What is COP26?
The following is a briefing on relevant and important information regarding COP26. Finally, I will present some new ideas about how to participate in COP26 online from the comfort of your home.
At the COP26 conference in Glasgow, world leaders discuss strategies and direct actions to combat climate change. Still a little confused? Here are the answers:
Governments from around the world have been meeting almost every year for almost three decades to discuss climate change. The United Nations framework convention on climate change or UNFCCC requires every country to have a plan and find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world. The UNFCCC stands for the United Nations Conference of Parties. The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) is scheduled for 31 October – 12 November 2021 in Glasgow.
What is the difference between the Paris agreement and the COP26? Do we need both?
The Paris agreement, 2015 (originally Marrakesh, 2014) was signed by 196 nations in 2015 at COP21 in which nations committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set term limits. Efforts were made to limit the temperature increase to 1.5-degree celsius as the 2-degree celsius increase was pursued. This agreement is legally binding. Along with the Paris agreement, countries have established non-binding national targets, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which include climate-related targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, Paris included a clause that allowed countries to modify their commitments as technology and the environment changed over time. Various countries are being urged to revise their NDCs before COP26 in order to achieve 1.5-degrees Celsius since they are not adequate.
Many countries are expected to release fresh NDCs over the next two weeks. This clause, however, is a source of excessive flexibility. Recently leaked information just 1.5 weeks before COP26 shows Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Australia are among the countries lobbying the UN to downplay the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels.
4 topics are on the COP26 agenda:
- Climate Finance: money provided by public and private sources to help developing countries reduce their emissions.
- Phasing out of coal usage: There is a global push toward this goal.
- The biggest challenge has been reducing methane emissions! Methane can heat the planet 80 times more than carbon dioxide does. Methane is emitted during the production of coal, natural gas and oil, livestock, and land use.
- Carbon trade: a platform where developed wealthy countries could “transfer” some of their carbon reduction to developing nations.
Momentum is moving fast. 4 main moves surrounding COP26:
1. The “code red” language increased urgency – TIME’S UP! Everyone must fight for 1.5
IPCC’s 6th assessment report, released recently, emphasizes the need for immediate action to keep temperatures below 1.5-degrees Celsius, as per the Paris agreement. In case anyone is interested in learning more about the IPCC and what it contains and why it is so meaningful, there is a terrific podcast called “Outrage and Optimism” with Christian Figueroa.
2. Growing political ambition
Being aware that we have set these incredible goals linked to the Paris agreement and are still far from achieving them, requiring us all to step up and take action, realizing that we are in this incredibly critical moment.
A real momentum was also experienced in 2021 as we began to recognize the growing political focus on these important topics. Economies including the US and the UK are significantly increasing their commitment to address this issue.
This growing political ambition can be connected to the G7, which is a group of seven rich countries that support measures forcing banks and companies to disclose their exposure to climate-related risks. A final communique released after the talks stated, “We support the move toward mandatory climate-related financial disclosures that provide consistent and decision-useful information for market participants…”. The G7 signaled that mandatory climate risk reporting for companies should be based on the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). Globally, the G20 has signaled their support for a carbon price and has called for mandatory reporting.
But it’s not just about political ambition. Non-state actors are also motivated by this. Non-state actors are other than those who are part of the “Conference of parties”. These are the non-party government and other forms of institutions stepping up.
3. Growing non-state actors ambitions and actions
Here are some of the recent data from the ‘Race to Zero’ coalition: a coalition of leading net zero initiatives represented by 733 cities, 31 regions, 3,067 businesses, 173 investors, and 622 higher education institutions. 120 countries, including these ‘real economy’ actors, have joined forces to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. Together, these actors account for over 50% of global GDP and nearly 25% of global CO2 emissions.
There has been a lot of activity around net zero since the last COP25 and there is a sister campaign, called “Race to Resilience”. In a world where we can thrive despite climate shocks and stresses, the campaign aims to catalyze a step-change in global ambition for climate resilience that puts people and nature first. With over 200 countries, 25 partners are building resilience in climate-vulnerable areas.
As COP26 approaches, the importance of the finance community becomes clearer.
4. Economic Opportunities
Over 160 firms, including UN Special Envoy Mark Carney, from the leading net zero initiatives across the financial system, have formed the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). It is designed to accelerate the transition to zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Glasgow Finance Alliance for Net-Zero.
The main vision for COP26:
Keeping 1.5C Alive :
State and non-state actors must work together so let’s just be clear that this is about having emissions in the next 9 years which are part of what we need to accomplish to meet this 1.5-degree target. In order to make progress, we’re going to see real demonstrations of those who are making these commitments.
2. Building resilience and solidarity
Inclusion is a form of absolute solidarity to those who have less access to more vulnerable voices and ensure their voices are amplified, making them heard clearly. Those focusing on constructing resilience for 4 billion of the most vulnerable Rule and Coastal and urban communities will see that really showing up in the stories and the ambitions going to be part of the race to resilience. Together with the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford School, the climate Champions team worked with other partners to produce the Justified Resilience and Solidarity V1 playbook for business which explains how organizations are deeply rooted in climate justice.
3. Mobilizing the finance needed
There have been commitments of 100 million dollars by the government, but it is going to be trillions of dollars by governments to transform those emerging economies as well as advanced economies in a safe and fairway.
For businesses to move forward, the government should create the conditions that allow them to do so:
Amendment section 172 – take investment decisions over a longer period of time, while taking various stakeholders into account. (Better business act UK)
Promoting systemic change:
Keys to success
- Ambition Loop
A clear direction and reasonable expectations are essential for success. To protect and strengthen the credibility of the Paris process, we must stay at 1.5-degrees Celsius. Increasing state and non-state actors’ ambitions, creating an ambition loop, and putting more pressure on the negotiators.
Challenges to this success
- Narrow Focus
- Commitment Fatigue
- Media Cynicism
Data-driven Vs Data drawing
Despite the fact that data is essential for understanding whether companies are delivering on their commitments, where, and how, there are a number of challenges. There are more than 300 ESG data providers, for example; not all correlate on outcomes, making it challenging to create strategies. Your answer might be: more data, or more reliable data, depending on your industry.
COP26 online participation:
How can you get involved?
All events will take place at the Scottish Event Campus, where the conference will take place under the Presidency of the Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and are clustered in several categories:
- Action Hub events
- Marrakech Partnership events (including Future Labs)
- Global Climate Action Awards Events
Engage online with these 3 platforms:
- YouTube Broadcast Future Labs COP26 conversations: Bold ideas for systems change to accelerate a transition to a just and regenerative future.
- Imagining what your boardroom of the future – B Lab UK Boardroom 2030 Activation Kit, inviting organizations worldwide to open their minds and reflect on 2030’s future board room in your own organization: Who is around the boardroom table? Where is the boardroom meeting taking place? ; What is on the agenda?; What decisions need to be made; How are decisions made? ; What rules need to be followed?
- Live stream on the UNFCCC webcast page and the video files are later made available on-demand and downloadable.
Let’s not choose extinction
An ideal outcome of COP26 would be a series of targeted action-oriented consortiums. The conference will provide world leaders with one last opportunity to work together. Only this can result in real change for ourselves, as well as for people and the planet.
What are your takeaways? feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
The article was inspired by the webinar: The Road to COP26: What you need to know and how you can be part of this moment that matters. Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
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