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Climate Change

Why is COP26 so important? And what’s at stake at this year's climate summit?

This blog is part of the CPA’s blog series, ‘Climate change challenges for the Commonwealth'. The series was published as the COP26 conference takes place in Glasgow in November 2021. You can find all the articles in the series here.

Everyone is talking about COP26 but what do you need to know? The CPA Headquarters Secretariat’s Jack Hardcastle provides a primer through this blog article to give you the key points.

Between 31 October - 12 November 2021, world leaders and their delegations from across the world will gather for the UN’s annual climate summit. This year in Glasgow will be the 26th such gathering, known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP, to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

While COP meets annually, this year is of particular significance. It will return to the landmark Paris Agreement from 2015 which set the goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 2°C. Six years on and the world is failing on this central target. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a landmark, “code red for humanity”, report confirming that without radical reductions in global emissions, a 1.5°C warming will be both inevitable and irreversible.

This will also be the first COP, since the emergence of COVID-19, presenting huge logistical challenges and reduced numbers. Xi Jinping, President of China - the world's largest CO2 emitter by some distance - will not be attending in person, while Pacific Island nations, who face both immediate and existential pressure from climate change, will also be less represented at the negotiating table than in previous years.

Despite this, many Commonwealth Parliamentarians will be in attendance at COP26 from many CPA Branches, large and small, ranging from India, Bangladesh and the UK to Barbados, Seychelles and Tuvalu.

Commonwealth Parliamentarians will be making their voices heard as climate change negatively affects the development of small and other vulnerable countries across the globe, many of them Commonwealth jurisdictions. Thirty-two of the world’s 42 small states are Commonwealth members. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, through its CPA Small Branches network, supports small and other vulnerable states by amplifying their calls for greater climate action.

Despite these inevitable challenges, COP26 still presents a critical moment for the world to raise commitments and outline a clear trajectory for ambitious climate action. Here are some of the key issues that will be on the table this year and give observers a better idea of what to expect.

Climate Ambition

Last month, the UNFCCC launched the NDC Synthesis Report - collating countries’ updated ambitions through their climate ‘Nationally Determined Commitments’ (NDCs) as part of the Paris Agreement terms. It shows that Governments' collective NDCs thus far will lead to a 16% emission increase by 2030. To limit warming to 1.5°C, emissions need to drop by 45% by 2030. COP26 will be one of the last opportunities for the global community to prevent the world from reaching this irreversible milestone.

Climate Finance

Many countries, particularly from the least developed and climate vulnerable groups in the Commonwealth, will be pressing for the funding commitments from larger emitter nations to be met.

The Climate Finance Delivery Plan estimates that, the US $100 billion a year promised in 2009 towards financing the shift away from polluting forms of energy, will instead only be met in 2023, and will have to be increased further to make up for the shortfall.

Loss and Damage

Establishing a process for compensation and liability from the harms of climate change has been a long-term ambition from climate vulnerable countries. A developing country block recently released a position paper highlighting loss and damage as among its main priorities ahead of COP26. A key demand involved placing the Warsaw Implementation Mechanism under joint oversight of the UN climate convention (COP) and Paris Agreement, reversing slow progress in its implementation to date; and appointing a special COP26 loss and damage envoy to increase political will.

Carbon Markets

COP26 will look to resolve issues around Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, on the ‘trading’ of emissions between countries, promising to both increase emissions reductions and mobilise much needed finance for climate change. Finding agreement on the rules that govern this article remain one of the last pieces of the puzzle for the Paris Rulebook, much of which was agreed in 2018. The stakes are high for the rules to be done right because they are the tools to ensure accountability and transparency for countries. If done incorrectly they could cause inefficient investments and “double counting” of countries’ emissions reductions.

Find out more about the work of the CPA and its partners at COP26 through this CPA blog series and also in the recent issue of The Parliamentarian (2021 Issue Three) which focused on the challenges of climate change in the Commonwealth - to read digital issue please click here.
This blog is part of the CPA’s blog series, ‘Climate change challenges for the Commonwealth'. The series was published as the COP26 conference takes place in Glasgow in November 2021. You can find all the articles in the series here.

The Parliamentarian - Journal of Commonwealth Parliaments

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The Parliamentarian 2021: Issue Three - Looking ahead to COP26: the key challenges facing the Commonwealth in combatting climate change:

The Parliamentarian is the quarterly Journal of Commonwealth Parliaments published by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and features articles, news and legislative reports written by Members of Parliament, parliamentary staff and international experts across the Commonwealth about a wide range of global issues. Click here to download the latest issue.

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