The 26th annual UN Climate Conference will take place this year in Glasgow from 1st to 12th November 2021 under the UK Presidency and in partnership with Italy. It was delayed due to Coronavirus.
At the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit held in June 1992, three international conventions were discussed and signed by 197 countries. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the agreement addressing climate change, whose purposes are to prevent human activities that are dangerous for the environment and stabilise greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
The UNFCCC was ratified by 197 Parties to the Convention. Once a year, these Parties meet at a ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP). The COP is the UNFCCC’s decision-making body that negotiates and discusses how to best tackle climate change.
- COP3 – Kyoto Protocol (1997). First legally binding agreement treaty aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. Agreed in 1997, but ran from 2005 to 2020 after long negotiations. The US, Canada and China pulled out.
- COP15 – Copenhagen accord (2009). Second attempt at a legally binding global regime. Despite great expectations, talks break down. However, nations agree on trying to limit average temperature increase below 2°C. Besides, rich nations pledge to provide $100bn per year to the poorest by 2020.
- COP21 – Paris agreement (2015). Historic agreement to replace the extension of the Kyoto Protocol from 2020. Stating that the international community will do its utmost to keep global warming well below +2°C, or even limit it to +1.5°C. All states have committed to publishing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets depending on their individual circumstances and capabilities.
Since then, COPs’ purposes have been to seek an agreement on the details of implementations and finance and to ramp up nations’ ambition on climate action. It was also agreed at the time that every five years there would be a review of progress.
COP26 will be the first summit where the Parties will review the progress made – or not – since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015. Allowing COP negotiators to know which nations are holding back and which are making progress.
The most needed outcomes of COP26 are to radically raise ambition, mobilise finance and find an agreement on the ‘Paris rulebook’.
Until recently, reduction targets still reflected 3°C of warming by 2100. Paris Agreements signatories are required to submit enhanced targets aligned with reaching net zero by the middle of the century, before COP26. Net-zero means cutting all possible greenhouse gas emissions, and then ensuring that the remaining emissions are removed by natural systems (e.g. trees, or peat) or technologies (e.g. direct air carbon capture and storage) that absorb carbon.
At COP26, an enhancement in financial contributions by rich countries is expected to be able to meet the original pledge of COP15 (the threshold of $100bn per year in financial support to poorer countries has not yet been achieved). This achievement is critical if nations want to stand a chance in reaching their targets and especially to enable poorer countries to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts.
Detailed rules to make the Paris Agreement operational
The Paris rulebook is the process whereby nations agree on the rules to achieve Paris agreements goals and on the requirements over how delivery against it will be measured and judged.
The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.
The true attempt is clear: TURN AMBITION INTO ACTION. Targets and rulebooks will not be enough to reach Net-Zero. Collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society is needed to change the way our consumption and living standards are affecting the planet.
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