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Your guide to Glasgow
Issue 73 - 12 October 2021 (5-min read)
In two weeks, world leaders, climate activists and thousands of people committed to doing something about climate change will gather in Glasgow, and virtually from around the world, to attend the COP26 Summit. Not all of them have the same level power to actually make a difference when it comes to cutting global emissions, but global attention on the summit will hopefully add enough pressure on those who can do something to get us on the right track.
This week, The Global Tiller brings you our own guide to Glasgow to help you understand what COP26 is, why it is important and what to keep an eye out for.
We hope you find this guide helpful and would love to hear from you about who you’re following around in Glasgow.
Until next week, take care and stay safe.
Hira & Philippe
What is COP26?
COP26 is the 2021 United Nations climate change conference. For nearly three decades, the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. In that time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. With the UK as President, COP26 takes place in Glasgow.
Why is it important?
To understand why COP26 is getting more attention than the last few ones, you have to go back to COP21 — the Paris Agreement — that took place in 2015. This is the first time every country agreed to work together to limit global warming well below 2°C and aim for 1.5°C. They promised to make national plans (called Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs) to show how they will comply with this agreement and to meet every five years to show their progress. COP26 is their opportunity to do so since the Covid-19 pandemic delayed last year’s meeting.
Did we meet the goals set out in the Paris Agreement?
No. In February this year, UN Climate Change published the NDS Synthesis Report, covering submissions by countries up to December 2020. The majority of these countries increased their levels of ambition to reduce emissions. Nevertheless, the level of ambition communicated through these NDCs indicates that changes in these countries’ total emissions would be small, less than -1%, in 2030 compared to 2010. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by contrast, has indicated that emission reduction ranges to meet the 1.5°C temperature goal should be around -45% in 2030 compared to 2010.
What does COP26 hope to achieve?
Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5°C within reach
Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets (NDCs) that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century. To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to accelerate the phaseout of coal, encourage investment in renewables, curtail deforestation and speed up the switch to electric vehicles.
Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
At COP26, the goal is that countries will commit to working together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.
Countries need to manage the increasing impacts of climate change on their citizens’ lives and they need the funding to do it. The scale and speed of the changes we need to make will require all forms of finance: public finance to develop green and climate-resilient infrastructure; and private finance to fund technology and innovation. Developed countries will have to deliver on their promise to raise at least $100 billion every year in climate finance to support developing countries.
Work together to deliver
A big goal for COP26 is to reach an agreement in the negotiations — that’s the only way to achieve the rest of the goals. The focus during the upcoming COP26 will be to finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational) and to accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.
What to keep an eye out for?
Some of the world’s largest emitters have missed the UN’s extended deadline for submitting updated climate plans to be included in an assessment of progress towards the Paris Agreement goals ahead of COP26. This includes: China, India, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Others like Australia merely reaffirmed old targets with no increase in ambition. Brazil even weakened its commitment by changing its baseline.
Slow vaccine rollouts in poorer nations means that either several climate activists and civil society groups from those countries may be unable to attend the negotiations at COP26, or that they will be jumping the queue due to their status as UN negotiators while the frontline workers in their countries are still waiting for their jabs. Not to mention, the UK also only approved limited Covid-19 vaccines so delegates who received shots from any ‘unapproved’ manufacturer will be undergoing mandatory quarantine requirements.
China’s Xi Jinping will neither be attending the G20 leaders’ summit nor COP26, calling into question the likelihood of getting any significant commitments achieved. It is worth pointing out that President Xi did claim that his country "will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad" and plans to boost support for clean energy in developing nations,” during the UN General Assembly in September.
It will be worth paying attention to the details of US President Joe Biden’s announcement of doubling public financial assistance to developing countries to help them deal with climate impacts. This move, although dependent on Biden’s success in getting Congress approval, may push other countries to increase or match their pledges.