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Countdown to COP26

COP26 [1] will be the next annual event where countries, companies and NGOs will discuss and hopefully agree upon the necessary urgent actions to limit the devastating impacts of climate change on the environment and our societies.

Today, I want to look back at the last few years of climate positive developments and give you the context in which COP26 talks will be held.

6 years ago, in 2015, COP19 culminated in “the Paris Agreement”. This was a monumental step for climate policy which created a legally binding international treaty to prevent climate change from warming the planet more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To achieve this, nations around the world published individual national emissions targets (NDCs) and reduction pathways.

Since then, national ambitions improved further. In 2018 a report by the leading body of scientific research in this area, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), emphasised the need to limit warming to 1.5°C (instead of 2°C) to save vulnerable communities from the most devastating effects of climate change. 2020 followed, with over 100 nations around the world setting, or planning to set, new national “net-zero” targets – meaning that greenhouse gases will have to reduce as much as possible with the rest being fully offset by carbon capturing.

All this national intention-setting is happening to a backdrop of rising emissions (except for 2020 due to the pandemic), rising global average temperatures, and the increased frequency of extreme weather events.

According to Climate Action Tracker modelling [2], there remains a substantial gap between what governments have promised to do and the actions they have undertaken to date. Current policies would only help to limit warming to 2.9°C by 2100. Even the recent ambitious targets and pledges from the US President Biden, the EU and China would still fall short of the temperature targets. Only global net-zero [3] commitments and drastic decarbonisation actions, including regulation, can bring the 1.5 degree goal into realistic striking distance.

A recent report by the International Energy Agency on “net zero 2050” [4] shows how economies will have to remodel to enable the needed green transition. In the lead up to COP26 we will feature some ideas we believe will provide great levers to change and help to reach net zero emissions by 2050.