This last fortnight has seen the eyes of the world fall on Glasgow as it hosted the much-anticipated global COP26 summit. Now the summit has drawn to a close, this article brings you up to speed with why it took place, the pledges that have been set, and share some of the resources Shoosmiths has created as all efforts turn to limit global warming and the impact of climate change.
‘Conference of the Parties number 26’ was the 26th time signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty have met. The UK hosted COP26 between 1 and 12 November at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow.
The two-week summit was seen as a critical moment for commitments and action, with a record number of delegates and world leaders meeting to set the global agenda on slowing climate changing and reaching a consensus on actions to keep global warming to 1.5°C.
Decisions that were made:
Science and urgency
Previous summits have been criticised for either not taking enough action on climate change, taking action too slowly, or failing to initiate substantial enough investments into sustainable solutions. In response, the Glasgow Climate Pact captures and voices country’s wishes to fully embed science and sustainable decisions into all decision-making processes. The UN is now also directed to assess climate plans every year, turning every COP into a vital moment for nations to make further commitments.
‘Adaptation’ is used to describe funding to help poorer countries become more resilient against extreme weather caused by climate change. Investments may include new sea defences, more resilient power grids, or smarter early warning systems for wilder weather. A notable outcome of COP26, as recorded in the Pact, is the call for “developed countries to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing country parties from 2019 levels by 2025.”
Financial organisations controlling $130tn agreed to back ‘clean technology’, such as renewable energy, and direct finance away from fossil fuel-burning industries. The initiative is seen as an attempt to involve private companies in meeting net zero targets.
The outcome includes a series of actions that all parties are expected to take to accelerate their efforts following the summit, these include:
- A stronger commitment to limit global temperature rises to 1.5oC, and greater acknowledgement of the latest science which reflects the urgent need to take action during this critical decade
- The ‘phase-down of unabated coal power’ and ‘inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’, as well as ‘mid-century net zero’
- Leaders from more than 100 countries, with about 85% of the world's forests, promising to stop deforestation by 2030
Finance, technology transfer and capacity-building for mitigation and adaptation
Parties agreed to continue discussions on long-term finance through to 2027 and have asked the Standing Committee on Finance to prepare a report on progress towards achieving the $100bn goal.
Representatives have also agreed to begin the process of setting a new collective post-2025 goal, citing that this process would be ‘open, inclusive and transparent’, seeking a broad range of views and inputs from across the globe.
Loss and damage
Loss and damage, discussed between the parties, refers to the impacts of climate change which occur beyond the limits of societies’ and ecosystems’ ability to adapt. It endorsed the need for a substantial amount of extra money to be provided to tackle loss and damage through existing sources.
It was agreed countries will meet next year to pledge further cuts to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the greenhouse gas which causes climate change. This is to try to keep temperature rises within 1.5C. Current targets, if met, will only limit global warming to about 2.4°C.
COP26 was the moment countries revisited climate pledges made under the 2015 Paris Agreement. COP26 finalised the Paris ‘rulebook’, resolving the outstanding political decisions needed for parties to begin implementing the agreement. Parties also agreed a number of important practical and institutional arrangements, such as on Response Measures (responding to the impacts of climate policies) and the Consultative Group of Experts (to help fulfil reporting requirements).
COP26 voiced aims to be both open and inclusive, with a greater variety of voices heard from across all corners of the world. This included responding to calls for further youth inclusion and those from low income countries. Plans have been drawn up on advancing climate education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and international cooperation as part of a new flexible framework.
The world's biggest CO2 emitters, the US and China, pledged to cooperate more over the next decade in areas including methane emissions and the switch to clean energy.
Common time frames
A previous lack of consistency across time periods and implementation periods of nation’s commitments meant it was difficult to track, aggregate and compare targets and successes. Following growing calls to resolve this at COP26, a recommended plan has been put in place to allow a common time frame for commitments set forward by parties in 2025 to show what 2035 climate commitments add up to.
Most commitments made at COP will have to be self-policed, with only a few countries making their targets and pledges legally binding.
Enhanced transparency framework
By finalising the Enhanced Transparency Framework, an agreement was reached on how to track and communicate progress in tackling climate change as nations look to implement the Paris Agreement. This includes a series of common reporting tables that will track parties’ emissions, support, and progress towards their nationally determined contributions – with nations agreeing to submit climate plans to a common five-year timeframe.
So, what does this mean?
Right now, the world is 1.2°C warmer than it was at the end of the 19th century. With the government drive towards carbon net zero, and a vested interest from stakeholders across the board – investors, customers, employees, suppliers and communities – it is crucial for businesses to establish, or revisit, their sustainability strategies to ensure tangible outcomes.
Shoosmiths is committed to a net zero emissions future, with a target for its operations to achieve net zero emissions by 2025 and a commitment made and recently approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to set science-based emissions reduction targets across the entire value chain that are consistent with keeping global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – further detail of which can be found here.
To aid our clients on their net zero journey we have recently partnered with Cornwall Insight to produce a report exploring the potential routes to decarbonisation that businesses have at their disposal to meet their net zero targets - ‘Unlocking net zero strategies for businesses’ which is available here. We are also hosting a virtual webinar on COP26 and the future of Environmental Regulation on Wednesday 24 November. Further insights COP26 and related articles can be found on our ‘New How: Green recovery’ page.