JDP Special Lecture: Key takeaways and implications of COP26

As part of the JDP’s extracurricular programs, we offered a special lecture on December 14 under the theme of the 2021 United Nations climate change conference (COP26).

Our invited lecturer was Mr Masayoshi Iyoda, a research fellow of Kiko Network. Mr Iyoda joined Kiko Network, a certified non-profit organization after graduating froMritsumeikan University’s College of International Relations and a graduate school of Kyoto University (MA). He has participated in COP meetings to monitor negotiations as an NPO representative.

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In the lecture titled “Key takeaways and implications of COP26 -from civil society’s perspective– “, Mr Iyoda analyzed the outcomes and challenges of COP26, which was held from November to December 2021 in Glasgow, U.K, based on his firsthand experience as a participant.

Climate Crisis as an Actual Threat and Climate Justice
At the outset, Mr Iyoda showed evidence that the climate crisis is happening now and to all of us. He stressed, “Climate change hits hard people in developing countries, and younger generations will also be more susceptible to risks posed by climate impacts, although rich countries are the ones responsible for burning large volumes of fossil fuels”. A concept that addresses these unjust outcomes of climate change is known as “Climate Justice”.

Toward the 1.5℃ Goal
The COP 26 summit was held amid growing concerns of global warming. Mr Iyoda told that one of the COP26 achievements was a shift in the global climate target and the “1.5℃ goal” became a de facto standard.

In the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015, the goal is “to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels”. However, reflecting an increased awareness of the climate crisis, the Glasgow Climate Pact in 2021 “resolves to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C”, for further cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Iyoda evaluates this clear statement as an important political signal.

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Revisit and Strengthen NDGs
The UN report published right before the COP26 summit shows that the global emissions will increase by 13.7% compared to 2010 even if every nation has achieved its current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2030. NDCs outline the efforts by each country to reduce national emissions. The Glasgow agreement calls for countries to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their NDCs by the end of 2022. Mr Iyoda also stressed that leaders should revisit their targets immediately and enhance policy measures to achieve them.

Exit Coal and Fossil Fuels
The COP 26 decision clearly states the issue of coal for the first time in UN climate talks agreements. In the contested negotiations over coal power, the wording of an earlier draft from “phase out” was changed to “phase down”, which was proposed by India. Many countries expressed dissatisfaction that the language on coal was weakened significantly. Nonetheless, Mr Iyoda considers that it is still epoch-making to explicitly mention the issue of coal there.

How was Japan at COP26?
In the second half of the lecture, Mr Iyoda explained how Japan acted in Glasgow. Japan was heavily criticized for leaping backwards in its coal policy, and was granted the Fossil of the Day Award by an international nongovernmental organization. The award will be given to a country which is believed to be slow to act in the fight against climate change. The news of the awarding along with on-site protesters rallying against Japan's use of coal power was widely reported both in Japan and overseas. “These campaigns are important political tools, and could provide the push for the government to take more positive actions by drawing public attention”. Mr Iyoda said.

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Student Questions
After the lecture, students were divided into groups and had a discussion. Lastly, they asked a variety of questions to the lecturer in the Q&A session. To name a few:

Being asked about specific measures for the 1.5℃ goal and the feasibility of actually achieving it, Mr Iyoda said, “Companies, non-governmental organizations and local governments making proactive green efforts are expected to play a key role in influencing government decisions.”

One student was curious to know why Japan was so reluctant to take actions against climate change. Mr Iyoda gave detailed explanation to the country’s political and industrial structure, where Japan’s climate policy is strongly influenced by corporations releasing large amounts of emissions.

Another student asked about how to address the climate crisis inequality the Global South faces against the Global North. Mr Iyoda introduce the term “Loss and Damage”, that refers to the destruction already being wreaked and impacts of climate change that cannot be adapted to, and how the world should deal with these harms. He also mentioned that it was agreed in Glasgow to continue discussion on concrete measures developed countries should take to compensate for climate harms experienced by developing countries.

Mr Iyoda gave a comprehensive recap of COP26 and told how the negotiations were from his point of view as a COP participant. All the students listened to the lecture intently and seemed quite satisfied with their learnings. In this lecture, it was stressed that the next 10 years toward 2030 would be a critical decade to keep 1.5℃ alive. We hope that the lecture will help the students deepen their understanding about and increase interest in climate issues.

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