies. We’ll do more to support global food security and renewable energy, as well. At a time when close to one billion people still have no access to electricity, a new fund to mobilize investment in renewable energy will be set up by the Norwegian development fund NORFUND. 

Along the same lines, Norway entered into an agreement with the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Agency to provide guarantees related to foreign direct investments in renewable energy in developing countries. We’ll also continue to co-operate with Canada on the boards of the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility. 

It remains critical to stop deforestation. In Glasgow, 100 countries agreed to stop the practice by 2030, and Norway is among 12 donors to put US$12 billion on the table to protect rainforests from 2021 to 2025. It might not be enough, but it will make a difference.

The ocean remains vital to solving the climate crisis and meeting the Paris goals. We must develop a global framework for responsible ocean management and enhance ocean resilience, while also creating sustainable jobs, supporting food security, and reducing economic inequality. 

To this end, Norway took the initiative to establish the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, on which both Norway’s and Canada’s prime ministers sit with 13 other heads of state. It was welcome news that the United States has now joined the panel and our blue/green efforts. During COP26, the panel met to suggest six points for ocean-based climate action. All members, including Norway and Canada, have agreed to develop sustainable management plans for 100 per cent of the ocean under their national jurisdiction. For Norway, green shipping technology will be vital for coastal development and export, and so will offshore wind. 

So, what about the elephant in the room? Many of the biggest donors and “highest bidders” at COP26 are also oil-producing countries — like Norway. Why don’t we just stop, you might ask? First, no government will send its economy plummeting overnight, nor should it, I believe. More realistically, we can set up a plan and the correct incentives for the inevitable exit from fossil fuels. 

We must ensure that the technology and regulatory framework that turned the Norwegian shelf into one of the best regulated and least polluting in the world will drive a fast development of renewables offshore and onshore. The government has promised to increase hydro-power output, and has set itself a goal of cutting emissions from the shelf by 50 per cent by 2030, and emitting zero carbon by 2050, a goal shared by Canada. Furthermore, a value chain for carbon capture and storage should be created, as it will be key to transitioning to a zero-emissions economy. 

There’s a saying about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Personally, I think Glasgow was a lot about that. COP26 didn’t solve the climate crisis — no conference will — but we sharpened the tools. Now, we get to work. Canada and Norway have a lot to gain from picking up those tools and working together.

H.E. Jon Elvedal Fredriksen is Norway’s ambassador to Canada.

This article was first published in the iPolitics Holiday Magazine that was printed in early December.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

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