Here’s What’s Happening at the UN Climate Conference
Story by U.S. Chamber of Commerce
November 2, 2021
COP26 has opened with modest expectations, but progress has already been recorded on several fronts. National leaders at the summit in Glasgow agreed to a plan to curb emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. In line with that agreement, the Biden administration issued a proposed rule to regulate methane emissions, and the Chamber has welcomed the move. At the “Accelerating Clean Technology Innovation and Deployment” event, President Biden underscored “innovation is the key to unlocking our future” and that U.S. government-led initiatives to help develop and scale clean energy technologies must utilize the ingenuity of the private sector. World leaders also agreed to a deal aimed at ending and reversing deforestation by 2030, committing nearly $20 billion to protect and restore forests.
- NuScale Power, the first and only small modular reactor to receive design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Nuclearelectrica, the Romanian nuclear energy producer, will team up to advance clean nuclear technology in Romania. Following the partnership, Romania has the potential to accommodate the first deployment of SMRs in Europe. Learn more about this announcement here.
November 3, 2021
Banks and other financial institutions were in the spotlight on Wednesday as companies holding assets totaling more than $130 trillion committed themselves to hitting net-zero emissions by 2050. This pledge, coined Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) and led by the UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, Mark Carney, includes 450 financial institutions across 45 countries. The announcement marks the first time most of the world’s big banks, major investors, insurers and financial regulators have signed on to a coordinated pledge that will incorporate carbon emissions into their most fundamental decisions.
Separately, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins announced the United States’ commitment of $25 million in support towards expanding access to clean nuclear energy. The announcement, also called a “Nuclear Futures Package,” represents efforts from across the U.S. government, and includes ongoing programs and projects under development to:
- Advance large-scale, clean, and modern nuclear power generation
- Demonstrate the potential of nuclear-produced hydrogen to fuel the transition to clean energy
- Advance innovative, secure, and safe nuclear technologies such as small modular reactors
The U.S. also announced the Net Zero World Initiative — a new partnership between countries working to implement their climate ambition pledges and accelerate transitions to net zero, resilient, and inclusive energy systems. While this effort is largely predicated on deploying regulatory best practices, standards, and financing solutions to achieve transformative emissions reductions, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm acknowledged that business is part of the equation to developing tangible solutions.
November 4, 2021
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), an organization representing over 190,000 businesses across the UK, hosted a dinner with over 600 global business leaders and political representatives to discuss urgent climate priorities. Representatives from the U.S. Chamber team were in attendance and heard remarks from Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry among other notable voices on the issue.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and Romania’s Minister of Energy, Virgil Popescu, highlighted the new commercial partnership between NuScale Power and Nuclearelectrica signed earlier this week. The agreement has the potential to advance the deployment of Europe’s first small modular reactor (SMR) in Romania by the end of the decade and could position Romania as a potential hub for SMR production in the region. In response to this announcement, Secretary Granholm remarked:
“The United States views nuclear energy as a pivotal technology in the global effort to lower emissions, expand economic opportunity, and ultimately combat climate change. We have been supporting the development of SMRs for decades, and it is extremely gratifying to celebrate this important milestone for Romania to help them achieve their climate goals.”
The U.S. announced the launch of the First Movers Coalition, a new platform for companies to harness their purchasing power and supply chains to create early markets for innovative clean energy technologies that are key to tackling the climate challenge. First announced by President Biden at the COP26 World Leaders Summit, the First Movers Coalition was created through a partnership between the U.S. State Department’s U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and the Office of Global Partnerships, and the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Energy. At the launch of the First Movers Coalition on Thursday, more than 25 Founding Members made commitments to spur the commercialization of emerging technologies in this decade. Founding Member companies have made commitments in at least one of these sectors: steel, trucking, shipping, or aviation—all of which are considered “hard-to-abate” industries.
Notable Mention: Southern Co., the third largest utility in the U.S., announced that it will close roughly 55 percent of its coal fleet by the end of the decade as the company shifts to a net-zero electricity mix. The move will reduce the amount of coal on Southern’s system by 80 percent since 2007, said company CEO Tom Fanning.
