Cliamte change protest

10 things you need to know about COP26 and why finance plays a pivotal role.

Faye Turner

13 min Read Time | October 27th 2021

The world is waiting with bated breath to see the outcomes of the COP26 event planned to start later this week. But why? And what actually is COP26?

COP26 is the 2021 United Nations climate change conference. At the heart of it, COP26 is a meeting of the most important and influential global leaders that will play a deciding role in if we are actually going to save the planet from climate change destruction.

Heavy stuff, hence why this COP26 has gotten more press than any of the others – COP26 acts a check-in for the Paris Agreement, this is the time we are going to hear updates and further commitments on how each country is going to limit global warming. On the COP26 website they state that the event is:

“the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control.”

We’ve compiled a quick guide of 10 things you need to know to answer all of your burning questions about the event (no pun intended).

1. What does COP26 stand for?

COP stands for ‘conference of the parties’. These ‘parties’ are the world government, a decision-making body, who are members of the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the UNFCCC which is the ‘United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’. The convention has near-global membership of 197 parties. The 26 indicates the number of meetings, with the 26th coming up.

United Nations UNFCCC Cop 26

2. Why is COP 26 so important?

COP21 was iconic in that it was when the Paris agreement was formed, and now we are waiting to hear what solid plans and goals the world leaders intend to put in place to ensure we meet the Paris agreement. As a reminder these nations made a commitment to keep global temperature rises to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to make all efforts to limit heating to 1.5°C. If the outcome of COP26 does not demonstrate concrete plans for change, we are in trouble, hence why this particular COP26 is a landmark event.

3. Where and when is COP26 being held?

The event will officially open on the 31st of October with talks being held from the 1st of November to the 12th of November at the SEC Centre in Glasgow. The event was originally planned for last year but Covid-19 pandemic delayed it.

Glasgow SEC Centre for COP26

4. Who will attend and how many will attend?

Over 25,000 people are expected to attend the events, 126 world leaders as well as environmental ministers and other senior officials.

5. What are the goals of COP26?

There are 4 mains goals:

1. “Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.”

To reach net-zero by the middle of the century COP26 asks countries to reveal ambitious targets for emissions reductions such as taking drastic action to move away from fossil fuels, invest in renewable energy and to stop deforestation.

2. “Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.”

With the effects of climate change being felt already there is a need to enable and encourage countries to protect ecosystems and restore them, as well as build better defence systems to avoid further loss of lives, livelihoods and homes.

3. “Mobilise finance.”

If we are going to be able to deliver the first two goals, this third element is crucial. Developed countries must follow through with their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year.

4. “Work together to deliver.”

Collaboration is key in achieving the goals set out, with this aim, detailed ‘rules’ that will make the Paris agreement operational need to be finalised, collaboration between not only governments but businesses and civil society.

Read more on the goals for COP26 here.

6. What targets are in place and how close are we to meeting them?

Outside of the general limiting of global warming, all the countries who signed the Paris agreement also agreed to national targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. We anticipate you’ll hear the words ‘NDCs’ a lot over the course of the week, this refers to these ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ of which the UNFCC published an update and summary report on progress in September that indicated some progress is being made, but not enough.

Particularly concerning was that “The available NDCs of all 191 Parties taken together imply a sizable increase in global GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 2010, of about 16%.”

This sort of increase is concerning, and goes against scientific advice from reports such as the most recent IPCC report (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the UN stated that we may find ourselves with a rise in temperatures that by the end of the century could be closer to 2.7°C.

It is also worth noting that China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has not yet submitted an NDC and some of the other major fossil fuel producers like Australia and Saudi Arabia have been called out for not strengthening their initial commitments.

7. What has COP26 got to do with finance?

There are two key points here, firstly, mobilising the transition to net zero and amplifying government policies will only be possible with the right funding. At COP15 in 2009 developed countries jointly committed to mobilise $100 billion of climate finance per year by 2020, the COP26 Presidency recently published a Climate Finance Delivery Plan which gives more detail on how they intend to achieve this goal, with that goal being met later than planned, in 2023.

Secondly this finance element comes into play when we look at how we measure and manage the climate impact of businesses’. With groups like Climate Action 100+, (500 institutional investors with control of over $47 trillion of assets), now demanding that 161 of the world’s highest emitting companies (who are accountable for 80% of industrial emissions) publish strategies to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050.
And, whilst publishing strategies is all well and good, as are good intentions, ensuring companies are transparent must be a bare minimum. Making these disclosures available is a great first step as it allows us to measure their impact effectively (which is what we do here at Impaakt). Having this impact data means that investors and asset managers are able to allocate capital to businesses having a positive impact on the planet, and challenge those having a negative impact to change.

climate change net zero

8. What will happen at COP26?

Heads of state (like President Joe Biden for the US, Emmanuel Macron for France, Angela Merkel for Germany and the UK’s Boris Johnson) will meet to present their climate change commitments. Following that and after the heads have left, country delegates will be left to discuss, negotiate and likely make new climate pledges as well as update existing pledges and join new initiatives.

9. Is COP26 open to the public?

COP26 has an allocated ‘green zone’ for anyone and everyone to attend, it is located in the Glasgow Science Centre, tickets are free and it will be open Monday the 1st of November till Friday the 13th between 9am and 6pm, you can also join online through the COP26 YouTube channel. Expect lots of talks from science, industry, NGOs and academia.

10. What if we do not meet the goals of COP26?

If our world leaders do not deliver on the main goal of COP26 (to agree on solid plans and policies required to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C) all of the science points to terrifying consequences. The IPCC report in particular, projected the potential impact of not changing course such as extreme heat waves and droughts, crop failure, submersions of small island states, impacts on ecosystems and species loss. These changes could mean mass migrations, huge economic loss and conflict over food and resources.

Climate protest

Changing the world is not easy, that is evident enough with this being the 26th meeting and the resounding failures of past events such as of the Copenhagen (COP15) in 2009 that ended in near chaos and hostility.

With each meeting leaders are attempting to reprogramme the planet in a way, we are reliant on energy sources that are destroying the planet and moving away from them is a complex task, shrouded in politics and mixed with discussions over science, costs and responsibility.

Part of our mission here at Impaakt is to leverage the financial industry to instill change in business and in investment strategy. We know that businesses are one of the main contributors when it comes to emissions, so by harnessing investors to push companies to change their ways or risk losing their capital is powerful. Better still, getting further force from the top-down (via government putting in place solid climate policy) could mean greater acceleration and somewhat larger scale changes to how businesses are allowed to operate. These changes might not necessarily be achieved without policy change and certainly not in the short term.

We know time is running out, let’s hope the attendees of COP26 feel the same.

Get involved in measuring the impact that companies are having on global warming and climate change by joining us. You can learn more below.

The Impaakt Team

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