Outcomes from COP26

COPs (Conference of Parties – a party is one of 197 nations and territories) exist to monitor and review steps being taken to achieve targets set out in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The latest COP26, which took place in Glasgow, has been and gone, but did it achieve its aims?

What were the goals of COP26?

  • Secure global net zero by 2050 and keep 1.5 degrees within reach (1.5 degrees is the absolute top end of how much global temperatures can rise without it being too late to save the planet). To be achieved by pushing for a real change in commitments to emissions reduction.
  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats by strengthening reaction to climate change impacts.
  • Mobilise finance by getting money where it needs to be for effective climate action.
  • Work together to deliver by enhancing international collaboration, including for the COP26 campaigns on energy transition, clean road transport and nature.

The agenda for COP26 focussed on 3 key areas:

  1. The Paris Rulebook – since COP25 in Paris in 2015 there’s been much debate around how to make the Paris Agreement law. The big stumbling block has been how to decide the financial mechanism for cost effective international cooperation to reduce emissions.
  2. Enhanced Action – every 5 years all the parties who signed the Paris Agreement need to enhance/increase their climate pledges. Most major parties have already committed to strengthening their targets, others used COP to present revised targets.
  3. Green finance – international funding for climate actions from the developed world was to reach $100 billion annually by 2020 (when COP26 would have taken place if the pandemic hadn’t happened). This was agreed at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. The actual sum so far provided is between $40 and $80 billion USD.

Did it achieve its aims?

On balance probably not. There were many promises to reduce carbon emissions and launches of encouraging international initiatives but a disappointing lack of action or effort to close the gap between pledges and detailed plans.

In brief the Glasgow Climate Pact was agreed. The salient points are :

  • A demand that governments review and strengthen their NDCs (nationally determined contributions) before the end of 2022, to bring them in line with the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal of 1.5 ⁰c. There’s a long way to go. 
  • A reference to ‘accelerating efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’. Although the language was watered down over the course of the negotiations, COP26 marks the first mention ever of reducing fossil fuels in a COP decision.
  • A ‘request’ that developed countries ‘fully’ deliver on the $100 billion of international funding for climate action. It remains unclear when this will happen.
  • A number of deals on issues such as phasing out various forms of fossil fuels and an end to deforestation. Monitoring these initiatives will be critical, and it’s not been agreed how this will happen.

What should my business learn from COP26?

  • The CBI was there for most of the 12 days, which is an indicator that Climate Change matters in business and a warning that business needs to react.
  • The amount of press coverage (not just because it took place in the UK) and the engagement with the public, especially younger generations, was significant.
  • A survey conducted after COP26 revealed that 75% of millennial consumers consider sustainability when making a purchase.
  • Proposals require big companies and institutions to publish detailed plans by 2023 on how they will hit climate change targets set in COP26. These plans are not yet confirmed, but it’s wise to assume that similar requirements will be made of SMEs in the not so distant future.
  • The need to embrace and understand Sustainability / CSR / ESG within business is critical and imperative – doing nothing is not an option.
  • The need to question whether your business is better with or without a greater understanding of Sustainable matters.
  • Over half of the UK’s largest businesses and a significant number of SMEs have already pledged to take part in the UN’s Race to Zero Campaign by 2050.

If you’d like advice on how to move your business in a sustainable direction please contact a member of our team on 01903 234094.