"Paris has promised, Glasgow must deliver"

Camille Reynaud
Climate Intelligence
28 October 2021

This Sunday, the 26th edition of the world's largest and most important climate conference, COP26, begins in Glasgow. The climate summit brings together more than 100 heads of state and government and over 20,000 delegates from almost every country in the world to accelerate action on climate change. This year's edition is particularly important as countries have to present their pledges and strategies to achieve the climate goals from the Paris Climate Agreement. What was promised in Paris, countries must now deliver. Otherwise we are running out of time...

We've prepared a brief summary of everything you need to know about the climate summit that everyone will be talking about for the next 2 weeks and also tell you why it's so important and what it means for your business!

What is the COP?

COP stands for Conference of Parties. In German: Vertragsparteienkonferenz. Yes, that's right. Now you understand why everyone uses the English term COP. In German, however, people also like to speak of the "UN Climate Change Conference".

The first COP was held in Berlin in 1995 after 195 nations signed the "United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change" (UNFCC) with the aim of limiting human impacts on climate change. It was decided that the COP would now meet every year as the decision-making body of the UNFCC. Since then, 25 editions of the summit have taken place. Three of them resulted in known agreements between the various parties:

  • In 1997, at COP3 in Japan, theKyoto Protocol was signed, committing countries for the first time to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and set individual targets.
  • In 2009 , during the COP15 in Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Accord was adopted. Copenhagen Accord was agreed. A minimum consensus was reached on the 2°C target, which is not binding.
  • In 2015, at COP21, the well-known Paris Climate Agreement followed. It is the only agreement that makes commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions binding and is now the central international treaty when it comes to our climate goals. That is why it is also at the centre of COP26 in Glasgow.

What does the Paris Climate Agreement say?

To understand the key points, we need to go back six years, when COP21 took place in Paris. By signing the agreement, 195 countries committed for the first time to limit global warming to below 2°C, and to intensify efforts to limit it to below 1.5°C.

To achieve the Paris climate goals, countries have committed, among other things, to reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gas emissions, to advance the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and to submit their climate change mitigation plan every 5 years in the form of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Why is COP26 in Glasgow so important?

After the UN Climate Change Conference in 2020 had to be postponed due to the COVID pandemic, the COP26 in Glasgow is the first UN Climate Change Conference after the first 5-year deadline. This means that decision-makers at COP26 will meet for the first time to take stock of the National Climate Change Targets (NDCs).

These documents detail the countries' ambitious 2030 reduction targets and pledged financial support of $100 billion per year for countries most affected by the impacts of climate change.

The latest report of the renowned IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) made it clear that limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C is necessary to reduce the number of people exposed to climate-related risks, reduce pressure on food security and human health, protect small islands from rising sea levels, preserve ecological and biological diversity and reduce the risk of irreversible glacier melt.

To reach this 1.5°C target, emissions must be halved by 2030 and reduced to zero by 2050. The International Energy Agency's latest World Energy Outlook warns that current country pledges are far from sufficient to meet the Paris Agreement targets.

Understanding the goals of the Paris Agreement: Are we on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees? A picture of the world. Video in English, transcript available in German.

What will happen at COP26?

From 31 October to 12 November, heads of states and governments from all over the world, as well as thousands of negotiators, scientists and citizens will work on our climate future in two different zones.

  • Zone 1: The blue zone: This is also called the presidency zone. It will be attended by the heads of state and government. The decision-makers will be asked to present their 2030 pledges and explain their climate plans. Each day will be dedicated to a specific theme (e.g. energy, finance, nature). The overall goal is to accelerate action to reduce climate impacts in 5 different priority areas - adaptation & damages, nature, energy transition, climate-neutral mobility, and finance.

  • Zone 2: The Green Zone: Here companies, media, universities, interest groups and many more will offer events, panel discussions or workshops on climate change and its impacts. More than 200 events will take place in Glasgow over the 2 weeks. It's a great opportunity to get informed and understand what the climate crisis means. By the way, most of the events are free and available virtually on the COP26 Youtube channel. You can watch the programme.

How can COP26 be a success?

For this year's UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow to be considered a success, a number of challenges must be overcome:

1. more ambitious climate targets and concrete action plans for all states

All participating states must make bold plans. But in September, the leaders of Australia and South Africa already announced they would not come to Glasgow. And the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter China, contrary to recent pledges by President Xi Jinping, continues to develop extensive plans to burn more coal to address its supply crisis. Moreover, most countries' climate targets are still not ambitious enough, and there is a lack of strong regulations and action plans to achieve these (under-ambitious) goals. A key success factor of COP26 will therefore be that Parties re-sharpen their climate targets and launch concrete action plans to achieve them, and agree on reporting and transparency rules to evaluate these plans and actions.

2. more intensive cooperation between the public and private sectors

Businesses must play a key role in climate action by increasing their climate transparency, integrating climate risks into their financial reporting, launching climate strategies and improving their understanding of the climate emergency. In addition, there will need to be intensive cooperation between the public and private sectors to implement the rules oncarbon pricing andtrading set out in Article 6 of the Paris Climate Agreement. Activists also stress the need to do more than just set a framework for greenhouse gas reduction. They call for swift and ambitious action to halve emissions by 2030. During the Youth for Climate Summit held in Milan at the end of September, Greta Thunberg denounced the climate platitudes heard during COPs. She demonstratively called it "blah, blah, blah", voicing what is on the minds of many activists and citizens who demand more decisive action from policymakers and the private sector.

3. enabling decarbonisation for developing countries and emerging economies

Of the $100 billion per year pledged by developed countries, only $78.5 billion has been transferred, according to the OECD, and only 21% has been spent on climate change adaptation. Industrialised countries should therefore commit to not only support their partner countries financially, but also define concrete plans and provide technologies for decarbonisation, as well as improving access to energy.

Global Youth Strike for Climate
Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

How does this affect your business?

The COP26 will inevitably have an impact on businesses, because achieving the climate goals will require intensive cooperation between politics and the private sector. Companies can do the following things in particular to move boldly into the climate future and thus ensure not only the survival of the planet, but also their own:

  • measure, report and reduce emissions: COP26 will most likely lead to new regulations and legislation, requiring a greater number of companies to publish sustainability data. Currently, such obligations only apply to large companies, but there are already concrete efforts to extend this regulation to all companies. Companies should therefore prepare for these new regulations by determining their carbon footprint so that they can not only report it, but also reduce it in a targetedmanner.
  • Greening the business model: Environmentally damaging business models will increasingly disappear from the market as capital providers focus more and more on sustainable companies. But for polluters, not only will less capital be available, but there will also be higher costs. Because the emission of greenhouse gases will be (more) highly priced in the future. And at the latest when thisCO2 tax becomes fully effective, a greening of the business model will be indispensable.
  • Seize the opportunity: Climate change is not only a risk for companies, but also a huge opportunity for those companies that manage to meet the increasingly high sustainability expectations of customers, investors and employees. New and larger markets, sales potential and growth paths await these companies.

What is clear is that we have no more time to lose and must act decisively to achieve the climate goals. COP26 will result in new laws to make this possible after all. These will affect all companies and it is therefore necessary that all companies in all sectors become "climate-ready".

If your company also wants to make its contribution and become climate-friendly, then get in touch with us!

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