COP26 is the 26th climate change conference of the parties, held by the United Nations. The COP takes place annually and is attended by 197 countries that are part of the UN’s climate change treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
This year’s summit is taking place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November, with the UK holding COP presidency as the host.
Governments, leaders and negotiators from around the world will attend the summit to discuss the actions to prevent the climate crisis from worsening.
COP26 is a crucial summit that aims to focus global attention on how to deliver decisive action to address climate change. The conference holds world leaders accountable for pledges to tackle rising temperatures and actions to help other countries affected by the climate crisis.
Climate change risk mitigation is set to play a large role in how businesses operate. With new technologies and more sustainable alternatives for products and methods, companies will need to re-examine their business models and strategies. The conference will also shed light on the new opportunities available to businesses as well as the rise in green investing that companies can monetize on.
We will be providing you with regular updates throughout the conference on this blog, summarising the main discussions and key points from each day. Subscribe to our mailing lists to receive our future ESG and environment updates direct to your inbox.
With the conclusion of COP26 and the decisions from the summit finalised, we take a look at the key outcomes of this year’s climate change conference.
COP26 concluded on Saturday 13 November with nearly 200 countries agreeing to keep the Paris Agreement alive.
The main outcome of the summit was the announcement of the Glasgow Climate Pact, which set out the immediate action needed for countries to reduce their emissions. The pact aims to improve climate action targets to stay in line with the 1.5C goal agreed in Paris.
This will put extra pressure on the countries who were more lenient with their goals to reduce climate change impact.
A history-breaking outcome came on Saturday as the delegates agreed to “accelerate efforts towards the phase down of unabated coal power” and “phase out” inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. This is the first time fossil fuel has been explicitly mentioned in a UN climate agreement.
In regards to fossil fuel, many countries pledged to halt the construction of any new coal plants, as well as a pledge to end public financing for coal, oil and gas by the end of 2022.
Although delegates missed the $100 billion climate finance target, countries began agreeing on a new goal to mobilise climate finance post-2025, which could include a trillion dollar a year fund.
A big win for COP26 was the agreement of new rules on emissions reporting and transparency. This ensures that nations will provide the public with clear information of the progress made.
What happens after COP26?
In line with the nationally determined contributions, all countries will have to revisit the targets they set and strengthen any pledges in 2022 to continue to accelerate climate action.
A yearly political roundtable will also take place to consider a global progress report, as well as a leaders summit in 2023.
The next 12 months will be crucial and all eyes will be on world leaders to ensure the formal agreements reached at COP26 will be enough to keep the 1.5C target in close sight.
Read our insights for more information on environmental policies or how COP26 may affect you.
11 November 2021
It’s the penultimate official day of COP26 and today’s focus was on cities, regions and the built environment.
News from last night (10 November 2021) saw a joint declaration from The US and China of a working group to come together and tackle climate change. The US and China, the world’s biggest polluters, both have targets for hitting net-zero carbon emissions – before 2050, and 2060, respectively.
Before the events started, COP26 organisers stressed the importance of the day stating: “With 68% of the global population living in cities by 2050, it’s vital we build a sustainable and resilient future”.
In line with the theme of the day, the UK announced the launch of a new Urban Climate Action (UCA) programme to support cities across Africa, Asia and Latin America to tackle the impacts of climate change and accelerate their transition to net zero. The programme has been backed by a UK funding package of £27.5 million. Deliverables of the UCA will include developing low-emission public transport systems, renewable energy generation, sustainable waste management, new climate-smart buildings codes and climate risk planning.
The UK Green Building Council has unveiled a guide to help businesses across the built environment sector to measure and cut carbon from materials, processes, operation and demolition. The Whole Life Carbon Roadmap provides a detailed analysis of the emissions reductions that the sub-sectors of the built environment need to achieve each year to reach net zero by 2050.
