COP26 will chart the future of climate action - here’s what to expect from Glasgow

Posted On October 22, 2021

Smaller, vulnerable countries are leading the way on raising ambition to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Photo:
UNDP Timor-Leste/Yuichi Ishida

From 31 October to 12 November, people from around the world will gather in Glasgow, Scotland for the annual UN Climate Change Conference, this year known as COP26. Hosted by the United Kingdom and the United Nations, COP26 is a time to discuss the progress and challenges related to the Paris Climate Agreement, an international treaty that was adopted in 2015 and entered into force in 2016. 

It has been over 5 years since this historic moment. Let’s reflect first on what is working. At the heart of the Paris Agreement are the Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs. These are the climate commitments put forward by governments to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, including limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, with an eye on 1.5 degrees Celsius.  

Governments agreed that these climate commitments would be revised every five years based on where countries stood in reaching the temperature goal and to reflect the latest science. This is no small challenge, but we are seeing many countries – particularly the smaller, vulnerable countries – leading on raising climate ambition. This gives me hope. This is an indication that the Paris Agreement is working, and many countries are willing to take action to address the climate crisis, as promised. 

From countries phasing out coal power to world leaders discussing the climate crisis at an unprecedented scale to the continued leadership from youth, indigenous peoples, and civil society demanding change and holding governments and companies accountable, it is undeniable that we are seeing a global shift unlike ever before.  

However, there is still a colossal task ahead of us. We must do more, we must work faster, and we must turn words into action. Greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise at record levels and the average global temperature for the past five years was among the highest on record. Far more is needed to limit emissions and adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change. All countries, especially those that pollute the most, must step up.  

As you can imagine, COP26 will be especially challenging. It was meant to be held in 2020 but was postponed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the key issues to be discussed at COP26 is the finance needed to help developing countries address the climate crisis.

Photo:
UNDP Yemen

This pandemic has shown us that richer countries are willing and able to spend trillions of dollars on response and recovery but have yet to provide the adequate finance to developing countries to address the climate crisis. And this will be one of the key issues to be discussed at COP26. In 2015, developed countries promised to provide US$100 billion per year in climate finance to developing countries by 2020. Unfortunately, 2020 has passed and developed countries have not kept their promise.

It is essential that developed countries meet this goal this year - the minimum of what is needed - and to ensure that 50 percent of this finance is set aside for adaptation measures. According to UNEP, annual adaptation costs in developing countries alone are currently estimated at $70 billion. It is evident that $100 billion is not nearly enough for developing countries to confront the consequences of the climate crisis that they already face today.  

Another critical issue is how to address Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on how countries can reduce their emissions through international carbon markets. Progress on this issue means maintaining the integrity of the Paris Agreement, but at the moment, countries are far from reaching a common understanding. 

This year, countries are also expected to have key discussions on loss and damage - the climate consequences countries face that are beyond the limits of adaptation, such as climate disasters, migration, cultural loss, and slow onset events like sea-level rise. Developing countries are urgently requesting support, both technical and financial, from developed countries to address these losses and damages. 

And, finally, we are keeping a close eye on the latest national climate pledges as they continue to come in, in the hopes that they will be more ambitious, particularly from the highest emitters. At UNDP, we have made our own pledge on climate. Launched in 2019, the Climate Promise is our commitment to support countries in updating and enhancing their pledges. We are now the world’s largest offer of assistance to countries on NDCs, supporting 120 countries with 35 partners, and we are already preparing to help countries turn their pledges into action on the ground.

So, while there is so much at stake at COP26, there is also the opportunity to get things right. The conference must be equitable and safe, and we must ensure that everyone’s voices are heard. Through the leadership of developing countries and the most vulnerable, we are heading in the right direction, and we must follow their lead on the path to a better future for all.

Editor’s note: If you found this article useful, check out UNDP’s advocacy initiative Dear World Leaders. Record a message, and we will share it with decisionmakers at COP26.