COP26 heads into overtime, what will be the outcome for Thailand?

On this extra day, the climate change conference – COP26 – is yet to come to a conclusion.

With world leaders yet to come to a consensus over the “Cover Decision” document. Some of the issues of contention include – elimination of fossil fuels and coal, payments to support developing countries already hit by losses and damages as a result of climate change impacts, and including carbon credit buying and selling mechanisms (Article 6).

EU Representative Frans Timmermans reveals a picture of his grandson during a meeting of international representatives (Image: UNFCCC Broadcast)

“Cas, my one-year-old grandson will be 31 in 2050. If we fail, he will have to fight with others for water and food. Therefore, keeping the global average temperature above 1.5 degrees is to give our children an unlivable world,” said EU Representative Frans Timmermans as he opened the photo of his grandson on his cellphone during his presentation at a meeting of representatives. “I want other children to have a good life as well. This is not politics This is a personal matter.”

COP26 should be aiming to keeping global temperatures from rising above 1.5C from the pre-industrial revolution. The global temperature is already set to rise to 2.4-2.7 degrees Celsius.

“The global temperature is 1.5 degrees, for us in Africa it is 3 degrees. We cry when it doesn’t rain. 1.5 is not just a record. But life and death matters to us,” the Kenyan representative said. “It’s not fair. The major polluting countries are more responsible.”

It is in line with several other countries hardest hit by climate volatility and insists that countries emitting the most greenhouse gases should be paying finance to low-emitting developing countries. Tuvalu is a Pacific island nation that has been sinking due to rising sea levels and the representative from this island was in tears as he stated that the results of the negotiations were not leading to a real solution and he urged the negotiators to come up with a more serious deal at COP26.

According to the Chinese representative, it is not only important to consider the science, but rules must be taken into account, reiterating the implementation of the Paris Agreement of 2015 and holding importance for mitigation, adaptation, and finance.

One issue that remains inconclusive is the deadline for submitting climate mitigation plans (NDCs), which require each country to submit a report on its greenhouse gas emissions and UN targets every five years. The emissions gap is large right now compared to where it needs to be, so requests came in to adjust the gap faster. It is hoped that many countries whose greenhouse gas reduction plans are not consistent with maintaining a global temperature of 1.5 degrees will review and resubmit. While some countries argue that the time adjustment will be in violation of the Paris Agreement.

The issue is still controversial. It can be summarized as follows.

  • Coal use: It “urges members to accelerate the retirement of coal and fossil fuel subsidies,” is the first of a written climate agreement to directly address coal and fossil fuels. However, it is noted that they are still open to voluntary reductions of each country.

    At this meeting, 23 countries have announced goals to reduce their coal use. Thailand did not join the declaration. The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment explained that Thailand still has Mae Moh coal-fired power plants and small private ones. Therefore, the renewable energy plan must be ready before joining the contract that will be an obligation and must be considered by the Cabinet.
  • Finance: Rich countries are scheduled to contribute $100 billion a year to the climate fund to compensate affected countries for mitigation and adaptation. The remittance is estimated to be due in 2025, but many developing countries are demanding that the remittance be completed by 2023 and to double the amount.

This year, Thailand has received approval for 525 million baht for water management projects in the Yom and Nan river basins to cope with global warming. This is the first time that Thailand has received support from the said fund.

  • Buying and selling carbon: This is essentially the use of market mechanisms available to stimulate greenhouse gas reductions. Polluters would be encourage “buy” credit from countries with low emissions or with forested areas that have the potential to absorb the gas, causing the remaining credit to be “sold”

The main argument here is that several aspects may not reflect the real greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently, the Thai delegation launched the Thailand Carbon Neutral Network (TCNN) in Glasgow, a network of more than 122 member organizations in Thailand to support carbon emission assessments. Developing the potential to buy-sell carbon credits and set a “voluntary” reduction target, with major Thai greenhouse gas emissions companies such as PTT, Charoen Pokphand Group including the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

However, this carbon-trading mechanism has raised questions from activists whether it detracts from businesses trying to make production more environmentally friendly and accelerating the expansion of forest areas, leading to conflicts between people and forests which is a long-standing problem in Thailand

The COP26 meeting is scheduled to resume on Saturday at 12 noon local time (19:00 GMT), with the latest draft of the controversial Paris Agreement document being released to the public two hours earlier.

This story was originally published on Green News, with the support of Climate Tracker.

Nicha Wachpanich
Bangkok-based journalist covering environmental stories from policymaking table to the the river bank communities. Nicha believes everybody deserves to know what’s going on with their life and how the changing climate is affecting us all. She sees that it’s time people know about the global negotiations and how they will impact on the local scale.