The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group has launched a new Clean Construction Action Coalition with an aim to half emissions from the global built environment sector by 2030. Major cities including Beijing, Qingdao, Budapest, Los Angeles, Oslo, Mexico City and San Francisco have officially joined the project.
Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, announced an additional £3 million a year to the climate justice fund to help the world’s poorest countries. Nicola Sturgeon said: “Every vulnerable or developing country I have spoken with has big ambitions for meeting the climate crisis but they do not have the funding for adaptation, for mitigation, or for tackling the loss and damage that is needed to deliver.”
Denmark and Costa Rica launched an ambitious alliance to phase out oil and gas. The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA), described as “a first of its kind”, was also joined by France, Greenland, Quebec, Ireland, Sweden and Wales.
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10 November 2021
It’s Transport day at COP26 but major news draws spotlight on the published draft text.
The big news this morning was about the draft text which was published on Tuesday night (9 November 2021). The text is the most important document that will come out of COP26 and will focus on a series of decisions that help to build on the Paris Agreement.
The draft text highlights the need to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies and keep temperature levels below 1.5C.
For Transport day, the UK launched its plans for the road towards zero carbon transport, confirming its pledge to make all HGVs net zero by 2040. The UK also announced its goal for all new road vehicles in the country to be net zero within the next two decades.
A new electric vehicle charging point was unveiled by the UK Government, which is hoped to be “as iconic as the great British post box”. UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “To support the transition to EVs, it’s integral that we have the infrastructure to support it.
“My vision is for the UK to have one of the best EV infrastructure networks in the world, with excellent British design at its heart.”
Alongside the UK, 24 countries including Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Ireland, plus a handful of car manufacturers, pledged to end fossil-fuel powered vehicles by 2040. The UK has previously pledged to ban all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030.
Although transport was the day’s focus, most discussions circled around motor vehicles and aviation, with more sustainable methods such as cycling and walking left out of the debate.
In other news, legislation to improve the UK’s air quality and water, restore natural habitats, increase biodiversity and reduce waste has today (10 November 2021) passed into UK law.
The Environment Act, the first major environmental legislation since the 2008 Climate Change Act, will aim to halt the decline of nature by 2030 and will deliver a target on ambient PM2.5 concentrations. The Act will help the UK transition to a more circular economy, incentivising people to recycle more, encouraging businesses to create sustainable packaging, making household recycling easier and stopping the export of polluting plastic waste to developing countries.
9 November 2021
Tuesday focused on two topics: science and innovation, and gender inequality – specifically looking at why women and girls are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Health services were a big focus for Science and Innovation day as they currently account for 4.6% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. All four UK health services pledged to build climate-resilient health services and committed to become net zero. Over 40 countries have also made similar commitments today.
The UK health and social care secretary Sajid Javid announced: “I am delighted that all four UK health services are pledging to become net zero and it is brilliant news that dozens of countries have joined the UK in committing to reduce carbon emissions from their health systems – significantly cutting greenhouse gas output around the world.”
The Congressional delegation arrived at COP26 on Tuesday, led by speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi, and representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to discuss the great gender gap in the climate crisis.
Nancy Pelosi addressed an audience at the Gender Equality in Climate Action meeting. She said: “80% of the people displaced in climate change globally are women.
“Addressing the rapidly changing climate is a matter of justice and equality, with the most vulnerable most affected, including indigenous communities and our focus today – and every day – on women.”
A number of commitments were made on Tuesday to put gender at the forefront of the climate agenda:
- The UK Government committed £165 million of funding for communities and women’s groups to tackle climate change.
- Canada is set to commit 80% of its climate investments to target gender equality outcomes.
- Germany announced a new Gender Strategy to promote gender-transformative approaches in international climate and biodiversity co-operation.
- The US committed new funding including $14 million to the Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund to advance women and girls’ leadership in climate action and participation in green industries, and a further $3 million to support women farmers in East Africa affected by the climate crisis.
- Nigeria announced further progress on its Implementation Strategy for their National Gender and Climate Action.
