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06 Oct 2021 | 12:14 PM

COP26 - A Pivotal Turning Point for the Paris Climate Agreement
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As the year progresses, policymakers, activists, and global communities eagerly look forward to November and the 26th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or COP26.

Happening a year later than planned due to the global coronavirus pandemic. We expect the highly anticipated summit to be one of the most important yet. Meant to be the conference that finalizes the terms of the Paris Agreement and takes stock of the progress made since the landmark legislation was signed in 2016 - COP26 is a critical event for climate action.

Policy Pressure on Climate Change Goals

The UN recently published a review of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for some of the largest global economies. The assessment outlined how individual governments plan to meet their self-imposed Paris Agreement targets - and its conclusions were not complimentary.

In response, the United States and several other nations are increasing their carbon emissions goals - yet experts continue to point out that even their new promises aren’t enough.

Some countries are positioning themselves favourably and touting their progress towards net-zero goals, but the results are still far from being in line with limiting warming by 1.5°C.

The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report

The growing frustration by scientists, activists, and communities reached a new level earlier this year when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had its Sixth Assessment Report leaked ahead of its release.

Serving as the UN’s scientific support body, the IPCC provides all the scientific modelling, evidence, and advice to policymakers on tackling climate change. The findings of this report were alarming and hinted at a lack of decisive action by global governments.

 

“Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered,” the report reads, “Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.”

Among the recommendations, the IPCC’s experts highlighted the need for a rapid transition to net-zero and overall reduction of carbon emissions.

Climate Change and Developing Nations

For many developing countries, this was a bittersweet announcement. While not the leading countries responsible for the damage created by climate change, they are primarily on the receiving end. And have little funding or capacity to deal with mitigation or rebuilding.

 

Ahead of COP26, the leaked IPCC report served as vindication for developing nations who have long complained about the reluctance of larger economies to transition towards low-carbon solutions. The continued mistrust between developing countries and their developed counterparts may have come to a head.

As UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres explains, “I believe that we are at risk of not having success in COP26. There is still a level of mistrust between north and south, developed and developing countries, that needs to be overcome. We are on the verge of the abyss, and when you are on the verge of the abyss, you need to be very careful about the next step. And the next step is COP26 in Glasgow.”

Saving COP26

Mounting expectations for stringent legislation, mistrust between governments, and a rapidly diminishing window for mitigation measures make COP26 one of the most critical summits the UNFCCC has ever held. Scientists are clear and more decisive than ever in saying that the planet needs rapid action to reduce carbon emissions.

Activists and developing nations are echoing calls for more investment in sustainable solutions and capacity-building. But large economies continue to drag their feet globally.

The failures of COP25 in Madrid in 2019 weigh heavily on the minds of international policymakers. And COP26 is the opportunity to finally agree on critical issues like carbon trading schemes and funding mechanisms.

While the pandemic has given governments more time to negotiate with one another, review their NDCs and domestic policy - it certainly seems as though they are farther apart than this time last year. The world seems almost locked in an environmental and economic paradox in advance of COP26.

The Role of COP26

For many developing countries that have been warning of climate change issues for decades, the measures across much of the world’s major economies continue to clash with the needs of developing nations.

Accountability is being sought from governments and countries touting climate action, but many continue to push back mitigation methods.

Activists and global citizens are overwhelmingly in favour of sustainable development and more climate action. Yet governments are at odds internally and internationally with how best to act.

Something has to give. Can COP26 genuinely provide the answers that everyone is looking for?

Disclaimer: This information represents the personal views and opinions of the author(s). It does not represent the views and opinions of UN GCNI, UNGC, SOCIOLADDER FOUNDATION, THE SUSTAINEVERSE PLATFORM, or any other third party including sponsors, strategic partners, or other users of SUSTAINEVSERSE. While UN GCNI and SOCIOLADDER  strive to make the information on the SUSTAINEVERSE Platform as timely and accurate as possible, they make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents. Any views or opinions expressed are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, community, organization,  company or individual. 

BY Eric Koons