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COP26: strive to keep 1.5°C alive

The 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was the first opportunity since the Paris Agreement for countries to formally revise their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for the 2030 timeframe, as part of the 5-yearly pledge and review process, and to submit long-term greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategies out to mid-century.
 
The principal aim of the Paris Agreement is to ‘hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’. There was a flurry of last-minute revisions of NDCs and long-term GHG reduction strategies in the run-up to, and during, COP26 itself. Early analyses indicate that if met in time and in full, these pledges, which cover about 90% of global emissions, could lead to a temperature increase of around 1.8°C to 2.1°C by 2100. However, unless there is stronger action in the decade to 2030, the temperature range is likely to be higher.

Initiatives and commitments from COP26

Countries also took advantage of COP26 to declare a wide range of new initiatives and commitments, some of which are highlighted below:

  • Global Methane Pledge – more than 100 countries and partners pledge to collectively reduce methane emissions to 30% below 2020 levels by 2030, which could avert 0.2 degrees of global warming. This was supplemented by a separate US-China cooperation agreement that aims to develop additional measures to enhance methane emission control before COP27.
  • 30 countries and international development banks aim to end support for public financing of unabated fossil fuel projects, including oil and gas projects, by 2022.
  • COP26 hosted the inaugural meeting of the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition which aims to advance ambitious actions to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation to net-zero by 2050.
  • Over 20 countries signed the Clydebank Declaration for green shipping corridors aiming to establish six zero-emission maritime routes by the middle of this decade.
  • More than 100 national governments, cities, states and major businesses have signed the Glasgow Declaration on Zero-Emission Cars and Vans to end the sale of internal combustion engines by 2035 in leading markets and 2040 worldwide. At least 13 have signed a similar memorandum of understanding to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered heavy-duty vehicles by 2040.
  • The Breakthrough Agenda is endorsed by over 40 countries and aims to accelerate the development and deployment this decade of clean technologies in power generation, transport and steel manufacturing, ensuring they are affordable and accessible for all.
  • 110 countries signed on to the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use, which aims to end deforestation by 2030.

Glasgow Climate Pact

Meanwhile, negotiators worked to complete the Glasgow Climate Pact and finalised decision texts with key areas including:

  • Article 6 on cooperative approaches which allow for trading of carbon credits was finally agreed, although there is more detailed work to follow on how it will function in practice.
  • COP26 also explicitly called upon countries, for the first time, to accelerate the phasing-down of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
  • While developed countries are aiming to meet their 2020 commitment of $100 billion per annum of climate finance, there is a request for this level of financing to double from 2025.
  • In addition to the global stocktake in 2023, countries are being asked to update their 2030 emission reduction targets (NDCs) by the end of 2022.
Finally, COP26  also highlighted the importance of aligning business and human rights with the ‘just transition’, which addresses the impacts on workforces and communities impacted by the energy transition. IPIECA participated in related side events during COP26, including a dialogue organized by the International Business and Human Rights and the release of the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) Just Transition Benchmark.

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