This week, delegates from more than 90 countries will converge on Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Delayed by a year due to COVID-19, this year’s conference is being heralded as one of the last opportunities for global leaders to come to consensus and commit to major emissions reductions targets in an effort to get runaway climate change under control.
For more than a week, leaders and delegates will meet to discuss how to secure global net zero by 2050, adapting to protect communities and natural habitats, and mobilising finance to support these critical programs and projects.
But when it’s all said and done, what can we expect from COP26? As the name indicates, this isn’t the first or even the tenth COP summit – it’s the 26th time that the UN has brought global leaders together to discuss addressing climate change, and now it could be too late.
In July of this year, ministers from the G20 convened to commit to new climate goals in what was seen as a precursor for COP26, but the results were disappointing. The group failed to agree on the wording of key climate change commitments and China and India chose not to sign the agreements, leaving them hanging in the balance.
Is that indicative of the direction COP26 will go, or is there room for hope?
We put the question to Palladium staff, many of whom are on the ground working on programs and projects around the world enacting change, helping communities mitigate climate change effects, and garnering private finance to restore nature.
Clear Action and Progress
A theme that came up several times was the need for clear action and directives to come out of the COP26 sessions.
More specifically, Laurence Thorn-Dalton, Climate, Environment & Natural Resources Team, adds that those attending COP26 have a playbook at the ready, it’s just a matter of using it, “The IPCC released their 6th report in August, and they specifically stated how challenging it was to stick to the schedule through the pandemic in order to release it ahead of COP26.”
“I would love to see the IPCC summary for policymakers actually used as it was intended, as a tool for policymakers to make real change happen at COP26,” he clarifies.
According to the IPCC report, there is a near-linear relationship between carbon emissions and the global warming they cause, and the report recommends limiting CO2 emissions and reaching net zero. David McMillan, Commercial Innovation Practice, notes that doing so will require improved international agreements around pricing and taxing carbon. “Without an international agreement on this, it seems harder for an individual country to do so without risking some competitive disadvantage.”
“We need more progress on finding truly scalable solutions that will help current commitments by governments and companies be achieved ideally on or ahead of schedule,” McMillan adds.
Financing and Valuing Nature
But as many studies have found, progress cannot be made towards net zero goals without both an increase in financing and involving nature-based solutions in the equation. For many, the two go hand in hand. “Success at COP26 hinges on restoring trust amongst nations by reaching consensus on new adaptation finance targets that are just, equitable and ambitious, and setting out a clear plan to ensure targets are actually reached,” notes Maryrose Threlfall, Climate, Environment & Natural Resources Team.
“While nations have advanced in planning, huge gaps remain in finance for developing countries and bringing adaptation projects to the places where they bring real protection against climate change,” adds Threlfall. She notes that priorities must also include nature-based solutions and community-based adaptation – locally appropriate actions that address societal challenges and provide human well-being and biodiversity benefits by protecting, sustainably managing, and restoring ecosystems.
For Palladium’s Partnerships for Forests (P4F) program, COP26 represents a chance to put forests and nature-based solutions at the centre of discussions about climate change.
Katie McCoy, P4F Team Leader adds, “This year, we have been working closely with several governments – particularly in West Africa – on the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue. This is a government-to-government discourse that aims to protect forests and other ecosystems, while promoting development and trade in major commodities like beef, soya, palm oil and cocoa.”
“While COP26 will be a launchpad for the next phase of the FACT Dialogue, we’re looking forward to what comes next – with P4F supporting the ongoing conversations and knowledge that will help protect nature, support livelihoods and promote sustainable trade in the coming months and years.”
It's clear that COP26 won’t provide the answer full-stop to the climate crisis, but there’s plenty of opportunity for global leaders to take back what they’ve learned and discussed and turn it into tangible action in the weeks and months after the conference that move the needle. COP26 won’t save us, but it’s not too late to heed the call, invest in nature, and enact policies to move us towards net zero.
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