Oct 6, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Energy crisis adds to the COP26 headwinds

Illustration of flames burning.
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The energy crisis roiling global markets is adding a wild card to an already unfavorable geopolitical deck of cards that will be handed to world leaders at the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, which starts at the end of the month.

Why it matters: For the Paris temperature targets to be kept even remotely viable, studies show countries must make sharp cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and move toward net-zero emissions by midcentury at the latest, or risk far more severe climate impacts.

Driving the news: The energy crisis has featured gasoline shortages in the U.K., a seven-year high in oil prices, and record-high prices for natural gas in Europe as part of a series of connections pushing prices up before the winter chill sets in.

The intrigue: The big question right now is what policymakers will do in response to the energy crunch, and how that will affect COP26.

  • "It's really clear that the prices to the consumer are a major concern," Jeff Berman, director of energy transition analysis at Rapidan Energy Group, told Axios.
  • Berman says the summit could see dueling priorities playing out, with some countries seeking to speed up the energy transition, citing the energy crunch and rising prices as a reason, while others see what's going on now as justification to go slower.

What we're watching: Perhaps the biggest unknown is China.

  • Tense relations between the world's top emitter and the second-largest carbon polluter, the U.S., already stood in the way of a major breakthrough in Glasgow.
  • How China's energy shortages (mostly coal) alter their negotiating stance coming into Glasgow could make or break the summit.
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