November 5, 2021
U.S. Chamber’s Global Energy Institute Vice President of Climate and Technology, Dan Byers, who is on the ground in Glasgow, presented on “Kazakhstan and Central Asia: International Business Response to the Global Methane Challenge” at an event the Chamber hosted in partnership with the Climate Change Coordination Center and Nazarbayev University’s “National Conservation Initiative” Corporate Fund. Byers discussed how “as the U.S. moves forward with regulations to address methane emissions from energy production and dozens of nations join the global methane pledge, the potential benefits from strengthened international collaboration on mitigation approaches will take on greater importance. Kazakhstan is a prime example, and the Tengizchevroil partnership is a model of successful collaboration and environmental stewardship on methane emissions detection and mitigation upon which we should build.”
In response to Brazil’s new climate commitments, the U.S. Chamber’s Brazil-U.S. Business Council (BUSBC) and the International Policy Coalition for Sustainable Growth applaud the country’s pledge to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030, end illegal deforestation by 2028, and officially update its Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. They also applaud Brazil’s leadership as a co-sponsor of the global methane pledge to curb emissions as announced at COP26 earlier this week. The U.S. Chamber’s Senior Vice President of Global Initiatives, Gary Litman, who is also in Glasgow, stated: “these actions will serve Brazil well in attracting sustainable investment, including in the Amazon region, and building a sustainable, inclusive future.” Full statement here.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) new goal to remove gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and durably store it for less than $100/ton of net CO2-equivalent. The “Carbon Negative Shot,” the third target within DOE’s Energy Earthshots Initiative, is the U.S. government’s first major effort in carbon dioxide removal (CDR). CCUS and other carbon removal technologies are crucial to meeting ambitious climate change goals.
November 9, 2021
EPA Administrator Michael Regan spoke at the “Securing the Climate Benefits of the Global HFC Phasedown: Preventing Illegal Trade in HFCs” event at the U.S. Center. He discussed how “efforts to phase down HFCs in many countries have had the side effect of creating markets for illegal trade of these harmful chemicals.” Our article on this issue explains more.
DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) announced its intent to fund cost-shared research and development to accelerate the wide-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR). The potential projects will be selected under the DOE’s Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) Initiative, which focuses on developing geologic storage sites with capacities to store at least 50+ million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Learn more about the importance of CCS and carbon removal technologies to achieving our climate goals from our EnergyInnovates series.
DOE Deputy Secretary David Turk announced the launch of the Nuclear Energy Transitions and Communities initiative, which is aimed at boosting the adoption of advanced nuclear technologies and providing American communities with clean, emissions-free power. This initiative will also provide expert resources and create a blueprint for countries transitioning to a clean and just energy economy with nuclear as a key pillar. “The recognition that existing nuclear is half of our clean energy power right now in the U.S. context…that is a big, big amount and we need to keep that big, big amount,” said Secretary Turk. Learn more about the opportunities nuclear energy provides to American communities in our EnergyInnovates series.
November 10, 2021
A first draft of an overarching agreement was released by COP26 President Alok Sharma today. A final version of the agreement will be negotiated by national delegates over the next couple days. We will continue to monitor these negotiations and provide updates as necessary.
The U.S. and China issued a joint declaration in Glasgow on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s. In addition to their intent to cooperate on the enhancement of methane emissions measurements and controls, both countries intend to cooperate on:
- regulatory frameworks and environmental standards related to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in the 2020s;
- maximizing the societal benefits of the clean energy transition;
- policies to encourage decarbonization and electrification of end-use sectors;
- key areas related to the circular economy, such as green design and renewable resource utilization; and deployment and application of technology such as CCUS and direct air capture.
DOE Deputy Secretary David Turk launched the H2 Twin Cities initiative to bring local and regional incubators together to accelerate the development and deployment of clean hydrogen technology around the world. Through H2 Twin Cities, global partnerships will be created between cities and communities to form a larger community of hydrogen best practices, increase collaboration, and broaden the reach of hydrogen deployment to reduce global emissions. Learn more about the importance of hydrogen technology to our future energy systems in our EnergyInnovates series.
November 11, 2021
As the Chamber team prepares to depart Glasgow, we will be watching for a final agreement on many of the negotiations critical to addressing the climate challenge. Establishing a cooperative global foundation that includes the development and deployment of innovative technologies and policies will be vital to achieving these goals. We will provide additional updates as they become available.