Thu 28 October 2021 View all news

COP26 - The 26th Conference of the Parties - will take place in Glasgow from 31st October to 12 November. Billed as perhaps the most important international gathering in human history, world leaders aim to forge agreements that will keep global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the level beyond which impacts on people and nature would be widespread and severe.

The Conference, hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, will take place in the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow. The event was originally slated for November 2020 but was rescheduled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The UK presidency describes the over-arching aims of COP26 as being to:

1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach: Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.

To deliver on these stretching targets, the UK Presidency says that countries will need to:

  • accelerate the phase-out of coal
  • curtail deforestation
  • speed up the switch to electric vehicles
  • encourage investment in renewables.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

3. Mobilise finance

  • To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020. 
  • International financial institutions must play their part and we need work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

4. Work together to deliver

The UK Presidency says that at COP26 we must:

  • finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational).
  • accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

In populist terms the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has said he wants to see "progress on coal, cash, cars and trees".  

Scientists agree that at two degrees of global warming, there would be widespread and severe impacts on people and nature. A third of the world’s population would be regularly exposedto severe heat, leading to health problems and more heat-related deaths. With these increases, almost all warm water coral reefs would be destroyed, and the Arctic sea ice would melt entirely at least one summer per decade, with devastating impacts on the wildlife and communities they support. Scientists say that two degrees of warming could trigger the irreversible loss of ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic, leading to several metres of sea level rise over centuries to come.

At 1.5 degrees of warming the impacts would be serious, but less severe, with lower risks of food and water shortages, lower risks to economic growth and fewer species at risk of extinction. 

Representing key elements of the climate challenge, discussion at the COP will focus specifically on Transport on November 10 and on Energy on November 4. (See the full schedule of events here.)

The UK Presidency has listed the accelerated transition to electric vehicles as one of the four key elements needed to 'keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach'.

Six years ago, the Paris Agreement represented a landmark global treaty which committed nearly 200 signatory nations and blocs to keeping global temperature rises to well below 2°C – and aiming for 1.5°C.  COP26 aims to keep the Paris Agreement goals within reach – to close gaps and build momentum beyond Glasgow, into the next, critical, decade for climate action.

Currently, countries nationally determined contributions (NDCs – countries’ emissions pledges) don't add up to that 1.5°C ambition – nor even to well-below 2°C. Experts say that, based on current emissions trajectories, we’re on track for 2.7°C. Though there have been some recent advances, several key countries have not yet submitted NDCs compatible with the ambition.

In 2020, wealthy nations pledged to provide $100bn a year to developing countries. However, with days to go, it appears the funding pledge will not be met until 2022. There are suggestions that additional funds from 2023 and beyond will be needed to compensate for the early shortfall.

Announcements are expected at COP on sector specific issues, focusing on the coal phase out, ending deforestation, accelerating the phase-out of petrol/diesel-fuelled cars, cutting methane and ending fossil fuel finance.  The UK Presidency, with other leaders, has been working to build these ahead of COP and announcements are expected with leading nations seeking to sign up more members. The actions of large emitters, particularly the US, China and India will be vital. Progress on cutting methane (a particularly potent greenhouse gas) emissions reduction has been identified as a priority.

The primary benchmarks for the success of COP26 are whether it can move national emissions trajectories more into line with global goals (ie keeping hopes of containing global heating to less than 1.5C alive) and also whether it finalises the technical rulebook for the Paris Agreement.

COP26 must keep the Paris goals within reach, build momentum and mutual trust while showing progress across each of the priority areas.  The success of COP26 may well be measured by whether there is more momentum towards net zero after it than there was before the gathering.

According to Business Green's James Murray: "An historic breakthrough remains possible. The Summit will deliver huge steps forward for efforts to decarbonise the real economy...The overarching signal to businesses and investors will be that the net zero transition is irreversible and building momentum. Brinkmanship, backroom deals, and fudged comprises could yet secure a technical agreement. But, equally, deadlocked negotiations could easily overshadow the progress made on other fronts and fuel the perception that the whole exercise has failed to deliver on its core goals."

COP26 is organised into two zones: The 'Blue Zone' is for people registered with the UN body tasked with coordinating the global
response to the threat of climate change – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  In this zone,  delegates from countries meet for both formal negotiations and informal consultations. The 'Green Zone' is for the general public where there will be a wide range of events, including workshops, art exhibitions and installations, as well as presentations, demonstrations of technology and musical performances for everyone to attend.

Zemo Partnership will be reporting to members and newsletter subscribers as COP26 progresses (updates on 8 Nov and 11 Nov - the day after 'Transport Day) plus a webinar to discuss the event's impacts and implications for the transport & mobility sector to be held from 4-5.30pm on Tuesday 23 November (Zemo members only - booking details to follow).

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