During 2021, whilst COVID has been at the forefront of the news, there has been an undertone of surmounting extreme weather events. Record-breaking snowfalls, wettest winters, cyclones, storms and record-breaking temperatures have filled the news in 2021. We are all becoming much more aware of the consequences of climate change than we were two years ago, we are living it. However, there is reason to hope!
What is COP26?
COP = Conference of the Parties, an annual conference between members of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change).
The upcoming COP26 is a new type of COP, one which aim is not to negotiate a new treaty, but for countries to bring forward their own nationally determined contributions (NDC’s) and assess what their combined impact surmounts to. At the Paris Agreement, it was decided each country brings forwards the state of play of their NDC every 5 years, 2020 marked the 5-year mark however as the world battled COVID19 gathering nations together was not possible. It is an ambition COP, accountability and acceleration will be key. COP26 is also the first time non-state actors are submitting commitments to net zero, actors in the finance sector and business world are pledging their goals for reducing emissions.
What are the main aims?
1. To secure net-zero by mid-century to keep limiting warming of 1.5 degrees to within reach.
This requires countries to come forward with ambitious targets for 2030, requiring the accelerated phase-out of coal, investment in renewables, reducing deforestation and large-scale rollouts of electric vehicles.
2. Adapt and protect communities and natural habitats.
The climate is changing, impacting unique and precious ecosystems throughout the planet. A unified response to protect the natural world, restore ecosystems and build defences and resilience is key.
3. Mobilise finance.
Developed countries must deliver on the promise to raise at least $100bn in climate finance per year.
4. Work together to deliver.
Finalise the Paris Rulebook and turn ambitions to action through accelerating targets, learning from each other and working collaboratively.
What is the 100billion goal?
In 2009 at COP15 in Copenhagen, it was agreed developing nations with high greenhouse gas emissions, would provide a climate finance target of $100 billion by 2020. This target has been missed (currently projected to be met in 2023), though formal figures will not be available until 2022. In 2019 $79.6 US Dollars had been pledged. This will likely be a large topic within the COP26 meetings.
Tracking the NDCs
NDCs are submitted prior to the COP (which starts on October 31st, 2021). The progress of their submission can be tracked on the Climate Action Tracker website and as of 28th October, 117 countries had submitted NDC’s prior to the COP, covering 61% global emissions and covering 50.4% global population.
The importance of collaboration
However, climate change is a collective problem that requires a collective response. The climate system is not simple, it is a series of complex systems, which can respond in a sudden jerky momentum when shifting from one equilibrium to another. The increasing weather extremes highlight just how important immediate action is, the system is already becoming unstable. Scientists have solid proof of the consequence of human actions and evidence why emissions need to halve by 2030. The planet is currently 1.1 degrees warmer than preindustrial levels and targets from the Paris Agreement would result in warming above 3 degrees by 2100, COP26 needs to result in more ambitious targets put forward by the large emitting nations. Scientists have shown the world needs to halve emissions over the next decade and reach net-zero by mid-century if we are to achieve limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. It is fundamental that targets are transformed into actions, developed nations work with developing countries to support the delivery of clean energy. Nature must be prioritised, forests left to sequester carbon, the air cleaned through action to end the fossil fuel era and ensuring resilience through maintaining the planet’s ecosystems.
What to watch for
The thing to watch at this COP is the pledges by some of the largest emitters, what will the US and China pledge? Whilst also noting how supported smaller nations and developing countries are, how collaborative are the discussions.
How COVID19 has impacted these climate negotiations?
COVID19 has not only delayed COP26 by a year, but has highlighted the issues of climate justice. COVID19 has impacted developing nations with a higher death rate, vaccine inequality and many challenges, making delivering their share of emission targets whilst trying to ensure growth post-pandemic a struggle.
Following this COP26, will be the COP27 in Egypt and the COP28 in Qatar as the world continues to try and tackle the decarbonisation of society.