UK minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “The UK is committed to addressing this dual challenge head on, committing new funding to empower communities and women’s groups to take locally-led adaptation action, to build local, national and global resilience”.
8 November 2021
Week two of COP26 started with adaptation, loss and damage day, where the spotlight was on the countries most vulnerable to climate change.
Progress for corporate change was made as 95 leading UK companies pledged to halt and reverse the negative environmental impacts caused by their business operations by 2030 as part of the Council for Sustainable Business’ Get Nature Positive campaign.
All eyes were on former US president Barack Obama as he attended the summit. He emphasised that the US in particular needs to “do more” in his highly-anticipated speech. He added: “As the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the US has to lead, we have enormous responsibilities … and we still have a lot of work to do”.
World leaders inched closer to the $100 billion finance goal with a number of new commitments for adaptation:
- $232 million was committed to the Adaptation Fund, with a $20 million contribution from the UK. The Fund finances concrete adaptation projects in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
- The UK also pledged £1 million for the Start Network Start Financing Facility to support delivery of faster and more effective global humanitarian action, including in response to climate-related disasters.
- World leaders pledged to mobilise over $450 million for initiatives and programmes to enhance locally-led adaptation.
5 November 2021
The streets of Glasgow filled with thousands of young activists and climate campaigners for Youth day at COP26.
Today’s event on ‘Youth and public empowerment’ was marked with a Youth March demanding world leaders to do more for climate change.
The day was co-chaired by YOUNGO, the official children’s and youth constituency of the UNFCCC.
YOUNGO presented the COY16 Global Youth Position statement, which brings together inputs from over 40,000 individuals, environmental organisations and educational institutions, and expertise from policy teams to highlight the most indispensable action points to tackle the ongoing climate change crisis. The statement includes action on climate finance, energy, sustainable cities, wildlife and environmental conservation.
More than 23 countries announced climate education pledges including net-zero schools and developing school resources.
The UK education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, announced the launch of a new Sustainability and Climate Change strategy. The strategy included the Primary Model Science Curriculum aiming to “embed climate change evidence” into the school curriculum. The strategy will help to empower young people and enable them to drive the future of climate action.
The UK also announced a new £85,000 research grant to support the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre to produce better information on the education needs of refugee children.
4 November 2021
Consigning coal to history for Energy day at COP26…
The Energy day started off strong as more than 40 countries agreed to phase out their use of coal-fired power in a deal that was signed last night (Wednesday 3 November).
But leaders soon got shown the stark reality of our climate actions as scientists presented data from the Global Carbon Project. The data showed that global carbon emissions are shooting up to the all-time high seen before the coronavirus pandemic.
There were also discussions surrounding the Just Energy Transition, a deal with South Africa to enable their transition to clean energy. The deal, first announced at the World Leader’s Summit, is hoped to act as a “blueprint” for further deals.
Minister Shauna Aminath of the Maldives urged the leaders to provide finance in order to speed up their transition to renewables, including floating solar panels across the island.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK business secretary, addressed the audience today to speak on the large challenge ahead: “The global transition to clean power needs to progress at roughly five times the current rate.
“We don’t underestimate the scale of this challenge. But the UK’s own experience is a good model. Only nine years ago 40% of our electricity came from coal. Today it is less than 2% and we’ll phase it out completely by 2024.”
“We cannot tackle climate change without revolutionising the way we power our world.”
Twenty countries, along with financial institutions, signed a UK-led joint statement committing to end public financing for coal, oil and gas overseas by the end 2022. This is a landmark pledge as it’s the first time an end to fossil fuel finance is visible.
In similar announcements, 28 new members, including Chile and Singapore, signed up to The Powering Past Coal Alliance, the world’s largest alliance on phasing out coal.
And 20 new countries (including Vietnam, Morocco and Poland) committed to not building any new coal plants.
