Will this year’s COP26 Climate Change Summit Achieve its Goals?

The UN’s Annual Climate Change Summit (COP26) starts on October 31, 2021. The conference will take place following a historical cut in CO2 emissions which took place in 2020, as a result of the pandemic. Even so, we’re heading to a global warming scenario of 3°C if we take the current global commitments into account. This is above the 2°C limit countries agreed to during the 2015 COP21. Will this year’s summit yield better and more decisive measures? Let’s look at what the event seeks to accomplish.

COP26 Goals

COP26 has the following goals:
  • Securing global net zero by 2050 and keeping 1.5 degrees within reach. Countries have been asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 reduction emission targets focusing on:
    • Phasing out coal
    • Curtailing deforestation
    • Speeding up the switch to electric vehicles
    • Investing in renewables
  • Adapting to protect communities and natural habitats. For instance, restoring ecosystems and building resilience against extreme weather.
  • Mobilising at least $100bn in climate finance per year.
  • Speeding up collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society to finalise the Paris Rulebook (rules that will make the Paris Agreement operational).

These ambitious goals need decisive action

Due to COVID-19, energy-based carbon emissions fell by 5.8% in 2020, the biggest drop since the end of World War II. This gave us a glimpse into the structural changes that are needed to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change. But the drop in emissions was not driven by climate change mitigation actions, but by a global health emergency. Will COP26 result in more momentous and proactive measures? Will it result in implementable plans? Here are some key developments and practical issues that we expect to hear more about during the summit:
    • A globally applied minimum carbon price: economists have long-favored placing a high and increasing price on every unit of carbon dioxide produced to move towards net-zero. Like many organisations, we think global agreement on a minimum carbon price is extremely important. At the moment, only 22% of global emissions are priced. We look forward to learning if the COP26 will get us closer to a globally enforced minimum carbon price.
  • Announcements concerning the EU Emission Trading Scheme: the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) has existed since 2015 but this year, the European Commission presented a proposal to renew the ETS in order to meet new targets (reduce emissions by 55% by 2030). The proposed changes will incorporate shipping and aviation emissions. We expect to hear more announcements about this scope extension.
  • The US position: US President Biden hosted a summit earlier this year to urge countries to revise their emission reduction commitments. This marked the US return to the Paris Climate Agreement after the Trump administration’s withdrawal. However, progress on climate change targets has been stalled by internal political pressures given the midterm elections. This has curtailed progress and compromised their position to make demands. We hope to hear more about the US’ stance during the summit.

IPCC scenarios and mitigation: we also expect global leaders to discuss specific actions to mitigate the scenarios outlined in the latest IPCC report. Stay tuned for a blog with our takeaways after the event.

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