The 26th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) was hosted in Glasgow in the fall of 2021. While these events are always weighty as world leaders discuss effective initiatives for mitigating and adapting to climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic spurred increasingly heated discussions about global health.
the article discusses what the COP is, the notable outcomes of COP26 and the future of this conference.
The COP explained
The COP is an annual climate summit where world leaders and government representatives review and discuss the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
When establishing the UNFCCC in 1994, the treaty was signed by 196 countries. The UN brings representatives from nearly every country together for this global summit, making COP26 the 26th meeting; there were almost 200 countries in attendance.
Every year, involved parties assess the goals of each COP attendee and propose actions to ensure everyone reaches their climate-based goals.
The location changes yearly to provide fresh perspectives and understand how different countries plan to achieve climate change-related environmental, social, and governance (ESG) targets.
An overview of COP26
COP26 was held in Glasgow, Scotland. The UNFCCC chose this location primarily due to the UK's commitment to sustainability, first-rate facilities, and experience hosting world-class events.
The most prominent takeaway of COP26 was the Glasgow Climate Pact, which was accepted by all participating parties and the Paris Rulebook. The Paris Rulebook refers to the implementation of the Paris Agreement’s terms. At its core, this Pact requests that governments revisit and strengthen their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) before the end of 2022 to curb global warming.
NDCs represent a country’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate impacts. These are reviewed every five years to reflect progress made and increased development.
The central idea of the Glasgow Pact was to ensure countries meet the Paris Agreement's goal to limit global warming temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which will be reassessed at COP27. Details included pledges to provide up to $100 billion annually to developing countries to offset emissions and reliances on energy sources like coal and fossil fuels.
Here are some other notable outcomes of COP26.
National emissions pledges
The Paris Agreement relies on countries carrying out increasingly drastic climate actions on a five-year cycle. COP26 marked the end of the first five-year pledge under the terms of the Paris Agreement, and it became a critical time to review and update each country's emission reduction goals. Back in 2020, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) stated that everyone’s current plans for reducing emissions by 2030 would raise the planet's temperature by a staggering 3 degrees Celsius.
Global methane pledge
Of the treaty members, 103 parties committed to reducing global methane emissions by 30% from recorded 2020 levels by 2030. The pledge estimates that it will be possible to reduce the global temperature rise by at least 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2050.
Since 1997's Kyoto Protocol, emission trading has increased. The goal of emission trading is to lower global emissions at a lower overall cost. For example, one country might pay for reductions in the other, if the other’s measures are cheaper than theirs, counting toward the main objective of reducing global emissions.
Declaration on forests and land use
Currently, 141 countries have signed a declaration to halt, reverse, and end deforestation and land degradation by 2030. By doing so, commitments are reaffirmed to the conservation, protection, management, and restoration of forests and terrestrial ecosystems. These ecosystems are also vital carbon sinks that absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
One of the more controversial outcomes of the annual meeting was the intention to accelerate the phase-out of coal-fired electricity. The Glasgow Pact originally called for a similar action, but the section was later revised to "the phase-down of unabated coal power." Several country leaders pledged $8.5 billion in financial support to South Africa to transition away from coal and into a low-carbon economy.
Fossil fuel subsidies phase-out
COP26 was important because it was the first time such a robust fossil fuel phase-out was presented at a COP climate summit. Countries struggled to reach an agreement about how to scale and speed up the phase out of fossil fuels.
With the creation of carbon credits at COP21, companies struggling to reduce their emissions can purchase credits which represent a quantity of GHG emissions that fund climate-action projects to offset emissions. COP26 aimed to establish rules for the market, but they weren’t finalized in Glasgow, and will be a negotiation focus at COP27.
The COP26 goals were ambitious. Demands were high for well-developed countries, and the pressure was on when revisiting NDCs. This will only continue to rise as irregular weather events and climate change catastrophes increase, offering an excellent time for every organization to review its sustainability and ESG goals.
COP27 will take place in Egypt on Nov. 6–18th, 2022. This year, the conversation centers around achieving net zero and adapting to an already altered climate.
*Disclaimer: This summary is for general education purposes only and may be subject to change. ESGgo, Inc., and its affiliates (the “Company”, “ESGgo”, “we”, or “us”) cannot guarantee the accuracy of the statements made or conclusions reached in this summary and we expressly disclaim all representations and warranties (whether express or implied by statute or otherwise) whatsoever.