02) This article series will keep you informed in the lead-up to the COP 26 climate meeting in November. Stay tuned…

Any attempt to reach agreement among world leaders is always a challenge. There are competing priorities and political differences to contend with. We’ve only got to look back to July this year when the G20 meeting in Italy failed to reach an agreement on phasing out coal use among 20 of the world’s largest economies. 

Despite the challenges, there is hope that a sense of congruency is building in the lead-up to COP 26 in November. The IPCC report has shaken away complacency, to put hard numbers on the major challenge of climate change. So now, as we approach the meeting, there are a range of ‘agendas’ that try to chart the likely outcomes of the event. The official agenda will act as a framework for discussions, but it won’t decide the outcome. 

In July this year, COP 26 President, Alok Sharma, brought together representatives of 51 countries to discuss key issues. They were closed-door talks, but official communications explained some key agenda items:

  • Achieving the goal of keeping 1.5 degrees within reach
  • We must put the planet on a path to driving down emissions with mid-century net zero commitments and ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets; 
  • Protect people and nature from the impacts of climate change; 
  • Get finance flowing to climate action
  • Urgent action to phase out coal and internal combustion engine vehicles, as well as to end deforestation

There’s plenty more hard work that needs to be done before the event. The Paris agreement requires all party states to provide a National Determined Commitment (NDC), this was due before the original date for COP 26 in 2020, and despite the postponement, some countries still haven’t updated their commitments. Australia did submit an updated NDC, but it didn’t increase the ambitions of our emissions reduction target. 

Net Zero emissions targets are one key commitment pathway, the majority of developed nations have set the target, with Australia a notable exception. While these commitments come from wealthy countries, who are also major emitters, there are many smaller ‘global south’ nations that can’t wait until 2050, they’re already feeling the effects of climate change, and for them, COP 26 may be their last opportunity to save their homelands. 

The Five Point Plan: for solidarity, fairness and transparency is a clear and simple plan for action, presented by more than 100 of the world’s most vulnerable countries. It represents a huge swathe of the world’s population, but their voice is rarely heard. The plan calls for:

  1. Cutting emissions: despite welcome recent progress, the sum total of climate  policies in place across the world will not keep global warming within the limits that governments agreed in Paris
  2. Adaptation: with climate impacts increasing, provisions to help the most vulnerable adapt, including through increased financial support, need to be strengthened
  3. Loss and Damage: the consequences of the developed world’s historical failure to cut their emissions adequately are already resulting in losses and damage for the most vulnerable. Responsibilities have to be acknowledged and promised measures delivered
  4. Finance: The promises made in Copenhagen in 2009 and again in the Paris Agreement are unequivocal, and must be delivered: at least $100bn per year by 2020, up to 2024, with a concrete delivery plan, with at least half going to adaptation, with increased annual sums from 2025.
  5. Implementation: After several summits of stalling, governments must by COP26 finalise rules on transparency, carbon trading and common timeframes for accelerating action, in a way that safeguards development and nature.

From Hopes and Ambitions towards Demands

These hopes and aims must turn into demands towards our governments. It’s vital that we make our voices heard, and that our elected representatives go to Glascow to argue for our best interests, rather than the narrow and short-sighted interests of a small group of vested interests.

A group of leading voices came together as part of the Race to Zero initiative, and I’ll leave you with their demands for what COP 26 must deliver:

Mary RobinsonPreviously President of Ireland, and ex-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

My greatest hope is that we will know that the curve is bending to a sustainable future of less than 1.5°C above warming. The biggest emitters will have made ambitious commitments to cut emissions by more than 50% in their NDCs, climate finance of over UDS$100 billion a year will have been committed, and a direct link will have been made with protecting 30% of global land and oceans in restoring biodiversity and adopting nature-based solutions. 

Dr Katharine Wilkinson –  Co-founder of The All We Can Save Project

When I think ahead to COP26, my greatest hope is that it will be more radically inclusive than any of the 25 COPs prior: that women’s and feminist voices, Global South voices, youth voices, and all voices for justice are not just present but at the forefront. 

Christiana FigueresFormer Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC 

COP26 should be a better version of what we built for Paris, in part because we have six more years of experience under our belts, but also because the moment needs it. We have more granularity in the science, and we’re much better apprised of the urgency with which the transformation needs to take place. This is absolutely the moment to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and double down on our efforts to reduce emissions and regenerate nature – as individuals, as companies, as nations and collectively.

Mindy LubberCEO and President, Ceres

My greatest hope is that together we will forge a true path to a more equitable, just and sustainable economy. For three decades, we’ve been working to move capital markets’ leaders to transform the economy. We are seeing change every day with the largest investors and financial institutions stepping up and setting net zero targets. This is a great start. In the lead up to November, we hope to see greater ambition in the year ahead and swift implementation of robust climate action plans and transformational shifts of capital.

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