In other news, pledges are already unravelling as Indonesia’s environment minister called the deforestation pledge “inappropriate and unfair”. Under the deal, countries agreed to reach net-zero deforestation by 2030. Indonesia signed up to the deal on Tuesday with its contribution crucial to the goal as it has one of the largest areas of rainforest in the world.
3 November 2021
The focus turned to finance for Day 4 at COP26 as leaders discussed the need to get global finance flowing for mitigation and adaptation.
Finance ministers and institutions gathered in Glasgow today for the first event of COP26 in a bid to speed up the mobilisation of finance to combat the large-scale effects of the climate crisis.
A number of finance commitments were made today which will put the world in a position to reach the $100 billion agreed in Paris.
Among the large finance commitments made, South Africa struck a deal with the UK, EU and US for an $8.5 billion Just Energy Transition to allow the country to move to clean energy and reduce its reliance on coal.
Over 450 financial institutions in 45 countries joined the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero (Gfanz), a global coalition of leading financial institutions committed to accelerating the decarbonisation of the world economy. Through Gfanz, chaired by former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, over $130 trillion (40% of global assets) has now been committed to greening the economy.
Rishi Sunak promised that London will become “the world’s first net zero-aligned finance centre” by ensuring that UK financial institutions and listed companies publish net-zero transition plans that detail how they will adapt and decarbonise as the UK moves towards a net-zero economy by 2050.
Sushil Kuner, in our Financial Services team, welcomed the proposed plans to reduce greenwashing in the finance sector: “In an environment where fund naming conventions lack uniformity and the scope of what constitutes a green investments is wide, financial advisors should be interrogating the disclosures and naming conventions of funds, demanding transparency from fund managers and issuers and seeking clear and simple information about the strategies of the funds and how they are managed”.
The UK, in total, has committed £576 million to fund a package of initiatives to mobilise finance into emerging markets and developing countries, which includes:
- £100 million of new funding towards the Taskforce on Access to Climate Finance, co-chaired by the UK and Fiji, to support those countries most vulnerable to climate change and enable them to deliver ambitious climate plans.
- £66 million to expand the UK’s MOBILIST programme, which helps to develop new investment products which can be listed on public markets and attract different types of investors.
- £110 million to the ASEAN Green Catalytic Finance Facility to support investment in sustainable infrastructure across ASEAN.
- £200 million for a new ‘Climate Innovation Facility’ delivered under the UK’s development finance institution CDC to boost investment into the most pioneering climate solutions in developing countries.
- £200 million for the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance (LEAF) Coalition to protect tropical forests.
The UK also launched new initiative, the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) Capital Market Mechanism (CCMM), which will boost investment for projects in clean energy like solar and wind, and sustainable infrastructure in developing and emerging economies.
2 November 2021
The World Leader’s Summit continued today where great strides were taken to tackle deforestation.
Today Glasgow reached the first major outcome of the COP26 climate summit as more than 100 world leaders signed an agreement to stop and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use pact will mobilise £8.75 billion of public funding over the next five years for schemes that will aim to support the target.
The UK, the US, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Canada and Russia are among the countries to sign the agreement.
In other major news from the climate conference today, Joe Biden announced that the US will rejoin the High Ambition Coalition, reinstating its commitment to ensure the 1.5C goal remains a key part of the Paris Agreement.
Biden also announced a pledge to cut global methane emissions by 30% by 2030. As well as the US, 90 countries will join in what is being called the Global Methane Pledge to reach the goal to reduce methane. Criticism will be targeted towards China, India, and Russia, the three largest emitters of methane in the world, who remain in the countries to have not joined the pledge.
Green technology gained a spot on the discussions today as world leaders agreed to take down costs of clean technologies. Countries pledged the introduction of clean tech, speeding up production to make green energy more affordable and accessible.
1 November 2021
Heads of state and government, climate activists and business leaders arrived at the SEC in Glasgow for the World Leader’s Summit on Monday.
The invitation signifies the importance for world leaders to deliver concrete actions and credible plans aimed at achieving successful COP goals and co-ordinated action to tackle climate change.
