COP26 – what follows next for implementing partners like NIRAS

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Lena Ruthner

Lena Ruthner

Climate Change Sector Lead

Our experience in fund management, capacity building and project preparation can support international donors and recipient countries to deliver on their commitments

November 15, 2021

Late on Saturday [13 November 2021], a final deal was sealed at COP26 in Glasgow. Can we hail it a success or failure? Following the different perspectives of the demonstrators outside the negotiation room and the diplomats inside, the unsatisfactory answer is both.

On the one hand, the agreement nudges the world a little closer on the path to keeping global temperature rises below 1.5C and avoiding the worst climate impacts. On the other hand, there is still a steep mountain to climb with current commitments only leading us to a 2.4C temperature rise, which would still result in catastrophic climate impacts for humanity and the planet.

The agreement concluded in Glasgow essentially gives us a little more time to mobilise support from key emitters: countries with mitigation commitments that are not yet in line with the 1.5 C goal must return in a year to enhance them. Though “coal phase-out” has been watered down to “coal phase-down” in the final text of the agreement, this is still a major step forward. The climate finance commitment of richer nations of USD100bn per year to support poorer nations in their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change - already agreed in 2009 for 2020 - will now likely be delivered from 2023 onwards. All parties conceded that adaptation finance will have to double in size as a large majority of the funds are currently going to emission cuts rather than building resilience. Nevertheless, there was major disappointment from the side of climate vulnerable countries as their request for the high emitters to compensate nations for the heatwaves, storms and floods that are already hitting did not materialise.

The climate crisis has unfolded over many decades and, though the last few years have seen the global public waking up to the catastrophic consequences of inaction, solutions and mitigation efforts are not catching up fast enough. The COP26 deal means that the next couple of years will be truly ‘make or break’. We need leaders across the political, social and economic spectrum to take bold action and test new and innovative approaches.

Setting the stage for sustainable solutions and climate change adaptation efforts - NIRAS' role?

As a development consultancy working with international donors and governments, businesses and civil society in the Global South, NIRAS is at the forefront of the support required to implement these bold actions in multiple ways [you might also be interested in my colleague Kirsty Wilson’s blog on this topic published earlier this month]. Following are only a few of our experiences that we can turn into opportunities:

  • We are supporting recipient country governments to develop mitigation and adaptation plans and policies that will support actions and provide the framework for the low carbon climate resilient transition. Examples include our Off-Grid Clean Energy Facility in Benin or our work on Strategic Technical Assistance in Reforms Towards Energy Efficiency and Renewables (STARTER) in Ukraine. It will be crucial to develop realistic policy solutions that are embedded in the national and local contexts, building on robust assessments and data and learning from best practice examples elsewhere.
  • To deliver the more than USD100bn climate finance commitment, donor countries will have to set up efficient disbursement mechanisms and funds that encourage local action, knowledge transfer and private sector contributions. This is an area where we have a lot of experience as you can read on our Fund Management service page. Two interesting examples include the FCDO-funded Green Economic Growth programme in Papua Provinces and the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative and Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund, which NIRAS has managed for more than 15 years and also includes a climate-focused funding window.
  • Recipient countries will have to put the right governance structures in place and develop capacities to absorb these funds, channelling the support into projects that create local ownership and real impacts on the ground. Gender and inclusion considerations are key here to support a just transition, and our work on gender-responsive budgeting to ensure inclusivity in public finance management is a good example of this.
  • Closely linked to this, a lot of work will have to go into technical assistance and project preparation activities in the coming years to create sufficient investments, bankable projects and enabing infrastructure on the ground. For example, the Energy and Environment Partnership Programme in the Mekong region was a catalyst for early stage as well as last mile financing to accelerate renewable energy, business development and access to energy that is reliable, affordable and sustainable. NIRAS understands the crucial need to create ownership, capacities and a supportive policy climate for these projects to run efficiently.
  • Skills development in recipient countries will be key to allow the local work force to benefit from these investments and build, run and maintain sustainable infrastructure and investments. At NIRAS we have significant experience in capacity development, technical and vocational education training as well as international training programmes specifically where we share Nordic good practice in implementing sustainable solutions.

Though the challenges ahead of us can seem daunting, optimism has to prevail. The above shows that NIRAS has a lot of expertise to offer and is ready to work with governments and international donors to secure our joint future.