Your introduction to COP26: UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021
COP26, or ‘Conference of the Parties’, is a 13-day event which brings together over 190 leaders from around the globe with the ultimate goal of uniting the world to tackle climate change. The 26th anniversary of the conference will be held in Glasgow and hosted by the UK on 31st October-12th November 2021.
In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, governments around the world have vowed to build societies and economies back stronger and greener. In fact, the UK government has just published its Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener. As world leaders gather at COP26, they will implement the goals of the Paris Agreement and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP26 has four clear goals, in this post we will unpack each one detailing how they can be achieved and the actions the UK government is already taking to support each one.
The conference in Glasgow is the final stage in a programme of events hosted by the UK Presidency that started over two years ago and will end in 2022, the Presidency for COP27 will then be transferred to an African Country.
This information has been sourced and summarised from the COP26 website – https://ukcop26.org/ – where you can find further information on the conference and how to tackle climate change.
Goal 1: Secure global net zero by 2050 and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
Our explanation: we need to use less carbon than we take from the atmosphere to reach net zero, in addition the planet’s temperature needs to be kept below 1.5 degrees. If we don’t change our behaviours temperatures will keep on rising causing continuous and more frequent severe weather changes, including flooding, droughts and storms.
How can we achieve this? Over the next 10 years, global emissions will need to be cut down by 50% ahead of the final 2050 deadline. All countries agreed to update and communicate their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) every five years as part of the Paris Agreement. The NDC details progression towards the targets and plans for the next five-year period.
There are many actions that can be taken to achieve these ambitions; we need to stop using fossil fuels as an energy source by investing in and using renewable energy. Next, we need to move away from buying petrol and diesel cars, instead opting for fully electric vehicles. Another solution to benefit communities and the climate is to protect and restore natural habitats and nature.
What actions is the government taking? By 2030, new petrol and diesel cars will no longer be allowed to be sold in the UK and hybrid cars have a separate deadline of 2035. Additionally, by 2035 all cars must be capable of emitting zero emissions. The UK is on course to phase out the use of coal power by 2024 and has set a target to move to 100% clean electricity by 2035 which will become a legal enforcement. Finally, the government has announced the goal that by 2035 all new heating appliances in homes and workplaces will be low carbon.
Goal 2: Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
Our explanation: climate change has caused massive devastation to communities, for example the increase in hurricanes and flooding. We need to protect communities, especially the most vulnerable, from further devastation. Action needs to be taken now as further changes to the climate are inevitable, even whilst we work to reduce emissions.
How can we achieve this? It is vital we protect eco-systems by reducing carbon emissions and building resilient infrastructure and agriculture to protect communities, their homes and livelihoods. Finance will be needed to install warning systems and defences to avoid further damage.
We also need to protect habitats to create a natural resilience against the effects of climate change; not only will it contribute to sustainable farming which supports people around the world, but it will provide natural protection against further devastating weather disasters.
By producing an Adaptation Communication, countries can summarise the methods they are taking to adapt to climate change and the challenges that arise. The plans will enable best working practice between countries and a chance to support each other where needed.
What actions is the government taking? The UK government has developed an Adaptation Action Coalition together with the United Nations Development Programme, Bangladesh, Egypt, Malawi, Saint Lucia and the Netherlands. It is designed to find solutions to help tackle the challenging impacts of climate change. Within the Net Zero Strategy, the government plans to spend significant capital on peat restoration and woodland creation and management by 2025. By 2050, the aim is to treble woodland creation rates and restore 280,000 approx. of peat in England.
Goal 3: Mobilise Finance
Our explanation: to mitigate the damage to the planet and protect communities and natural habitats, funding is essential. Private and public sectors around the world will need to help secure trillions in finances to secure net zero.
How can we achieve this? To manage the impacts of climate change, every country needs funding. Finance will be required from the public sector, who will develop the services required for a greener and climate-resilient economy. Whilst the private sector, who are equipped to fund tech and innovation to enhance climate change investment can provide the trillions of capital required. Additionally, developed countries need to fulfil their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year to support developing countries.
Unleashing the finance to achieve COP26 goals will not be easy, and climate change will need to be a key factor in every financial decision. Transparency over the risks and opportunities that the shift to a net zero economy might impose on companies will be required.
What actions is the government taking? The UK is enhancing its input in the International Climate Finance commitment with £11.6bn over the next five years to help developing nations reach the climate goals. Furthermore, over £26bn has been introduced in capital investment to help achieve net zero goals since The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution was published in November 2020. The government’s Net Zero Strategy also covers how more jobs will be created whilst reducing emissions from industries such as transport and power.
Goal 4: Working together to deliver
Our explanation: finance plays a crucial role in achieving the first two goals, but collaboration is needed to achieve the global targets to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.
How can we achieve this? The Paris Rulebook will need to be finalised which will implement the Paris Agreement. Three steps are required to achieve this: creating a solution for carbon markets that supports net zero targets. Secondly, ensuring transparency and support to encourage countries to keep to their commitments. Finally, all governments need to drive the ambition to keep 1.5 degrees in sight.
This is only the first step, once the rulebook is finalised action will need to be taken to deliver net zero. Everyone, from the government to businesses and civil societies, will need to address the ways homes and offices are powered, how food is produced, our methods of transport and infrastructure.
What actions is the government taking? As the president of COP26, the government is collaborating with the UN High Level Champions of Climate Action and others as a catalysis to achieve the global climate change goals.
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