The United Nations climate summit, better known as Cop26, starts on 31 October following G20 talks in Rome and moves to Glasgow for the following fortnight, with decisions made there that could, or should, have massive implications for everyone and every company in the world.
The need for bold action was made clear in August’s warning from the UN’s climate change committee that global warming is happening much quicker than previously predicted.
“COP26 has been described as the ‘last best chance’ of saving the planet,” said ING economist Samuel Abettan. “Weary campaigners and world leaders are well aware that we’ve heard that many times before. Let’s hope we’ll be surprised.”
The current plans of the countries meeting in Glasgow put the planet on a trajectory of 2.7?C warming by the end of the century, according to the UN report, far from the aims of the Paris Agreement.
Even if current plans are implemented in full, they would still result in a 16% increase in emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 – far short of the required 45% decline during this period that would keep a chance of limited warming to 1.5?C above pre-industrial levels.
So, as ING’s Abettan states, the main priority for Cop26 is to what extend countries agree to strengthen their carbon mitigation policies, followed by how they plan to do it, which could be by making their Covid-19 recovery plans greener, implementing new carbon markets and increasing climate finance.
Another key item to watch will be whether China and India present credible commitments to phase out coal, which remains the world’s largest source of electricity generation at around 35% of the global electricity mix, and in China is around 97%.
President Xi Jinping’s recently announced China would stop funding new coal energy plants overseas but, as Abetta says, the future of coal and carbon emissions is about domestic policies.
Showing how difficult it will be to agree multilateral pledges such as the Paris Agreement of 2015, some of the largest producers of coal, oil, beef and animal feeds, including Saudi Arabia, Australia and Brazil, have been lobbying to water down a UN climate report on reducing use of fossil fuels.
What’s more, the USA is reported to be holding up negotiations on a deal to provide poorer countries with a yearly total of US$100bn to combat climate change.
Many companies will be attending Cop26 – so long as their commitments to reduce carbon emissions to zero are verified, but ahead of the conference, both Shell and BP were reported to have been excluded, with UK civil servants expressing doubts about whether their net-zero plans “stack up”.