4 things we’d like to see at this year’s most important climate conference

Jill Duggan

Leaders from more than 190 countries are gathering in Glasgow for COP26, the two-week United Nations climate change conference beginning Oct. 31.

The national commitments made in preparation for COP26, along with the negotiations happening at the summit, will set the climate trajectory for people and the planet over the coming years.

Environmental Defense Fund is seizing this moment to "go bold" on climate. We are a global organization deploying game-changing solutions to our most pressing climate challenges in the world’s biggest emitting and most influential geographies — the U.S., Europe, India and China.

COP26 will take place against a backdrop of the pandemic, but also during a year that demonstrates, more than ever before, that climate change is happening now and must be addressed urgently.

In 2021 we have experienced record levels of extreme heat in the Northwestern United States and Canada. We have seen floods in Germany, India, China and East Africa with devastating loss of life, and severe drought in South America.

It’s time to recognize that climate change is the biggest threat to human health and prosperity as well as our planet’s biodiversity, and we need to ensure a vital Earth for everyone by working on decarbonization, air quality, resilient food and water — and natural climate solutions.

Environmental Defense Fund will have a bold presence at COP26. In addition, we will be looking at:

  • Establishing the next area of focus to be effective on limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, necessary to avoid the worst climate impacts.
  • Increasing transparency, and measuring emissions more easily and accurately than has previously been possible.
  • Encouraging richer countries to meet and exceed their Paris Agreement commitments to provide substantial climate finance for developing nations.

What we expect to see at COP26

First of all, let’s set some expectations. The next big climate deal is not actually on the agenda for this COP.

Over 190 countries signed a durable agreement in Paris in 2015, so COP26 is not about forging a new one. It is, however, the moment when the pledges for action made in Paris are revisited to close the gap between our climate ambition and our actions.

Whilst leaders raised their ambition in Paris, their pledges of action still added up to warming of around 3 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels. Despite major economies such as the EU and U.S. upping their ambition — to more than halve their emissions from the start of the century by 2030 — global emissions are still set to rise by that date. This will be catastrophic for humanity and for the flora and fauna with which we share the planet.

If the world can up its ambition and slash emissions by half by the end of this decade (2030), the goal of net zero emissions by around midcentury (2050) is still within reach. The best available science shows that this is what’s required in order to hold the line at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

One of the game changers for this COP has been the U.S. coming back into the fold and the extensive diplomacy they have undertaken in the run up to Glasgow.

What’s more, the U.S. has made a strong commitment to action in its nationally determined contribution and President Biden is still pushing for bold climate measures from Congress, showing that the U.S. is back in the race and that it’s better to have the right package than an expedient one.

So what would we like to see from COP26?

There are a number of things we think COP26 needs to deliver:

  1. Bridge the gap between pledged ambition and climate catastrophe.
  2. Set a global goal to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
  3. Deliver on all the promises that have been made to financially help the Global South grow their economies without damaging the planet.
  4. Harness all the tools at our disposal — the natural climate solutions, the market mechanisms, the technological innovations — to make this a speedy and, most importantly, a just transition to a net zero carbon world.

Whatever the outcome, this is the time to set politics aside, put people first in all our decisions and collaborate with those key leaders who are working to ensure that humanity thrives.

What has to happen after

After COP26, it’s time for implementation, implementation and more implementation. Countries must honor their commitments and do all they can to see them through.

You can help us in these efforts by letting your government know that you support strong climate action — because if there’s one thing the world needs for COP26 to be a success, it’s "all hands on deck."

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