The guests were welcomed by prime minister Boris Johnson who opened the Leader’s Summit with a speech urging leaders to “act now”, reflecting on the need to take climate action for the generations to come: “If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow”.
COP26 president and UK MP Alok Sharma also provided an opening speech, which called for immediate action to ensure the Paris promise is fulfilled: “I believe that we can resolve the outstanding issues. We can move the negotiations forward. And we can launch a decade of every increasing ambition and action”.
Taking into consideration the Paris goals, finance remained a key priority as the $100 billion delivery plan was put in the spotlight. As part of the commitment to funding, which was agreed at COP21, leaders announced several new finance commitments to progress action against climate change.
Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, was one of the leaders urging heads of state to make the $100 billion promise a reality, calling upon Canada and Germany to “help get us there”.
Also concentrating on financial actions, Boris Johnson announced the UK’s Clean Green Initiative, a £3 billion funding package to support the rollout of sustainable infrastructure and revolutionary green technology in developing countries.
The green technology scheme includes £200 million for a new Climate Innovation Facility, which will support the scale-up of technologies to help communities deal with the impacts of climate change. This could include projects that support drought-resistant agriculture and sustainable forestry.
Other updates included:
- Brazil increases pledge to cut emissions from 43% to 50% by 2030
- Joe Biden sets out a call to action for higher energy prices and reinforces the need for clean energy. He also announced the first ever US contribution to the Adaptation Fund, designed to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change.
- David Attenborough, the COP26 people’s advocate, addressed the world leaders with a passionate speech warning that “humanity is already in trouble”.
- India’s prime minister Narendra Modi’s speech acknowledged India’s lack of efforts “in fulfilling its duty” to combating climate change.
The World Leaders Summit continues on Tuesday with further global statements on climate action.
31 October 2021
It’s the first day of COP26, but what’s in store at this year’s climate change conference?
All eyes are on Glasgow as over 30,000 attendees have travelled to Scotland for COP26.
Today saw the procedural opening of negotiations that will take place over the next two weeks. Policymakers, state leaders, business people and activists will gather to discuss the climate action that is needed to create a more sustainable future.
The summit will focus on the significant outcomes of the Paris Agreement, which were decided during COP21, including:
- keeping the 1.5C warming target within reach
- reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and
- mobilising public and private finance for adaption to climate change
But most importantly, the key result of the conference will be the number of countries that pledge to reach net zero by 2050.
The full COP26 agenda:
1 & 2 November: The World Leader’s Summit begins hosted by Boris Johnson. This two-day event will allow state leaders to deliver national statements on the need to tackle climate change.
3 November: The focus for the first official event of the Summit will be on financial and economic aspects of climate policy with an event on ‘Mobilising public and private finance flows at scale for mitigation and adaptation’.
4 November: It’s energy day where the key discussions will be on the transition to more sustainable energy and clean power with an event on ‘Accelerating the global transition to clean energy’
5 November: Day six looks to increase youth engagement in climate issues with an event on ‘Youth and public empowerment’.
6 November: The last day of the week focuses on biodiversity for global action with an event on the importance of nature and sustainable land use.
7 November: Break
8 November: Week two of the summit will start with an event on ‘Adaptation, loss and damage: Delivering the practical solutions needed to adapt to climate impact and address loss and damage’.
9 November: Day 10 will highlight two issues: the participation of women in climate change; and how technology can deliver climate change solutions.
10 November: Transport will be the discussion point for day 11 with an event on ‘Driving the global transition to zero emission transport’.
11 November: The main event for the penultimate day of the Summit will be ‘Cities, regions and built environment: Advancing action in the places we live, from communities, through to cities and regions’.
12 November: Negotiations close
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Gowling WLG is an international law firm operating across an array of different sectors and services. Our LoupedIn blog aims to give readers industry insight, technical knowledge and thoughtful observations on the legal landscape and beyond.