COP26 – the world’s “last best chance” at tackling climate change

With less than one week to go before the COP26 summit in Glasgow commences, there is feverish speculation as to who will be attending and what commitments will be made.

The conference, which takes place from 31 October to 12 November, comes almost six years after the landmark Paris Agreement. As many of the global commitments made in 2015 remain a work in progress, it is hoped that COP26 will give governments a chance to build upon the Paris framework and renew their commitment to tackling climate change.

In light of this, COP26 has been billed by its President, Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, as the world’s “last hope of keeping 1.5 degrees alive, and our best chance of building a brighter future”. After a summer of extreme weather conditions, and warnings that climate change is accelerating more drastically than first thought, renewed and significant global action cannot come soon enough.

Ahead of the conference, many global leaders have already announced some impressive targets. The United States have vowed to cut emissions by at least half by 2030, and leading by example, the UK have also announced a flagship ‘Net Zero Strategy’ for achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

While it is disappointing to some that a number of high emitters including China, Russia and Brazil have announced their heads of state will not be attending, it is important that these headlines do not draw attention away from the important work at hand. It is vital that keep the conference’s four key aims remain at the forefront of the debate:

  1. To secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

All countries in attendance are being asked to come forward with their 2030 emissions reductions goals, in support of the global targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees.

To deliver on their goals, the UN advises countries to accelerate the phasing out of coal, scale down deforestation, scale up the use of electric vehicles, and encourage investment in renewable energy.

  1. Adapting to protect communities and natural habitats

Even as we reduce global emissions in our path toward carbon neutrality, our climate will continue to change, with devastating effects for our populations and natural habitats alike.

At COP26, global leaders must work together to encourage those most impacted by climate change to protect and restore their ecosystems. This can be done by building on existing defences, warning systems, and the resilience of their infrastructure and agriculture. Only this will avoid further loss of lives, homes and habitats.

  1. Mobilising finance

To deliver on the above, and any climate change action, developed nations must deliver on the Paris Agreement’s promise to collectively provide $100 billion in climate finance a year.

International finance institutions, multilateral development banks, and privately-owned investment companies like Low Carbon all have their part to play in unlocking the finance needed to secure the billions, if not trillions, needed.

  1. Working together to deliver

Finally, and perhaps most importantly in the context of the debate around attendance at COP, we must remember that we can only rise to the challenges of climate change by working together.

At COP26, attendees must finalise the Paris Rulebook, and renew their commitment to the Paris Agreement. However, it is not just the world leaders and heads of government that need to collaborate, but businesses and civil society too.

It is expected that over 20,000 diplomats, business leaders and climate change activists will descend on Glasgow over the next few weeks. Even with a few notable absentees, COP26 is already set to be the biggest climate summit since the 2015 Paris Conference, made even more significant by the absence of any such meeting in 2020. COP26 is an opportunity and we ask negotiators to seize it and make decisive commitments. All our operations at Low Carbon are driven by a desire to halt climate change and to help facilitate a future powered by renewable energy. We will be watching COP26 negotiations closely and do what we can to help implement and reach global goals.