This autumn has, and will continue to see a number of high-profile global events to address the issue of climate change. This includes the United Nations Climate Action Summit held in September, as well as the ‘COP25’ Madrid Climate Change Conference to be held in December. With a growing number of governments, organisations and groups declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency, as well as demonstrations by climate activists such as Extinction Rebellion, pressure is being put on world leaders to take action.

UN Climate Action Summit 2019

The United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit was held on 23 September 2019 in New York. The summit recognised that: global emissions are reaching record levels and show no sign of peaking; the last four years were the four hottest on record; and sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, and we are starting to see the life-threatening impact of climate change on health. Major announcements by government and private sector leaders demonstrated growing recognition that the pace of climate action must be rapidly accelerated.

Whilst the Paris Agreement (a visionary, viable, forward-looking policy framework) sets out exactly what needs to be done to stop climate disruption and reverse its impact, its success is reliant on nations taking ambitious action. The UN emphasised that there are already affordable, scalable solutions that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies. A key message highlighted was that if we act now, we can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years and hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C.

World leaders took to the stage to explain how they planned to increase action to tackle climate change. Whilst many nations are doing something, the majority are still not doing enough. There were a number of speeches from the world’s most powerful people, with more than 60 countries committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, this can include planting trees or using technology such as carbon capture and storage.

However, the largest polluters (e.g. China, the US and India), which account for around half of global emissions between them, have yet to present any substantive plans on how they are going to drive carbon out of their economies. The lack of stories around drastic new action and commitment from the big polluters led to the event headlines focussing on other stories including Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg’s speech, as well as a brief appearance at the event from US President, Donald Trump.

COP25 – Madrid Climate Change Conference

The next big event in the international climate negotiation calendar is the UN 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP25) in Madrid, from 2-13 December 2019. The nearly 200 countries that ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will meet to review progress and decide on new actions.

Provisional agendas have been structured around clusters of related issues including transparency, mitigation, adaptation, means of implementation and cross-cutting issues.

All country representatives in attendance at the meeting are expected to be asked in COP25 to revise their respective ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ and raise the level of ambition significantly in order to keep global temperature rise below 1.5C.

COP26 – To be co-hosted in the UK!

The UK received international backing to host the COP26 climate summit in 2020. COP26 is expected to take place from 9-19 November 2020, in Glasgow. The UK won the bid to host COP26 in partnership with Italy; Glasgow will host the main COP summit and Italy will host preparatory events and a significant youth event.

The UK was the first major economy in the world to pass net zero emissions law, with the new target requiring the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Hosting COP26 will provide a critical demonstration of the UK’s global leadership for addressing climate change, both through implementing net zero legislation, but also proving that there are plans in place to meet the target.

For more information on any of the above, or to discuss what actions can be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or meet science-based targets, please contact Charles Ffoulkes.