Here’s everything you need to know about COP-26:

What is COP-26?

  • COP-26 is the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties
  • It will take place in Glasgow, Scotland between the 31st October and 12th November
  • It is being hosted by the U.K. government in partnership with Italy
  • 190 world leaders are expected to attend the conference

Why is COP-26 important?

The aim of COP-26 is to bring global leaders together to ‘accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris agreement and the UN framework convention on climate change.’ For many in the environmental and climate activism sphere, COP-26 is seen as a critical opportunity. A crucial moment to catalyse global action against the climate crisis and bring the commitments made under the Paris Agreement to fruition. As COP26 President Alok Sharma put it, ‘Paris promised. Glasgow must deliver.’

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement was adopted by the 196 parties in attendance at the COP21 conference in 2015. The agreement established a framework that would ideally limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, with an upper bound of 2 degrees celcius.

The Paris Agreement was hailed as a ‘landmark in the multilateral climate change process’. This is because it theoretically solidified global commitment to tackling the Climate Crisis. Under the agreement each country committed to presenting their national roadmap outlining how they would reduce their emissions – so-called ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs). NDCs are updated on a five-year cycle to reflect each nation’s ‘highest possible ambition and a progression over time.’

Was COP-21 a success?

As highlighted in the NDC Synthesis Report, published by UN Climate Change, global efforts to implement necessary socio-economic changes and reduce greenhouse emissions are not yet sufficient to achieve the Paris Agreement goals by the end of the century. In fact, ‘the commitments laid out in Paris did not come close to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.’

2020 marked five years since COP-21, and therefore also the deadline for updated NDCs. The hope is that each nation will update their NDCs, ahead of the conference, to reflect a thorough commitment to the 1.5 degree limit.

Which countries submitted their new NDCs?

As of October, 140 countries (70% of the Paris Agreement Signatories) have submitted a new or updated NDC. China and India, responsible for 31% of Global Emissions collectively, have not.

Some countries have, as hoped, submitted more ambitious goals for emissions reductions. However, this progress has been counteracted by pledges, such as Brazil’s, that are actually weaker than their original NDCs. Plus, other countries such as Australia and Japan, have submitted ambitions that are essentially equal to their previous submissions.

What are the goals of COP26?

  • Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach, by:
    • Accelerating the phase-out of coal
    • Curtailing deforestation
    • Speeding up the transition to electric vehicles
    • Encouraging investment in renewables
  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats by:
    • Building defences, warning systems, and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of lives, homes, and livelihoods
    • Protecting and restoring ecosystems
  • Mobilise up to $100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020
  • Crystallise global cooperation against the Climate Crisis by:
    • Finalising how to make the Paris Agreement operational
    • Encouraging inter-governmental, business and societal collaboration

Will COP-26 be a success?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the 1.5 degree target is achievable, but only if unprecedented and radical action is taken now. Plus, COP-26 will have to make clear that vague commitments to net-zero by 2050 won’t suffice. It is clear and ambitious reduction targets aiming for 2030 that will be critical in achieving the 1.5 degree goal.

However, although onlookers are hopeful for COP-26’s potential, there is also reason for skepticism. A recent leak of documents shows, somewhat discouragingly, that nations such as Saudia Arabia, Japan and Australia are lobbying the UN to ‘play down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels.’ Plus, even Boris Johnson has admitted fears that they will be unable to secure the necessary agreements.

Mobilisation of global climate finance

Firstly, COP-26 will need to secure the mobilisation of $100 billion per year of global climate finance. This would mean seeing developed countries actually fulfill their 2010 COP-16 promise to support climate action in developing nations financially by 2020.

Unfortunately, since Copenhagen, the Global North has systematically fallen short of their promise, with a UN report last year concluding that, ‘although on an upward trajectory, [global climate finance is] still falling short of the $100 billion per year by 2020 target.’

Although Biden’s administration recently pledged to double US climate finance again to $11.4 billion a year by 2023, this is still insufficient to reach the $100 billion global target.

Finalising the Paris Rulebook

Another crucial outcome for COP-26 would be the finalisation of the ‘Paris Rulebook’. This would set out the rules needed to implement the Paris Agreement, comprising:

  • A solution on carbon markets that will create a carbon credits system that supports net-zero
  • Resolution of issues on transparency, that will encourage all signatories to honour their climate commitments
  • An agreement that drives governmental ambition to achieve 1.5 degrees

For many, the most critical aspect of the Paris Rulebook is that which relates to the governance of international emissions trading, as per Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. This article makes provisions for public and private stakeholders to trade emissions reductions, thus ‘slash[ing] the global bill for meeting long-term climate protection targets.’

In conclusion, the basic principle is this: a country that surpasses its emissions reductions target would be able to sell its ‘surplus credits’ to another country which was falling short. However, it is imperative that COP-26 sees clear rules surrounding how governments account and trade these credits agreed.

How will COP-26 affect Business?

Agreements made at COP-26 are likely to impact businesses all around the world.  Net-zero targets are not conserved to environmentalists and governments, but affect business stakeholders too. So businesses should use COP-26 as an opportunity to gain clarity and insight into future environmental legislation. This will help them to identify opportunities and understand how climate commitments will affect their operations.

ESG Commitments

COP-26 is likely to accelerate calls for changes in how businesses operate, and how transparent they are about their activities. The implementation of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices and commitments will likely become more important to achieve long-term sustainability.

The importance and influence of the notion of sustainable finance (investment in ESG compliant businesses) will only increase as societies all over the world begin to further demand urgent and better positive action on the environment and social justice. COP-26 is likely to catalyse social calls for palpable climate action on the part of governing institutions as well as businesses.

Read about why ESG is important for your business in our blog article

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