From October 31st till November 12th, Glasgow will be the centre of the world for climate change mitigation. All the representatives of 195 signatory countries of the United Nations Framework Convention (UNFCCC) which was signed in the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 will be present there to discuss and review how are we doing in the fight with climate change.
It will be already a 26th meeting of the so called “Conference of the Parties (COP)” that has taken place every year since 1992 with the exception of last year due to the COVID pandemic.
Such conferences do not always result in agreements. The first agreement achieved was the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which set binding emission reduction targets for 36 industrialised countries and the European Union. Overall, these targeted on average 5 per cent emission reduction compared to 1990 levels over the five-year period of 2008–2012 in the first phase. In the second phase from 2013 to 2020 the Parties committed to reduce GHG emissions by at least 18 per cent below 1990 levels. The USA however was notably absent from both phases of the Kyoto Protocol and also it focused only on developed countries.
This changed with the Paris Agreement achieved as part of COP21. It was the largest gathering of world leaders in history, and closed with the adoption of the Paris Agreement: a new global agreement on tackling climate change. The Paris Agreement, which measures take effect in 2020, is distinctly different from the Kyoto Protocols, as it calls for action from all 195 signatory countries and not just the industrialised nations.
The Paris Agreement (COP21) has set 3 key precedences in comparison with the previous agreement.
- Mitigation: collectively reducing carbon emissions
- Adaptation: proactively responding to the effects of climate change
- Loss and damage: rational response to climate catastrophes where it supports the notion that wealthier countries help poor and vulnerable countries take agreed on actions.
All the signatories of the Paris Agreement made pledges that they will follow the greenhouse gas reduction objectives as set by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) through ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ which set national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by either 2025 or 2030.
The review of these Nationally Determined Contributions will be the key objective of the COP 26. As per the initial NDC Synthesis report, the discussions will not be easy since the updated NDCs are estimated to lead to total GHG emission levels just about 3% lower for 2030 than under the Parties’ previous NDCs. By 2030, the emissions would be 0.5% lower than in 2010 and 2.1% lower than in 2017. Such reductions thus fall far short of IPCC ranges
As per IPCC emissions need to decline by about 45 per cent from the 2010 level by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050 in order to avoid any anthropogenic affects.
2021 will thus be a critical year to bring climate action to the level needed. Generally put, at COP 26 in Glasgow, strong signal on climate action is needed
There are however other areas which will be immensely important at COP26:
- Sustainability accounting standardisation, having reliable data is prerogative for any relevant climate action. Since there are multiple standards CDP, SASB, SECR, CSRD, etc. each focusing on the same from a different angle, data treatment results very difficult. Standardisation of reporting and data collecting standards for countries and companies is thus needed.
- Carbon market mechanisms, allowing countries to trade carbon credits on a global scale with audited credits would streamline carbon reduction and would transparently compare how are countries keeping up with their pledges.
- Funding for Loss and damage, establishing a mechanism how unaffected countries can support countries affected by climate change does not yet exist and should be established through a common fund whose assets should be invested into renewable projects and disbursed when a catastrophe strikes.
- Involvement of the Financial sector, involving central banksinto changing their policies and investment practices to favour renewable energy and sustainable projects is needed to assure meeting the global targets.
- Nature Based Solutions, effectively turning on natural environment’s levers to absorb carbon and protect against climate impacts should be discussed in order to leverage our greatest weapon in the fight with climate change, our planet.
Overall, COP26 will show us how committed we truly are to meeting our emission reduction pledges as well as how ready we are as a species to transparently collaborate on saving our planet.